The English make really excellent desserts. Many of them, like syllabubs, trifles, custards, puddings and fools go back four or five centuries. I particularly like fools for their simplicity – at their best they’re made just with fruit, sugar and thick cream – and yet they’re grand enough to serve at a special dinner party.
My favorite fools are strawberry and rhubarb. If most of the strawberries that come your way are in a carton, covered with plastic wrap, with maybe some large beauties on the top but either over or under-ripe ones lurking underneath, making a fool may be your answer. I am not suggesting that any old strawberries will do but if you are lucky enough once in a while to acquire perfect strawberries, you should just sprinkle them with a little sugar, perhaps a squeeze of lemon and douse them with thick, luscious cream.
1 pint strawberries (about 1 lb.)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup whipping (or heavy) cream
Select four of the best-looking strawberries and keep them aside for garnish. Remove stem, white core if there is one, and any blemished parts from the rest and pulse briefly in the food processor with the sugar. Be sure to keep some texture (your don’t want too liquid a puree.) Meanwhile in a chilled bowl whip the cream until it just stands in peaks. Carefully fold in the pureed strawberries. Taste for sweetness – you may need more sugar. You may also want to add a teaspoon of lemon juice. Divide the fool between four champagne coupes or other suitable glasses, top with a reserved strawberry and chill for an hour or two. Serve with a cookie, if you like.
1 lb. rhubarb (as young as you can find)
6 tablespoons sugar
1 cup whipping cream or créme fraiche
Wash and cut the rhubarb into 1 inch pieces. Put it and the sugar in a heavy bottomed pot (no liquid), cover, and cook over the lowest possible heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionly, or until soft and well cooked. Drain the rhubarb, reserving the liquid, and puree it lightly in a food processor. Check for sweetness – you may need extra sugar which it’s best to add while the rhubarb is still warm. Chill until very cold. Meanwhile whip the cream until it just stands in peaks. Carefully fold in the rhubarb and a little of the reserved liquid to make ribbon-like streaks. if using creme fraiche, fold in the rhubarb and a little juice in the same way.
Mound the fool into champagne coupes or glasses and chill until ready to serve.
Variation: If you love the combination of strawberry-rhubarb (as in pie), you can certainly combine the two fruits before adding the cream, making enough for 8 servings.