A check of the Internet shows that April 1, April Fool’s Day, is a very popular time for food writers to talk about the fruit and cream based dessert known as a ‘fool’. We have decided to do likewise.
Elizabeth David, in An Omelette and a Glass of Wine, devotes several pages to the English fruit fool. Most fruit fools are easy to prepare – simply crush or blend some raw fruit, add some sugar and stir into thick cream. Others require the fruit to be cooked. Fools can made from many different types of fruits: Elizabeth David mentions gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries, redcurrants, apples, mulberries, apricots and fresh figs. Traditional recipes used custard instead of cream while some writers give recipes that include both cream and custard.
One of the most common fruit fools is rhubarb. Even though it is strictly a vegetable, for cooking purposes, it is treated as a fruit. Recipes for rhubarb fool abound; our version can be found at the end of this post.
My father did grow rhubarb, only needing one plant in the corner of the garden. We were warned not to eat the leaves because they were poisonous. Mum would normally use the rhubarb in a pie, along with apple. My recollection is that stewed rhubarb was not a favourite of us kids, possibly because it was not sweet enough or possibly because it was cooked in too much water, diluting the flavours. They didn’t make fruit fools, even though lovely fresh cream ‘straight from the cow’ was available. One of my sisters, however, went on to make fruit fools, using the cream with custard method.
For rhubarb fool, the ‘fruit’ needs to be cooked first by lightly stewing. If you are going to stew rhubarb, there is no need to add water. Simply add sugar then cook and stir it gently over low heat until the juice appears. In our recipe we add some shreds of orange rind, which really enhances the flavour. Rhubarb stewed this way is quite delicious and suitable for breakfast or other at times.
A fruit fool requires double cream, meaning 45% or higher fat content. However, it needs to be runny enough so it can be whipped to give more volume. Some double creams are too thick to be whipped, while whipping cream – 35% fat content – may give an uninteresting outcome.
For the recipe, click here: Rhubarb Fool