Blueberries & strawberries star in this luscious dessert — but your favorite fruit probably works too
Summer in North America brings an abundance of fresh, ripe berries and other fruits. They’re wonderful eaten as is, but eventually we hanker after variety. Time to transform some of that fruit into dessert.
And when summer turns up the heat, no dessert can beat a Fruit Fool. The no-cook version of this dish gives you sweet deliciousness without heating up the kitchen (you just macerate some fresh fruit and mix with whipped cream). It’s easy to make, looks gorgeous, and tastes even better.
The Fruit Fool is a cousin of the trifle and parfait, and might even be an inspiration for the smoothie. But it has a flavor that’s all summer.
So after all those berry cobblers, pies, and buckles, why not try something different? And discover a new adage: A fool and its berries are soon eaten.
Recipe: Fruit Fool
You can make a Fool using almost any fruit. Today’s recipe uses blueberries and strawberries because they’re what happened to look good at our local market.
Tart gooseberries and rhubarb are other traditional fruit choices for this dessert. If you use those, you’ll have to cook the fruit to soften and sweeten it (see Notes for a word about stewing fruit). But there are many other fruits that you can just chop up and macerate with sugar (maybe simmering them a bit if you’re so inclined). Peaches are particularly nice, and they’re becoming abundant in our part of the world at the moment.
You can also make a Fool with custard instead of whipped cream. But cooking custard means working over a hot stove, so most of us will probably prefer whipped cream during the summer months. (Besides, what’s better than fresh whipped cream?)
Fruit Fools date back at least to the 16th century, and perhaps even earlier (no one really knows how the name originated). Fool recipes have become fairly standardized — if you look around, you’ll find that most are remarkably similar. Mrs. Kitchen Riffs is the pastry chef in our household, and this is her version of a Fruit Fool. But the quantities and ingredients are basically suggestions. Feel free to adjust both to suit your own tastes.
You can assemble the Fool in a big serving dish (a transparent one lets you see the colorful ingredients) and then dish up at table. Or you can spoon the ingredients into individual serving dishes (we like to use clear glass bowls or wine glasses).
It takes about 15 or 20 minutes to prepare the fruit for this dish (if you’re cooking it, you’ll also need to let it cool down). While the fruit is macerating or cooling, you can whip the cream. So figure under 30 minutes for a no-cook Fool, longer for a cooked version. You can make Fruit Fool an hour or two ahead, then chill it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve (see Notes).
This recipe makes 4 generous servings, or 6 to 8 smaller ones.
For the fruit:
- 4 cups strawberries, washed, hulled, and cut into halves or quarters
- ~2 tablespoons granulated sugar, for macerating strawberries (or to taste)
- 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional; may substitute another orange liqueur, or cognac)
- 4 cups blueberries, washed
- ~2 tablespoons granulated sugar, for macerating blueberries (or to taste; optional)
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons white sugar (granulated or powdered; or to taste)
- mint sprig (very optional)
- Wash and hull the strawberries, then cut them into halves or quarters (depending on their size). Toss the strawberries with 2 tablespoons of the macerating sugar (or more to taste) and the Grand Marnier, if you’re using it. Let strawberries sit at least 10 minutes to tease out the sweet juices.
- Wash the blueberries and remove any stems. Blueberries are often naturally sweet, and their skins prevent them from macerating as readily as strawberries. So you may elect not to macerate them, and instead just incorporate them as-is into the dessert. If you decide to macerate, toss with 2 tablespoons of sugar and let sit 10 minutes or so.
- While the berries are macerating, whip the cream. Add the cream and three tablespoons of white sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl, if using a hand mixer) and begin to whip on low speed. Increase to medium as soon as you can (i.e., when the cream is becoming thick enough that droplets don’t spatter from the mixing action). Beat until the cream forms soft peaks, then taste and add more sugar if necessary. Continue beating until you reach the medium or stiff peak stage (whichever you prefer). Set the whipped cream aside (don’t worry, it won’t collapse; refrigerate if it’s going to be sitting for more than a few minutes).
