The ultimate strawberries and cream: strawberry fool. Whipped cream, lightly scented with vanilla, layered with gorgeous fresh strawberry puree, barely sweetened.
What is a fruit fool?
Fruit fool is a classic, slightly old-school, British dessert. We clearly have a condescending attitude to desserts in this country, calling them fools and trifles!
Fruit fools go back to 15th century, when, interestingly, they were interchangeably called foole or trifle.
The name possibly comes from French fouler, to press or to crush, but the source may well have been the already mentioned haughty approach to puddings.
Fool and cream over the centuries
Originally the common fool was gooseberry fool, with the fruit pureed and stewed then folded into custard. I have to say I would not have liked that: gooseberry is an awful, hairy fruit and custard is sickly.
But only half a century later there’s a mention of stirring fruit (still gooseberry) into ‘clouted creame’ (clotted cream) for a fool.
Which by the way reminds us that clotted cream is a much older invention than whipped cream, and predominantly it used to be a method of preserving milk and cream. Heating cream long and gently turns it into ‘clots’, which thanks to their high fat content won’t spoil as quickly as milk or cream.
Whipped cream needed another 100 years to be invented, and mind boggles to think how it came about, considering it was at first whipped using a bunch of willow twigs or rushes.
What fruit and what base?
These days gooseberry is clean out of favour, and whipped cream a vehicle of choice to mix the fruit into. Rhubarb fool is probably the most traditional nowadays, because of the need to stew or bake it before it becomes ingestible.
And of course, in our drive for healthier foods, cream is often replaced by Greek yoghurt or low-fat yoghurt.
Though I’d be wary to reach for low-fat yoghurt: not only does it nutritionally deprive us of good, unsaturated fats but it may also be loaded with sugar to compensate for its fatless, bland taste.
Should you wish to limit the fat content, I recommend Skyr, Icelandic yoghurt made from skimmed milk, which is naturally fat-free and has no added sweeteners.
But let’s be honest: nothing beats fresh whipped cream when it comes to strawberries.
How to make strawberry fool
It’s one of the easiest desserts. Whip the cream, blitz the fruit and it’s done.
Some recipes insist on stewing the berries, the traditional way. But why would you want to cook gorgeous, fragrant, fresh strawberries is beyond me.
Chunks of fruit might indeed be a little watery in the cream, so a blender is the answer. Or mashing the fruit with a fork in a bowl, the artisan way.
I add the sugar to the strawberries rather than to the cream, simply because they vary in sweetness. That way you can adjust the amount: a pinch more in a cool summer, when berries just won’t ripen properly, and less when you’ve hit the jackpot at a farmer’s market or pick-your-own, and the fruit is ripe to bursting.
And then it’s up to you: dollop it all into a sharing bowl to serve in the middle of the table, or spoon into dessert glasses, layering the fruit puree with cream.
It’s best served chilled but not made too much in advance, or the strawberry blend will acidify the cream.
And that’s the strawberry fool: strawberries and cream at their finest.
More strawberry dessert recipes
My twist on Eton mess is called Athens mess. That’s because I fill it with sweet filo pastry shards instead of meringues.
Strawberry ripple ice cream: Italian style homemade ice cream with pureed fresh strawberry swirl. It’s not always all about raspberry ripple, you know.
Another English classic, Victoria sponge sandwich cake filled with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, also known as strawberry shortcake sandwich.
More creamy desserts
Classic creamy panna cotta, the simple and exquisite Italian dessert. Vanilla flavoured, with whole milk and cream and only enough gelatine to keep it in the cup, served with passion fruit puree.
The epitome of creamy desserts, lemon posset, is also one of the easiest. Best served with crunchy biscuits.
Not only cream can be creamy: blueberry parfait with strained yoghurt and lightly roasted blueberries is smooth as velvet and utterly delicious.