The fool, or a dessert of sweetened fruit folded into stiffly peaked and slightly sugared whipped cream, dates back to 16th-century England. It’s possibly the simplest dessert, and any fool should be able to make it. Many fruits and some vegetables (in the case of rhubarb) can be used, but berries work particularly well, especially strawberries. If you’re a stickler for tradition, channel the Brits and make your fool with gooseberries.
12 ounces strawberries, washed, hulled, and cut into large dice (about 2 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch fine salt
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (from 1/2 medium lemon)
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1Place the strawberries, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and the salt in a medium, nonreactive saucepan and stir until the strawberries are coated in sugar. Mash with a potato masher until about half of the strawberries are completely smashed but some medium-sized chunks remain.
2Place the pan over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until bubbles form along the edge, about 5 minutes. Skim any foam from the surface of the sauce with a spoon and discard. Add the lemon zest and juice, stir to combine, and bring to a full boil, about 2 minutes more.
3Remove from heat. Skim the foam and discard. Transfer the sauce to a heatproof container and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes. (If not using right away, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.)
4Once the sauce has cooled, whisk the cream in a large bowl until it reaches soft peaks (they should bend like soft-serve ice cream). While whisking, gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Add the vanilla and continue to whisk until the cream reaches stiff peaks (standing straight up).
5Measure 1/4 cup of the strawberry sauce and set aside. Using a rubber spatula, fold the remaining sauce into the whipped cream until nearly incorporated, leaving a few streaks of whipped cream and sauce. Divide the fool among six 1/2-cup serving bowls or ramekins and garnish with the reserved strawberry sauce. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 hours.