Rhubarb Fool

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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.


1 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.

2 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.

3 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.)

4 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).

4 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.

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Fool

Scott Phillips

A fool is an old-fashioned English dessert, but it never goes out of style because it’s simple, delicious, and beautiful. Plus, any fool can make it since it’s only a matter of folding a quickly cooked compote into whipped cream. A little rose water adds a floral sweetness, but the fool is lovely without it, too.


    • 1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and sliced 1/2 inch thick (about 4 cups or 1 pound prepped)
    • 1/2 cup honey
    • Zest and juice of 1 orange
    • 2 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger
    • 1/2 vanilla bean, split
    • Pinch of fine sea salt
    • 3/4 cup heavy cream
    • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  1. Candied Rhubarb Strips
    • 1 stalk rhubarb
    • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup water

Tips for making a fool (the dessert, that is!)

First, you gently cook the rhubarb to add a little flavor and sweetness. You don't want to add much liquid as it will create its own liquid and you want the fruit to stay relatively intact.

I just use a dash of orange for flavor and to help the sugar dissolve. To help the fruit stay intact, just stir a little early on, then largely leave it alone.

The trick in putting this together is that you don't completely combine the fruit and cream, but more fold them together. This way you can still get the flavor and texture of both coming through.

25+ tasty rhubarb recipes

If you have a glut of rhubarb you'll never be stuck for a fantastic dessert recipe - from a classic rhubarb crumble to sophisticated crème brûlée.

Early spring is the season for the return of rhubarb, and there are few things more wonderful than seeing its distinctive shade of neon pink in farmer markets in the early months of the year.

Forced rhubarb arrives early in the year between January and March grown in the dark, forced rhubarb have lighter coloured stems and are more tender and delicate than those grown in the open (those tend to be thicker-stemmed, bright red, and appear from April to June).

Good Housekeeping Institute Cookery School Head Tutor, Cher Loh, tells us the best way to prepare the vegetable is, "to wash the stalks well and make sure to discard any leaves as they contain toxic levels of oxalic acid. If the rhubarb is young and tender, chop them into 1-inch pieces and they are ready to be cooked. If it has fibrous strings on the outside, peel them off first like you would with celery before chopping".

There are two classic ways to cook rhubarb &ndash bake or lightly stew. Whichever option you choose, keep an eye on the cooking time. Overcooking rhubarb will give a mushy result &ndash best then to use it as a compote, perfect to go with your breakfast yoghurt and granola.

Stewing or poaching is a fuss-free and quick way to cook rhubarb &ndash Cher recommends to simply keep it at a low simmer in a saucepan with sugar, a splash of water, and a generous squeeze of orange juice. He suggests for a lightly spiced version, add in a cinnamon stick, couple of cloves and a star anise. It should take no more than 8 to 10 minutes for the rhubarb to be tender &ndash a knife should go through with no resistance.

Cher suggests to bake, you can toss chopped rhubarb with some light brown sugar or honey, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and into a 180˚C fan oven for about 15 minutes (or longer, depending on the thickness of rhubarb). If you find your cooked rhubarb has lost its vibrant crimson colour, add some strawberry flavoured gelatine or a drop of red food colouring.

"If you fancy playing around with flavours, stir through some vanilla, candied or grated ginger, citrus zest, or chopped frozen berries after the rhubarb has finished cooking" says Cher, "or for a Persian touch, opt for a teaspoon or two of orange blossom or rosewater". They make a great accompaniment to an elegant sponge cake for afternoon tea and can elevate a simple weeknight dessert when paired with a scoop of clotted cream or vanilla ice-cream.

Cher runs regular cookery classes at the Good Housekeeping Institute Cookery School. Classes cover a broad range of topics from kitchen skills to world cuisines and are designed for a variety of ages and abilities. For more information, or to purchase gift vouchers, head to the cookery school page.

Here we roundup the best rhubarb recipes, from rhubarb gin and plum cake to rhubarb and apple cobbler. Plus, a few of our favourite rhubarb cocktails.

Recipe Summary

  • 1 pound red rhubarb (about 9 stalks), leaves discarded, stalks cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 cups heavy cream

Put rhubarb, sugar, and 2 tablespoons water into a medium saucepan. Cover, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir once, and cook, uncovered, until rhubarb has completely softened, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Transfer rhubarb mixture to a food processor, and puree until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl. Refrigerate rhubarb puree until cool, about 30 minutes.

Beat cream with an electric mixer or by hand until soft peaks form. Gently fold rhubarb puree into the whipped cream in 2 batches, leaving some streaks remaining. Spoon into glasses.

    1. In a heavy 2 1/2- to 3-quart heavy pot combine rhubarb, sugar, and water and bring to a boil, covered, over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb begins to break down, 3 to 5 minutes.
    2. Remove lid and briskly simmer, stirring frequently, until rhubarb is completely broken down into a thick purée and reduced to about 2 cups, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Transfer rhubarb to a bowl and let it cool, then chill, covered, until cold, about 1 hour. DO AHEAD: Purée can be made and refrigerated, covered, up to 2 days ahead.
    3. Beat cream in a deep bowl with an electric mixer until it holds soft peaks—for this fool, I like the cream to be slightly beyond the soft peak stage but not quite stiff—and fold it into the rhubarb. Don't feel you have to completely incorporate the cream and the rhubarb into a smooth pink fluff. I like to leave it a little streaky with swirls of rhubarb coursing through the cream.
    4. Divide the fool among 6 goblets.

