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Everybody’s fool: This year take a cue from the calendar for your Easter dessert

Easter Sunday falls on April 1 this year.

Celebrate both with a fool.

With few ingredients, this classic English dessert is quick and easy to make. Simply simmer fruit with sugar until it’s softened and syrupy, let the mixture cool and fold it into freshly whipped cream.

Or, better yet, chop and puree fresh fruit and call it good.

So simple, a fool could do it. (Yep, said it.)

Unfussy and fun – elegant, even – fools are best served in glassware to show off the colorful swirls contrasting with the cream. The brightness and sweetness of seasonal fruit cuts through the richness, providing a lovely ending to Easter brunch or lunch.

The dessert, traditionally made with custard and pureed, stewed fruit – gooseberries, specifically – dates to at least the 16th century. Today, strawberry is among the most common fools. But, really, any flavor of fruit would do.

It’s still a little early for rhubarb yet, but if you have some in the freezer from last season, consider using it for this reason – and clearing room for more. Pair it with strawberries or raspberries. Or, consider strawberries or raspberries with a little lemon zest.

Maybe add some Chambord to those raspberries.

Fresh fruit is sometimes used in place of cooked fruit puree. (Fresh fruit plus whipped cream equals one of the best kinds of desserts: no-cook.) Other recipes call for chopped fruit or compote or coulis, with the pulp and seeds strained out.

You could even cheat and use store-bought jam.

Flavors are endless: mixed berry, cherry, blueberry-nutmeg, strawberry-tarragon-balsamic, mango-lime with toasted coconut, orange-almond with Grand Marnier, vanilla-peach, honey-fig, roast apricot-brown sugar, blackberries with sloe gin or creme de cassis.

Around these parts, of course, there’s huckleberry.

Contemporary recipes call for whipped cream instead of custard. But yogurt – particularly Greek – could also be used. So could sweetened ricotta or fromage blanc. For an even richer dessert, consider mascarpone.

A dairy-free diets can still court a fool. Substitute whipped silken tofu or coconut cream.

While sugar is the most common way to sweeten a fool, honey, agave and maple syrup would work, too.

Make it as fancy or as uncomplicated as you want. Few ingredients make it approachable to your pocketbook. But you can doctor up this dessert with layers of flavor.

Add complexity with ingredients such as rosewater or orange blossom water, vanilla bean, almond extract, orange or lemon zest, or spices such as cinnamon or cardamom. Or, spike the dessert with a little amaretto or elderflower liqueur.

It’s fun to experiment. Build to suit – especially when it comes to garnish.

Use fresh mint or fresh or candied or fresh fruit to top the treat. Or, consider crushed cookies or nuts, rolled or rounded wafer cookies, or freshly grated lemon or orange zest, or a French macaron.

Make one for April Fool’s Day. Try another flavor for Mother’s Day.

Strawberry Fool

From Mark Bittman at cooking.nytimes.com

Fools are already easy to make, and this pared-down version makes them even easier. It calls for pureeing half the strawberries without cooking any of them. And, depending on how you choose to prepare it, only three or four ingredients are needed. Minimalist, indeed.

Here’s what Bittman wrote about it: “This minimalist recipe is as basic as dessert gets, and, especially in strawberry season, it’s just perfect. It is essentially fresh strawberries and whipped cream (substitute heavy cream, sour cream or yogurt). It can be eaten right away or refrigerated. Only a fool would pass this up.”

1 pint strawberries

1/2 cup sugar, or to taste

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional

Hull strawberries, then wash them and chop into 1/4-inch-thick pieces. Toss with half the sugar, and wait 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they give up their juices.

Place half the strawberries and all the juice in a blender, and puree. Pour puree back in bowl with chopped strawberries.

Whip the cream with remaining sugar and vanilla until cream is still and holds peaks easily. Fold berries and cream together, and serve immediately, or refrigerate up to two hours.

Yield: 4 servings

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