Friday, May 25, 2012

Strawberry Fruit Fool with Brandy and Snaps

When you start writing a food blog, you end up searching your memory frequently for food related thoughts and tidbits. You constantly think up recipes and then realize that they are related to something in your past. It can be a bit surprising, especially for someone like me. I don't really consider my childhood as home to many culinary gems. There was a lot of boil in the bag fish, and I think I lived off cheese omelets for about nine months once.

All last week I was trying to figure out what on earth I was going to make as a dessert for a dinner with Mary that was coming up. Normally, I'm pretty quick to pull out a recipe from my repertoire, but nothing that I was coming up with felt right. I wanted to use rhubarb initially because I've seen a million recipes for it, but that didn't feel quite right. I thought about doing something with chocolate, but that felt like it might be too heavy. I went back and forth and finally stopped and thought about what I think about when I think of the quintessential fruit dessert. That's when I remembered my mother, sitting on a couch, eating Gooseberry Fruit Fools. They seemed to be one of her favorite puddings in a hurry. In England, them come in little yoghurt pots and they are cloud-like, creamy and delicious. No too sweet, but definitely indulgent.

Fruit Fools are very English. They are basically a fruit puree combined with whipped cream. Very easy to make.

I figured that Gooseberry wasn't the way to go here. It's not really a common American fruit and it's a little hard to find. I figured that Strawberry would be a good choice. I made the Brandy Snaps from Lottie + Doof that I spoke of in my last Whilst I'm Not Cooking post, since I wanted a different texture. They turned out great, but a work of caution.... if your baking pan is hot because you are making these in batches, they will spread like heck. I also subbed walnuts as I didn't have pistachios.

If you don't want to make Brandy Snaps, use some other thin cookies for texture here.

These desserts are decadent and delicious. They look beautiful, and they taste divine.

Strawberry Fruit Fool with Brandy

The use of balsamic vinegar in the strawberries and brandy and cream cheese in the cream here is not traditional, but I feel like it really gives the dessert more depth and body. If you wanted to go the more traditional route, you could skip them, but you'd be missing out!

For the Strawberry Puree

1lb Strawberries, hulled and chopped
2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar

For the Cream

1/2 Pint Heavy Cream (1 Cup, 8oz)
4 Ounces Cream Cheese, softened
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Tablespoon Brandy

Hull the strawberries and chop them quite small. Coat them with the sugar and the balsamic vinegar and let them sit and macerate. The vinegar and the sugar will pull lots of liquid out of the strawberries. You probably want to try and let them sit for at least half an hour or longer.

Once they are nice and juicy and soft, use a fork or a potato masher to mash them up a bit. I don't recommend using a blender as you will lost a lot of texture.

In a mixing bowl, preferably with a stand mixer, add the cream cheese and a few tablespoons of the cream. Whip until it starts to thicken a little to form a base, then add the rest of the cream, the sugar and the brandy and whip furiously. You want the cream to be quite stiff. You may find you have little nubbins of cream cheese suspended in the mixture, but it is a nice textural compliment in the end.

In a glass or other tall container, start with a glob of the cream in the bottom, then layer on a tablespoon of strawberries, then repeat all the way up, ending with a cream layer. I think I had five repeats of cream and strawberry. Top with a brandy snap or other cookies and a couple of slices of fresh strawberry.

Makes four decadent summery servings.

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