Yes, I know. It’s not April 1st. I’m not that stupid. I have a calendar in front of me. It tells me today is Friday, April 13th. I just choose to pretend it is otherwise.
April Fool’s Day. I’d always wondered what was especially foolish about that particular day. I thought it might have to do with the first whiffs of spring in the air– causing hormones to surge, making people do idiotic things. As it turns out, it has more to do with the calendar and boring papal policy change than anything else.
You can blame the French, if you like. They were the first country to switch from the Julian to Gregorian calendar in 1582. The new New Year’s Day moved to January 1st from the previously celebrated April 1st. News did not travel fast in the 16th century and those who missed the email still celebrated the first day of the year in April. They were called fools.
Personally, I rather like celebrating the new year in Spring. It makes much more sense to me; the sun begins to warm us again and flowers begin to bloom– all that fluffy, happy stuff that happens about now. I’m generally exhausted come January 1st, what with Christmas and all. I consider it a rather lame idea to celebrate the New Year when everything about us is cold and dead with worse to come. Call me a fool if you like. You certainly wouldn’t’ be the first person to do that.
In honor of this old New Year, I’ll give you three guesses as to what I’m making.
Yes, a fool. No lame plays on words please. Although, since I am working from my own kitchen and not wearing gloves, there will most likely be traces of my own DNA in the dessert. Therefore, and quite truthfully, I could be able to say that I am indeed making a fool of myself. That’s as far as I am willing to go.
The fool is closely related to the trifle and the syllabub. So closely related, in fact, that they are practically sisters. With parents who had an interesting talent for naming their children, of course.
The fool is possibly the oldest and certainly the simplest of the trio, dating back to at least 16th century England. It is whipped cream and fresh or cooked, pureed fruit. What could be more English than that? Okay, a couple of things, I’m sure, but it’s still pretty English.
Here’s my recipe.
Strawberry Rhubarb Fool
For the puree:
1 pint strawberries, slices or chopped
2 stalks rhubarb, sliced in 1/4 pieces
2 tablespoons sugar, 1 for the strawberries, the other for the rhubarb, or to taste, depending
upon the sweetness of the berries.
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, because I said so.
For the Cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- Place rhubarb, 1 tablespoon of sugar and perhaps (these things are never precise) 1/2 cup of water in a sauce pan. Cook over medium heat until rhubarb is soft, releases its pink and is generally rather unattractive looking.
- Put into shallow dish and cool.
- Toss strawberries with 1 tablespoon of sugar and Grand Marnier. Let sit while the rhubarb cools.
- Toss, or place gently, rhubarb and berries into a food processor and blend until smooth. The mixture doesn’t have to be too terribly smooth, some lumpiness may be desired in certain dessert circles. Set aside.
- In a bowl, combine cream, and buttermilk. Whip. About half way through the process, add sugar and vanilla. Whip until fairly stiff peaks form.
- Combine half the fruit puree with the same amount of whipped cream and fold together. A real fool will have some streakiness to it, as though perhaps pressing matters of Empire might have gotten in the way of a thorough folding.
- Into your selected glasses (parfait glasses are preferred, but I don’t have any), place a tablespoon or two of the fruit at the bottom. Next, layer the cream and fruit mixture on top of that. I like a final layer of whipped cream on top, like the final flourish of non-dairy topping that finished off the Jell-o parfaits of my youth.
- Cover and refrigerate for as long as over night. Garnish with fruit or mint or bullets or whatever you want.
Serves 4 to 6, depending upon the glasses you use.
For a slightly healthier alternative, do away with the cream entirely and substitute yogurt. It will be like fruit-on-the-bottom Dannon or Yoplait, except you know exactly what you put into that fruit and, therefore, exactly what you’re putting into your body.
To learn more about the Fool and her sisters, please visit In Mama’s Kitchen because mother knows best.