Gooseberry Fool Canapés

Gooseberries are ‘the other summertime fruit’ (strawberries being the British number one). I love one-bite-sized canapés to serve a crowd, and this gluten-free recipe softens the natural sharpness of gooseberries with spices and caramel.

This is the classic British fool: a gooey, sharp-sweet, perfectly-balanced treat (the pix are horrorshow; everyone loved the taste).

Makes: 36 canapé-sized tartlettes (see Kit footnotes for larger sizes)

For the GF sweet shortcrust pastry:

  • 90g gluten-free plain flour, plus extra for kneading and rolling
  • 25g polenta (fine cornmeal)
  • Heaped 1/2 tsp xanthan gum (without this, the pastry is just too short & crumbly to work with)
  • 75g cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 25g white caster sugar
  • 1 unwaxed lime: all of finely grated zest; all of juice/pulp reserved for filling
  • 1 small egg (less than 50g when weighed in its shell), beaten and chilled

For the filling:

  • 1 unwaxed lime: juice/pulp only (see Pastry Ingredients)
  • 400g fresh gooseberries: rinsed, and trimmed as necessary
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 3 heaped dessert spoonfuls of soft brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg (or 2-3 seconds’ grating of fresh nutmeg)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the caramel:

  • 40g butter
  • 55g soft dark brown sugar
  • 1.5 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 55ml double cream (55g if weighing)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the whipped cream:

  • 300ml double cream (300g if weighing)
  • 30g icing sugar (approx 3 heaped dessert spoonfuls), or more to your taste

For the garnish:

  • 1 unwaxed lime, finely grated zest only


  • A 24-hole non-stick canapé tin with 1″ diameter holes (see Kit footnotes for other tins)
  • 2 mixing bowls, 1 large and 1 medium; plus a small bowl for beaten egg
  • Clingfilm
  • Rolling pin
  • A 5cm (2″) round pastry cutter; fluted if you have it
  • Cooling rack
  • A medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan
  • A manual (eg. balloon) whisk
  • Electric mixer (hand-held, or stand) to whip the cream
  • A spatula
  • Serving platter or tray

Making the pastry:

  1. Manually mix the flour, polenta, and gum with a fork in a medium bowl. Add the butter and rub it in with your fingers until the mixture is like fine breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and lime zest, and stir well.
  2. Add 1/4 of the beaten egg and squish with your hands until you can bring the pastry together into a ball. You want pastry that isn’t too wet – a too-wet pastry will be tough and shrink in the oven, so err on the side of ‘it feels just slightly too dry’. If it’s just too crumbly to hold together, add additional egg a drop or so at a time.
  3. Lightly flour a work surface and your hands, and gently knead the dough for a few minutes until it feels more silky-smooth. Make a ball and flatten it into a thick disc, then wrap in clingfilm and put into the fridge for at least 1 hour (or overnight – see Timings footnote).
  4. Preheat your oven to 180 C (160 C fan-assisted) and remove the pastry from the fridge; leave it to warm up about 5 minutes.
  5. Flour your work surface and a rolling pin, and roll out the pastry to 1/2 cm (1/4″) in depth. Flour a 5cm cutter and punch out 36 discs (re-roll all scraps as necessary). Poke 24 discs into the holes of the canapé tin (mine came with a wooden dowel, perfect for this job – just dust it lightly with flour). Set aside the remaining 12 discs.
  6. Prick each tartlette base lightly with a fork, and bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned (don’t forget to turn the tin after 6-7 minutes for even baking). Take the tin from the oven and remove each tartlette casing to a cooling rack. Let the tin cool for 10 minutes, wipe clean, then load up with the last 12 discs and bake.

Making the filling:

  1. Heat all ingredients except the vanilla in a saucepan on the hob to boiling, constantly stirring. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes or so, stirring regularly, until the fruit starts to burst.
  2. Remove from the heat and squish any unburst fruit with a fork. Stir in the vanilla.
  3. Pour into a small container and allow to cool (ideally, then put it into the fridge overnight – see Timings footnote).

Making the caramel:

  1. Bring the butter, sugar, and golden syrup to the boil on the hob in a small saucepan, whisking to ensure the sugar has fully dissolved.
  2. Reduce the heat and add the cream and vanilla, and whisk until fully incorporated. Leave to simmer for a few minutes until the sauce has thickened and is quite sticky.
  3. Pour into a small container and allow to cool (ideally, then put it into the fridge overnight – see Timings footnote).

Making the whipped cream:

  1. Manually mix the icing sugar and double cream in a large mixing bowl. Using electric beaters, whisk to soft peaks, starting at low speed and gradually increasing to high speed. (‘Soft peaks’ means that when you lift up the beaters, it flops over after 1-2 seconds.)
  2. Very gently fold in the cold gooseberry filling. The best fools are those with pockets of cream next to pockets of fruit – so don’t combine completely. (You may not want to use all the gooseberry mixture – the remains make an excellent topping for toast).


  1. Put the cooled pastry cases onto a serving platter or tray.
  2. Put 1/2 tsp cold caramel into each tartlette case.
  3. Spoon 1-2 tsp gooseberry cream into each case, heaping it on.
  4. Garnish each tartlette with a pinch of lime zest.

Different Kit
This recipe as written does require specialised kit, but it could be easily adapted for a standard 12-hole muffin or bun tin – simply increase the pastry disc size and baking time. You should get 12+ larger tarts from this recipe. You’ll want to lightly grease your muffin tin holes if your pan is not non-stick; and using the end of your rolling pin will help you place each pastry disc in the muffin tin holes.

Also, you’d do well to line larger tarts with a square of baking paper and blind-bake with baking beads/beans to avoid puffing up.

It’s easier to make these tartlettes if you start the night before: Make the pastry (Steps 1-3), gooseberry filling, and caramel; leave all in the fridge overnight. The next day, simply roll out and cut/bake the pastry, whip the cream, and assemble.

Fool-Only Servings
As with all of my mousse recipes, you could dispense with the pastry and just serve the filling on its own in glasses, ramekins, etc. If doing this, I’d recommend still making the caramel, and drizzling it over each serving.

This is a variation of my Strawberry & Cream Tartlettes, using another of my favourite British summertime fruits. The caramel is from my Polenta & Chocolate Spice Cake (which was from Donal Skehan).


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