The first time I tasted a fruit fool, I was wowed by its incredible texture—lush and silky-smooth, the mousse of my dreams. And when I realized how simple a fool is to make, I became even more of a fan—just purée fresh fruit, sweeten to your liking, gently fold the purée into whipped cream, and dessert is ready. You can layer a fool with chunks of fruit, parfait-style, in a wineglass, spoon it over shortcake and berries, or use it as a filling for a sponge cake roulade. Personally, I like my fools straight and simple—spooned into a pretty goblet, with a couple of crisp cookies on the side.
Use all your senses to choose the best fruit
Of course you want to choose the best-tasting, ripest fruit you can find for all fruit desserts, but it’s especially important for a fool: because a fool has so few ingredients, the success of the dessert rests almost entirely on the fruit’s flavor. Consider the season and availability of fruits. Fruit that’s fool-worthy is so perfectly ripe that you’d want to eat it this minute. If you’re not sure, it’s better to err on the side of overripeness.
Take a close look and a good whiff, and ask for a taste. All fruit destined for a fool should be plump, unbruised, and fragrant, so don’t just look at the fruit—pick it up and smell it, too. Berries should be fat, bright, and juicy, never moldy, crushed, or runny. Look for strawberries with good all-over color. Avoid strawberries with sizable areas of white; chances are they’ll taste flat. To test the ripeness of peaches and mangos, press the shoulders gently; the fruit should give slightly. Be just as picky with fruit with a hefty price tag; high cost is no guarantee of full flavor.
Taste the purée as you go
Cooking with fruit is just like making a soup or a sauce—you need to taste as you go to make sure you’re heading toward a good result.
Additional flavorings punch up fruit flavors. Fruit flavors get muted when you fold the purée into the whipped cream, so the purée should be pretty punchy to start with. If you find that the flavor needs a little pick-me-up, a pinch of salt, a squeeze of lemon, lime, or orange, or a generous pinch of zest goes a long way toward intensifying it. With mangos especially, a touch of salt or even a smidgen of cayenne is great for brightening flavors. A teaspoon of fruit-based liqueur, such as Framboise, Triple Sec, or Grand Marnier, can add zip to fruit purées, too.
Although most traditional fool recipes call for simmering the fruit to concentrate the juices and dissolve the sugar, I don’t always recommend it. Mango, for example, is one fruit that doesn’t benefit from cooking: its color dulls, and to me, the flavor really falls flat.
To add texture to the Three-Berry Fool, I take a threefold approach. I like to simmer the blackberries to reduce their juices and strengthen the flavor and color, while I mash the strawberries and keep the raspberries whole, tossing both into the warm blackberry purée. Straining the seeds from the blackberries (which have bigger, harder seeds than the other two berries) gives you a more velvety fool.
After sweetening the fruit purée, you’ll need to chill it before mixing with the cream. Since chilling tends to dull flavors, it’s vital to taste the fruit once again, and to adjust the flavorings if you need to.
Whip the cream to firm peaks
In a fool, the texture of the cream is as important as the flavor of the fruit, so, contrary to what you normally read in a recipe, in this case I recommend using ultrapasteurized heavy cream, which mounds better than pasteurized when it’s whipped. (According to food scientist Shirley O. Corriher, this is probably because of ultra’s extra pasteurizing stage, where the heat may help proteins coagulate and result in a firmer whipping cream.) It might sound strange to recommend something that’s super-processed, but you’ll get a more dollopy fool. I like to start with cold cream and a chilled bowl, which helps the cream to whip up into firm peaks, as you’ll see in the photos below.
Assembly is simple. Both the fruit purée and the cream should be very cold so that you get a firm fool that spoons into luscious mounds. Folding gently with a wide rubber spatula is the gentlest, most efficient way to blend ingredients and maintain a sumptuous texture.