Sunday, April 01, 2001

'Fool' for the Day

Celebrate April 1 with uniquely named, traditional English dessert of cream and fruit

By Chuck Martin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Strawberry fool dessert
(Joseph Fuqua II photo)
| ZOOM |
        On April 1, the “fool” is the dessert of the day. No kidding. A fool is an English dessert made with stewed, pureed fruit mixed with cream or custard. Dating to the 16th century, no one really knows why a fool is called a fool.

        Perhaps it was a dessert created during hard times, one that used fruit to extend precious cream. Maybe its aim was to “fool” guests into believing there was more cream than fruit — or vice versa.

        Prize-winning cook Susan Runkle of Walton — a Great Britain native — suggests the dessert's name may be derived from the French, fouler, which means “to crush” (as in crushed fruit). An English dessert named for a French verb? Sounds utterly foolish.

        Maybe it earned its name because it was so easy, any fool could make it.

        We're not sure.

        In England, the most traditional fool is made with tart gooseberries. But fools can be made with virtually any fruit — apples, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, rhubarb or mangoes. The fruit should be tart or assertive enough, though, to stand out in the sweet cream. Most recipes also agree the fruit — cooked or raw — should be pureed and passed through a food mill or strained.

        Once the puree has chilled, it's folded or swirled into lightly whipped cream just before serving in a tall glass. Unless times are hard and cream is short, don't try to fool' em: Splurge and use up to twice as much cream as fruit puree.

Rhubarb Fool

1/2 pound fresh or frozen rhubarb, cut into 2-inch lengths
1 tablespoon water
1/3 cup sugar, or more to taste
1 cup heavy cream
Confectioners' sugar (optional)
Fresh mint for garnish

Combine rhubarb with sugar and water in saucepan. Bring to gentle boil, cover and reduce to simmer. Cook about 25 minutes, until very soft.

        Puree rhubarb and strain, or pass through a food mill to remove stringy fibers. Taste and add more sugar if necessary. (Rhubarb should be tart.) Refrigerate puree until well chilled.

        Whip cream until soft peaks form, and add confectioners' sugar to taste. Fold in desired amount of rhubarb (any leftovers can be refrigerated and served over ice cream.) Spoon into parfait glasses and garnish with mint. Makes 4 servings.

        Note: Because the flavors work well together, fresh strawberries can be substituted for part of the rhubarb. Reduce the amount of sugar added, depending on the tartness of the berries. — Adapted from James Beard's American Cookery (Little, Brown; $14.95)

Strawberry Fool

1 pint strawberries, washed, stemmed and sliced (reserve 4 whole berries for garnish)
2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 cup heavy cream
Fresh mint sprigs, for garnish

Sprinkle sliced berries with bourbon and orange zest. Cover and allow to sit 30 minutes before mashing with a fork or potato masher.

        In another bowl, beat cream until soft peaks form. Fold in strawberry mixture and spoon into stemmed glasses. Chill 1 hour before serving. Garnish with reserved berries and mint sprigs. Makes 4 servings. Beans, Greens and Sweet Georgia Peaches (Broadway; $17.50)

Mango Fool

3 ripe mangoes, quartered lengthwise and peeled
2/3 to 3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 1/4 cups cold heavy cream
Fresh mint sprigs for garnish

Cut flesh from quartered mangoes and puree in blender or processor. Add lime and orange juice, cover and refrigerate for up to a day.

        Up to 3 hours ahead, whip cream until soft peaks form. Fold puree and cream together, or leave streaks of gold mango through the cream. Pile into stemmed glasses and garnish with mint. Makes 4 to 5 servings. Joy of Cooking (Scribner; $30)


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