Modern fool recipes skip the traditional custard and use whipped cream. But whipped cream blunts the fruit flavor and is too light and insubstantial-or, worse, it can turn the dessert souplike.
We wanted a dessert with intense fruitiness and rich body-and we wanted to use raspberries or strawberries rather than the traditional gooseberries.
Traditionally, fruit fool is made by folding pureed stewed fruit into sweet custard. Gooseberries were the preferred choice because they’re naturally high in pectin-when exposed to heat, sugar, and acid, pectin breaks down and causes fruit to thicken. We wanted to use raspberries and strawberries, which are low in pectin, so our first challenge was to thicken the fruit properly. We initially shied away from gelatin (we didn’t want Jell-O!), but discovered that if we used a judicious hand (just 2 teaspoons), softened the gelatin in some uncooked berry puree, and then combined the softened mixture with some heated puree to help melt and distribute the gelatin, we could achieve the perfect consistency of loose pie filling. And we had intense fruit flavor. Now we just needed a richer, sturdier cream base to partner with the fruit puree. We liked the ease of using whipped cream rather than custard, so why not make whipped cream more custard-like? Combined with sour cream, the mixture was airy yet substantial, and the sour cream added just the right touch of richness, along with a tangy undertone. For even more fruit flavor, we layered the fruit puree and cream base with fresh berries that had been macerated in sugar to release excess juice. Finally, topping the dessert with crumbled sweet wheat crackers added a pleasant, nutty contrast.