Simple Strawberry Fool
Article and photo by Lisa Crockett
What’s your favorite first-day-of-April prank? Salt in the sugar bowl? A quick phone call to see if your neighbor’s refrigerator is running? The beginning of the month is a fun, slightly silly, way to welcome the month when spring comes into full flower. It’s perfect then, that a dessert that features fruit, which is now easily available in abundance, bears the name of “fool.” A fool is in the same family as a trifle or a parfait, but with much less fuss and work. The origin of this treat’s name is ambiguous. It’s a British treat that might be named after a similar Arabic dish called a “ful” – but what’s clear when you eat it is that it is delicious.
Making a fool couldn’t be easier. First, you whip cream, then you fold in sweetened pureed fruit, dollop portions into serving dishes, chill and serve. Easy. If you’re really feeling fancy, and this time of year the warm weather usually does have me feeling a little fancy, a dusting of cookie crumbs adds texture and sweetness and a few chunks of whole fruit give the whole thing a festive flair.
This is a dessert that lends itself to nearly endless adaptation. In April, strawberries tend to be juicy and ripe, but if you find that the selection of produce isn’t what you want it to be; don’t despair. Frozen fruit can be partially thawed and subbed in for fresh fruit. If strawberries aren’t your thing, go for raspberries, blackberries, or even peeled kiwi. As the weather warms, fresh peeled apricots or peaches would be lovely in this preparation. If you can find gooseberries or fresh mango, they would make for an exotic dessert. Think about flavors you enjoy in other desserts. They make for great fool combinations too – one particularly decadent pairing is pureed pineapple and toasted coconut. If you’re looking for something more substantial in a dessert, omit the cookie crumbs on top of the fool and serve this custardy concoction with a freshly-baked oatmeal cookie for a homey and filling end to a meal.
Hundreds of years ago (the fool dates back to the 1600s), a fool would have involved making a traditional cooked custard, but modern versions nearly always omit that step, in favor of simply whipping the cream. However, you may find that a swirl of vanilla pudding or even Greek yogurt in the whipped cream gives your fool depth of flavor and makes it a bit sturdier (helpful if you’re using a heavier fruit like stewed cinnamon apples). Bear in mind that adding to the basic recipe below may necessitate adjusting the amount of sugar you use, but once you get the basic recipe down, you can make nearly endless changes using whatever you happen to have on hand or find appealing.
This is the month of Easter and Passover, and this dessert is a great choice for a gathering or celebration since it can easily be doubled (or even tripled) and made ahead of time, tucked into a corner of the fridge to firm up while the rest of the meal is made. Happily, if you don’t happen to be hosting a gathering anytime soon, this dish is simple enough to be justified for a small group too. In fact, this fool comes together easily enough that you might even find an excuse to make it for no reason at all, and possibly for no one other than yourself. No matter who or what you make it for, make it! You’d be a fool not to.