I’m of the school that strawberries that are fresh, seasonal, imperfectly knobby and sweet should not be fussed with…yes, they are delicious in a tart or crumble, but why not keep the oven off, mix them with whipped cream and sugar and enjoy them the way nature intended? Case in point: a year ago I was lucky enough to be in Paris with my mother and Belle for a little ladies holiday, and at one of my favorite restaurants—Chez George, once a haunt of Madame Julia Child—they served a dessert of frais de bois (wild strawberries) with a side of sugar and large, chilled, glass bowl of whipped cream. That’s it. This being France—a place I’m not sure restaurant inspectors exist— the whipped cream was actually shared by the entire restaurant, passed around from table to table once you had taken a hefty spoonful.
Since that visit I have tried to recapture the charm and effortlessness of that delicious dessert. Here’s what I’ve come up with…
A concoction of strawberries, sugar, lemon zest, and whipped cream and mascarpone called a Fool. “What in the world is a fool?” you might ask. Well, it’s a practically ancient dessert from England, and I learned about it in the wonderful cookbook: Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson. They have two kinds in their book—one with raspberry, the other with rhubarb—but in honor of Strawberry Week at The Family Kitchen, I decided to make one up with our honorary berry.
Not only is this recipe super easy, enough that my 3 year old helped me whip up most of it, but it’s cool and refreshing on a hot and humid, early-summer way. It’s also great to serve to a crowd of kids and their parents, if you find yourself surrounded my such a crowd. You can have it all pretty much done in a half an hour–no oven! And once raspberries and blackberries start showing up at the market, feel free to substitute.
Recipe for Strawberry Fool
-Place metal mixing bowl in a freezer for 5 minutes.
-In a separate bowl, place approximately 3 cups of strawberries and add 1/3 cup of sugar, 1 tbl of vanilla and a pinch of fine sea salt (I actually use Maldon flaky sea salt which is very nice). Mash the mixture with a pastry blender, if you have one (a large for will do). Add lemon zest from 1 lemon. When the strawberries are mashed and all is combined, put aside for 20 minutes for the flavors to mingle.
-Take bowl out of freezer and add 1 cup of cold mascarpone (you can find this in your dairy section, or where they also sell creme fraiche), 1 cup of cold heavy cream, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, and 2 tbl of sugar. Using electric mixer, beat on low speed until combined and then gradually raise speed to high until soft peeks form.
-Fold berry mixture into cream mixture with rubber spatula until just combined (it’s OK if there are streaks.)
-Spoon fool into small glass bowls or drinking glasses and place in the fridge to chill.
-When ready to serve, garnish with mint or a wafer cookie, if you’d like.