Whilst a crumble is my favourite rhubarb dish, a simple fool is my second favourite. Partly due to the nostalgia aspect of this luxuriously creamy dish - both my grandmother and then my mother made this quite a bit when I was little. Sometimes, it would be rhubarb fool and sometimes it would be gooseberry fool. I'd never made it before and called my mother for the recipe. This is when I discovered that there is not in fact a recipe - it has just four ingredients and you can combine them in pretty much any ratio you wish! You can make a fool just using cream, but I like to make it with a mixture of custard and cream as I prefer the end result.
To go with a fool, I think you always need some kind of biscuit. As I child, our fools were usually accompanied by sponge fingers and there is nothing whatsoever wrong with that. But I decided to make these gorgeous, melt-in-the-mouth orange poppyseed biscuits. A perfect addition!
The basic recipe for these biscuits came from my latest favourite recipe book: Gorgeous Desserts by Annie Bell. I LOVE this book. It is packed full of... you guessed it... gorgeous desserts, including lots of nostalgic items that she has fully revitalised. Think thoroughly modern trifles, stunning and witty jellies, rice pudding made with risotto rice alongside classic sticky toffee pudding and spiced apple pie. She serves these biscuits without the orange and with her version of rhubarb fool.
For the fool:
1 heaped tablespoon golden caster sugar
3 tablespoons water
135ml fresh custard (homemade is best, but if you are pushed for time, you can get some reasonably good fresh custard in the chiller isles and my grandmother's version used Birds custard and, you know what, there was nothing wrong with that at all)
125ml double cream
For the orange poppyseed biscuits:
75g plain flour
25g golden caster sugar
60g unsalted butter, diced
pinch of sea salt
1/2 tablespon poppyseeds
grated rind one orange
1 medium egg yolk
a squirt of orange juice (if needed)
1. Start by making the biscuit dough. Put all the ingredients except the egg yolk and orange juice into the food processor and whizz until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.
2. Add egg yolk to bind mixture together. If it does not start to bind, add a little fresh orange juice until the mixture just begins to hold together (I probably needed around 1 tablespoon).
3. Make a ball of the mixture, wrap in cling film and place in fridge for an hour.
4. Meanwhile, make the the fool. Chop the rhubarb into 1cm pieces and place in a large saucepan along with the sugar and water. Heat gently for 10-15 minutes until soft and pulpy.
5. Turn off the heat and pour into a clean mixing bowl to cool down (if you leave it in the pan, it will take longer to cool down. Taste and adjust sugar if necessary (remember that the custard will also be sweet).
6. Pre-heat oven to 180C. Remove biscuit dough from fridge, knead until pliable and then roll out thinly on a floured surface - about 2mm thick (or thin).
7. Oil a baking tray. Cut the biscuits out with a 5cm cutter (remember to dip into flour between cutting each one, to prevent sticking). I also made some star-shaped biscuits as I couldn't resist! Place them on the oiled baking tray.
8. Bake biscuits in oven for 9-12 minutes, until golden. Cool on the baking tray.
9. Combine the fool ingredients. Beat the cream until soft peaks form and then mix together with the custard. Fold in the now-cooled rhubarb, keeping a tablespoonful to one side to decorate. You can either combine fully for an even flavour, or fold lightly for a pretty, marbled effect.
10. Spoon into glasses and serve with the biscuits.
Notes - Adjust the ratio of rhubarb/cream/custard/sugar to your taste. You make like it sharper. Or sweeter. More creamy. More custardy. Entirely up to you.
The biscuits are quite delicate, so handle them carefully!