Bon Appétit (June 2011)
Much like the "spatchcocked" turkey and the Tipsy Affogato, we were initially drawn to this Strawberry Fool based largely on the name. We've been reading about fools in food magazines for a few years now (first in Martha Stewart Living, if memory serves). A fool is an English dessert made with pureed fruit, whipped cream and sugar.
Aside from the intriguing name, this dish boasts an ingredient trio -- strawberries, cream and sugar -- that's hard to beat. Plus, in a modern spin, this take on a fool includes crumbled, crisp ladyfingers to add a bit of texture.
Traditionally, a fool was made with gooseberries. (And isn't "Gooseberry Fool" the most deliciously Dickensian/Harry Potterian name for a dessert?!) But today, a fool can be made with any fruit.
The recipe is really straightforward: Prepare a strawberry conserve (which is super easy), whip cream, fold the conserve into the cream, fold more berries into the cream, sprinkle with crushed ladyfingers and serve.
The only trouble we had was actually finding "crisp ladyfingers" at the market. We're used to spongy, cakey ladyfingers, so we weren't entire sure what to look for. The recipe suggests substitutions of "savoiardi, Boudoirs, or Champagne biscuits," which, um, didn't really help. After scouring the supermarket, we settled on these Margherite cookies from Stella D'oro.
The Margherite cookies were fine, but they weren't crisp or crunchy enough. They had the texture of slightly chewy biscotti. They tasted great on their own, but something more crumbly and crunchy may have held up better in the cream.
So we made the conserve and then folded everything together. How'd it end up?
It was very good. Of course strawberries and cream are a classic combo, and the ladyfingers/Margherites add a nice contrasting crunch. The conserve, which is really just a simple strawberry jam, is marvelous.
But the thing is, this fool is so light and delicate. At times, it kind of seemed like we were gulping sweetened air. All that whipping and folding (which we understand is the whole point of a fool) leaves you with a dish that's very...well...airy.
Next time, we'll tinker with the cream-to-fruit ratio. Also, we think this would really benefit from an hour in the fridge (or even 20 minutes in the freezer) before serving. That way, the cream would add a nice chill, rather than just room-temperature air.
Really, though, we kept thinking we'd rather just have the strawberry conserve, topped with a little cream and the crumbled ladyfingers. All the components of this dish are fantastic; we just didn't fall in love with the preparation.
2 cups chopped, hulled fresh strawberries (about 8 oz.) plus 6 whole berries for garnish
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
Seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
3/4 cup homemade Strawberry Conserve (recipe below -- if using store-bought, use 1/2 cup, stirred to loosen)
3 crisp ladyfingers (savoiardi, Boudoirs, or Champagne biscuits), crushed (Crisp ladyfingers can be found at better supermarkets and at specialty foods stores and Italian markets.)
Place chopped strawberries in a small bowl. Sprinkle sugar over; let sit, tossing occasionally, until juices are released and sugar is dissolved, about 20 minutes.
Beat cream and vanilla seeds in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Add conserve; fold to blend. Add berries with juices; fold almost to blend. Divide among bowls. Sprinkle crushed ladyfingers over. Garnish with whole berries.
Makes about 2 cups
4 cups fresh strawberries (about 1 pound), hulled, halved
3/4 cup superfine sugar
Peel (with white pith) of 1/2 lemon
Combine all ingredients in a heavy, wide pot. Cover; let sit at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours. (The berries will ooze and sugar will dissolve.)
Bring strawberry mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring gently, until strawberries are just tender, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer strawberries to 1 pint jar. Continue simmering liquid until it thickens into a syrupy consistency, 1-2 minutes. Discard lemon peel and pour syrup over strawberries; seal and let cool to room temperature. Chill for up to 1 month.