    i've done it! i'm so thankful i didn't actually make kemp minifie's rhubarb fool until summer was nearly over. had i discovered it early on in the season, i would have certainly been forced to sew elastic into the waistbands of all my pants. i haven't done the research, but i'm going to go with my hunch and say that the humble fool is the precursor to and inspiration for all of those crazy jello, mayonnaise, cool whip and fruit cocktail concoctions that became so popular in the 50's in that it's fluffy and fruity and creamy in the same way, except that it's made with wonderful ingredients that a common homemaker was likely to have had on hand: heavy cream, sugar, vanilla and in its season, rhubarb. the fool itself is difficult to describe. somewhere between a pudding and a mousse, but with tiny tart threads of fruit to counterbalance the richness of the whipped cream. as is often the case with desserts featuring rhubarb, it's not much of a looker. that said, i did add about 10 sliced strawberries to the rhubarb as it was cooking down, just to give it a bit of a rosy hue. as one would imagine, it's quite rich, and just the smallest bit is completely satisfying. heck, yes i'm going to make it again, experimenting with different fruits and possibly adding liqueurs to the whipped cream. i may use a bit of it between layers of a lemon pound cake. i don't know, but i'm quite pleased to have it in my arsenal..thank you, kemp, for sharing this!

    Why have I not made this yet? Let's see. fresh whipped cream, rhubarb, sugar and vanilla folded gently into a charming, old-timey dessert. What is there not to like? Let's couple this with the fact that I have a freezer and garden that are both brimming with rhubarb, it is too hot to turn the oven on. If I wanted to really pour it on, I could remind everyone that this recipe comes to us from a true cooking world legend, and a much-missed publication. It represents a delicious little piece of our culinary history, truth be told. I'm making it! Stay tuned, fellow epicurious readers!

    Rhubarb recipes

    The two main types of rhubarb we are familiar with in the UK are natural, outdoor rhubarb and the forced variety. Forced rhubarb is grown by candlelight to create bright pink, tender stems and tends to be produced in the so-called ‘rhubarb triangle’ in Yorkshire. While rhubarb season proper heralds the start of spring, forced rhubarb is usually available from January until March - just in time for comforting crumbles and compotes.

    With its attractive colour and sweet tang, rhubarb pairs perfectly with creamy custard, and the combination is something of a nostalgic one for many - think school dinners and boiled sweets. Dominic Chapman’s Apple and rhubarb crumble recipe makes the perfect warming winter pudding, or try Martin Wishart’s Rhubarb tart. When the weather gets warmer incorporate rhubarb into a chilled dessert, such as Tom Aikens’ Rhubarb fool or Nathan Outlaw’s vivid Rhubarb trifle recipe. For a modern take on the classic pairing try Emily Watkins’ Baked custard recipe, served with a vibrant rhubarb granita.

    While commonly thought of as a fruit rhubarb is actually a vegetable, so don't be afraid of adding some of its tart sweetness to savoury recipes, too. Adam Stokes’ Duck breast recipe is served with a glorious rhubarb purée, the sharpness of the rhubarb perfectly offsetting the rich flavour of the duck.

    Rhubarb Fool

    Bring rhubarb, sugar and orange juice to simmer in medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Partially cover pan and cook until rhubarb is very soft, about 6 minutes. Mix in Grand Marnier. Refrigerate until cold, about 15 minutes.

    Step 2

    Meanwhile, using electric mixer, beat whipping cream and sugar in large bowl until soft peaks form. Cover and chill up to 6 hours.

    Step 3

    To assemble, alternate layers of rhubarb mixture and whipped cream in 2 large wine goblets or dessert dishes. Using small knife, swirl mixtures together. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 1 hour.

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    When you have finally overdone all things rhubarb, god forbid, don’t waste it! This sturdy vegetable freezes exceptionally well. Trim, wash and chop into batons and place in sealed freezer bags. Then pop into your freezer ready for a tasty pie on a gloomy winters’ night later in the year.

    Mix the rhubarb and vanilla sugar together in an ovenproof dish. Cover with foil and bake at 200°C until the fruit is completely soft.

    Drain and pour the juice (you should have about 500ml) into a saucepan, then heat and let bubble away until reduced by about half, leave to cool.

    Puree the fruit until totally smooth, then cool and chill as well. Whip the cream in a large chilled bowl until thick. Carefully fold in the rhubarb puree, add some of the reduced juice until the mixture is streaked like raspberry ripple ice cream.

    Rhubarb Custard Fool with Rhubarb Syrup

    Recipe adapted from Ripe, Nigel Slater (Ten Speed Press)

    Yield: Serves 6

    Cook Time: 40 minutes, plus 1 hour, 30 minutes cooling time


    14 ounces rhubarb stalks (about 6 large stalks), trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

    2 tablespoons granulated sugar

    3½ cups heavy cream, divided

    1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

    1 tablespoon superfine or granulated sugar


    1. In a medium saucepan, combine the rhubarb with the water and sugar. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once the mixture begins to boil, turn the heat to low and simmer until the rhubarb is softened, 12 to 15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the softened stalks from the syrup set the stalks aside. Pour the syrup into a container and refrigerate.

    2. Make the custard: In a small saucepan set over medium-high heat, add 2½ of the cream and vanilla bean. Just before the mixture begins to boil, remove from the heat and set aside for 10 minutes.

    3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the yolks turn pale in color, about 5 minutes. Carefully pour the warm cream over the eggs discard the vanilla bean and stir to combine. Pour the mixture back into the pan and place over medium-low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until the custard begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool, about 1 hour.

    4. In a medium bowl, whisk the remaining 1 cup of cream until it forms soft peaks. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold 1 cup of the cooled custard into the whipped cream reserve the rest of the custard for another use. Add the cooked rhubarb and fold in gently, so that the fruit forms pale pink streaks through the custard and cream. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then spoon into glasses and serve, pouring a little of the reserved rhubarb syrup over each portion.

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