- You can use the macerated strawberries as they are, or purée them. To purée, just put them in the food processor and pulse briefly. (We generally stop whirring when they reach a chunky purée stage, but you may prefer something closer to strawberry sauce). Alternatively, you can purée half the macerated strawberries, and leave the rest unprocessed.
- Same with the blueberries — you can use them as they are or purée them (same instructions as in Step 4).
- Assemble the Fool in a big serving dish or spoon into individual serving bowls or glasses. You can fold all the ingredients together, or layer them, or do something in between. If you layer, it’s easiest to start with a base of puréed fruit (strawberries, in this case), then add a layer of whipped cream, then top with blueberries. For something in between folding and layering, you can “swirl” the ingredients together (add dollops of each ingredient to the serving dish until it’s about a third full, then use a spoon or knife to swirl them together; continue adding ingredients and swirling until the serving dish is full). Finish with an optional garnish of mint sprig.
- Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to a couple of hours.
- As noted above, ingredients and quantities are highly flexible in this dessert. You can adapt this recipe to just about any berry or other fruit, so use whatever looks best in your market, in quantities that appeal to you (and that fit your serving dishes). Above all, don’t be afraid to adjust ingredients, sweetness, and flavorings to suit your own taste.
- Need to cook (stew) fruit for a Fool? Just wash the fruit and prep it (peel, hull, or whatever), then cut it into smallish pieces. Add the fruit to a saucepan with sugar to taste, then simmer on low heat for perhaps 20 minutes, or until the fruit breaks down. If you like, you can add a touch of lemon juice to help brighten the flavor. Remove the cooked fruit from the stove and allow it to cool (it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a day). When ready to make the Fool, just assemble the cooked fruit with whipped cream.
- Some cooks like to sweeten whipped cream with powdered sugar, which dissolves very quickly. We’ve found that granulated sugar works fine, but feel free to use powdered if you prefer. Or you could use superfine (caster) sugar (if you don’t have any on hand, you can make it easily — just place some granulated white sugar in the food processor, and grind for a minute or so).
- You might want to add a half teaspoon or so of vanilla extract to the whipped cream for flavoring. We usually prefer it without, but you may feel otherwise.
- If you make a Fruit Fool too far in advance, the juice from the fruit can thin the whipped cream. So you’ll get the best results if you assemble the Fool no more than a hour or two before serving (just be sure to refrigerate it).
- This dish is best when made with homemade whipped cream. But if you’re short on time, you can use the canned variety.
- If you’re really short on time, you could probably substitute canned “pie filling” fruit for macerated or stewed fresh fruit. Or you could try pulsing chunky canned fruit (e.g., canned peaches) in the food processor. We haven’t tried these methods, but they might be an option if you really need to make dessert in a hurry.
- You could also skip the macerating or cooking step, and instead just add chunked up fruit to a blender with sugar and cream. Whir, and you have a smoothie! But I’d recommend making a Fool instead — it tastes way better.
- If you’re making a Fruit Fool during cooler weather and want something a bit heavier, you can substitute custard for whipped cream, as noted above.
- Some Fool recipes add gelatin to thicken the fruit. It’s not something we care for, but try it if you like.
- A layered Fruit Fool looks similar to what Americans call a “parfait.” A traditional French parfait is a frozen dish that kinda sorta resembles ice cream, while the American version usually features alternating layers of ice cream and fruit (and often other ingredients, such as gelatin) in a fancy tall glass.
- A Fool is also similar to a trifle (often called English Trifle). But a trifle incorporates layers of sponge cake and custard along with the fruit and whipped cream.
A Fool’s Paradise
“I’m loving this!” I exclaimed halfway through dessert. “Such a terrific way to use fruit in season.”
“It’s really good,” agreed Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, “although I’m partial to Blueberry Buckle as well.”
“Absolutely,” I said. “Also Cobbler. Not to mention terrific Crisp and Flaugnarde.”
“Have you ever met a fruit dessert you didn’t like?” asked Mrs K R with a smile.
“I guess not,” I admitted. “You know me too well.”
“There’s no fool like an old fool,” she observed.
Weird. Those Fools tasted freshly made to me.
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