There’s no fool like a rhubarb fool, and now is the time for it. The arrival of rhubarb in the market always cheers me. Spring is here!
This British dessert goes way back — we’re talking about a few hundred years — and it was originally made with custard and pureed fruits, most notably gooseberries.
I've lightened it up with whipped cream instead of the custard and swapped the gooseberries for seasonal rhubarb. It's an easy-peasy dessert for a weeknight dinner or a spring party!
I like to add a little sour cream to the whipped cream in my fools — it gives the dessert some tang and also helps stabilize the cream to keep it from weeping.
Cream always whips better in a chilled bowl, but if you forget to chill it, just swirl some ice cubes and cold water in a metal bowl and then dry thoroughly before whipping the cream.
Too often rhubarb’s bright pink washes out in a profusion of juice and turns a disappointing gingery brown in the cooking process, but I think I finally solved that problem.
To preserve its rosy color, cook the rhubarb very briefly in a wide pan to facilitate evaporation, and immediately transfer it to a bowl to finish cooking off the heat.
Rosewater, available in Middle Eastern and Indian grocery stores and online, adds a romantic touch. But it's fine to skip it if you don't have any in your kitchen or have trouble finding it.
Look for bright magenta-red stalks of rhubarb for this recipe and avoid thin, green ones, which are often more tart.
Shop for rosewater at Middle Eastern and Indian grocery stores, or online.
- For the rhubarb sauce:
- 1/2 cup sugar, or more, to taste
- 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 1 pound rhubarb stalks, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths (to make about 4 cups)
- 1/2 teaspoon rosewater, optional
- For the whipped cream:
- 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 cup sour cream, stirred
Cook the rhubarb:
Place a medium-sized, heat-proof bowl on the counter next to the stove. In a wide, deep skillet over medium heat, stir together the sugar, orange zest and orange juice. Stir constantly until the mixture liquefies and begins to boil. (It's fine if not all the sugar is dissolved at this point.)
Raise the heat to high and add the rhubarb. Cook, stirring constantly, until the rhubarb juices start to flow, the liquid comes to a boil, and the sugar dissolves completely.
Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring often, for an additional 4 to 6 minutes, or until the rhubarb starts to fall apart, but about one-third of the chunks remain intact. Taste and add more sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, if you like.
Cool the rhubarb:
Immediately pour the rhubarb puree into the heatproof bowl and stir in the rosewater, if using. Cool to room temperature; the rhubarb will continue to soften as it sits.
Refrigerate the rhubarb for 2 to 3 hours, or until completely chilled:
This rhubarb mixture can also be prepared several days in advance and kept refrigerated, or frozen for up to 3 months. (Thaw in the fridge overnight, if frozen.)
Whip the cream:
In a chilled bowl, whip the cream with an hand mixer or stand mixer until it forms soft peaks but is slightly under-whipped. Whisk in the sour cream just until combined (the cream should still form soft peaks).
Assemble the fool:
Add the whipped cream to the bowl of rhubarb. With a rubber spatula, swirl the cream and rhubarb together so that the mixture has streaks of rhubarb, but is not fully mixed. Spoon the fool into tall dessert dishes or wine glasses, and chill until ready to serve.
The fool is best eaten on the day it is made, but leftovers will keep, covered, for a few days.