Rosettes -- those large, crisp, deep-fried patterned cookies sprinkled with confectioners' sugar -- are a simple but dressy way to enhance seasonal fresh fruit.

They are made from an easy batter, closely resembling one used for making fritters. A whisked blend of sugar, eggs and flavoring is thickened with flour and enriched with cream to form a medium-weight mixture.

And like many fritter batters, this one profits from "resting" for one hour at room temperature to relax the gluten, which has been activated while the flour was beaten in; this creates a meltingly tender rosette without any hint of toughness.

The cookies are made with a rosette iron, which is a two-part device with a wooden handle. A long L-shaped metal extension at the end of the handle screws into heavy disks of different shapes for forming the rosettes.

The disks are made in various forms and sizes; my set includes a butterfly, star and a deeply fluted wagon wheel. Each design is fashioned in a thick outline of the form, so that the batter can circulate inside and around the disk. In addition, the open spaces help keep each rosette from becoming batter-heavy.

Another rosette set available combines a selection of triangular, square and round molds, without any open spaces, which create rosettes, when fried, that look like patty shells. These shells can be filled like cases with fresh fruit, mousse or ice cream. And, if the sugar is omitted from the batter and herbs, spices and more salt added, savory shells may be made for holding poultry salads or marinated vegetables. These shells may be fried ahead, ready to be filled at the last moment.

Sprinkled with lots of confectioners' sugar, a pile of sweet rosettes is just the right accompaniment to fresh fruit -- stewed, steeped in syrup, folded into ice cream, pure'ed and blended into mousse or a fool. Imagine any fruit dessert that is cakeless and crustless, and you can pair it with a batch of rosettes.

Attractive dessert places constructed of rosettes could look like this -- heap a mound of fresh fruit (sugared berries, sliced and sugared nectarines, peaches, or plums; diced tropical fruit) on a large dinner plate. Lean a rosette or two against the fruit and pour a little fruit pure'e or syrup to one side of the fruit. Other luxurious additions -- tiny scoops of ice cream or mousse made of the same or contrasting mound of fresh fruit; or chocolate-dipped fruit could accompany a plate of ice cream, and several rosettes.

In addition, a rosette batter may be customized according to the fruit served with it. For example, add cinnamon and nutmeg to the batter when served with a plum compote that features whole cinnamon sticks in the syrup mixture. Add rum to the batter for making rosettes that later will be served with slices of pineapple, mango or papaya. Drifts of lightly sweetened whipped cream also nicely tie together a plate of fresh fruit and crisp rosettes.

Following is the batter that makes golden rosettes (along with a list of flavor variations) to be served along with fresh fruit or just by themselves: ROSETTES (Makes about 2 dozen)

Crackling-crisp, rosettes are feather-light cookies that seem to delight everyone. The batter is easily put together in a medium-size mixing bowl. Rosettes are best eaten the day that they are fried -- fresh and crunchy.

2 large eggs, at room temperature

Pinch salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 cup light cream, at room temperature

Pure, fresh soybean oil for deep-frying

Vanilla-Scented Confectioners' Sugar (recipe follows) or plain confectioners' sugar for sprinkling

Whisk together the eggs, salt, sugar and vanilla in a medium-size mixing bowl. Alternately, add the sifted flour in 3 parts with the cream in 2 parts, beginning and ending with the flour. After each portion of flour is added, whisk it in thoroughly until all particles are dissolved in the batter. Cover the batter with plastic wrap and let stand for 1 hour at room temperature.

To make rosettes: Heat enough fresh soybean oil to rise about 1 1/2 inches up the sides of a deep heavy pot or deep-fryer. Insert a deep-fry thermometer, set the pot over moderate heat, and heat the oil to 325 degrees. Regulate the flame to keep the oil at a constant 325-degree temperature.

Assemble the iron with one of the decorative bases. Submerge the disk in the hot oil; let the oil drip off, then dip the iron in the batter, letting the batter reach the top of the disk, but not up and around the disk. Cooking note: If the batter flows up and around the top of the disk, and the disk is enclosed by batter, it will be impossible to pry off the fried rosette.

Immediately, place the battered iron in the hot oil, wait about 30 seconds until the rosette has turned a golden brown color, then remove it from the hot oil. Disengage the rosette from the disk, using a fork or thin palette knife onto a paper-towel lined jellyroll pan.

Continue to make more rosettes in this fashion, always swirling the disk in the hot oil before making the next rosette, using up all of the batter. Cool the cookies completely.

Just before serving, sprinkle thoroughly cooled rosettes with the Vanilla-Scented Confectioners' Sugar or plain confectioners' sugar. Fried, unsugared rosettes may be stored in a metal cookie tin (not in plastic bags or plastic containers) until serving time.

Flavor Variations

Cinnamon: Resift the flour with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Spice: Resift the flour with 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice.

Lemon: Substitute 1 teaspoon pure lemon extract for the vanilla; stir 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (the yellow part only) into the batter after the flour and cream have been added.

Orange: Substitute 1 teaspoon pure orange extract for the vanilla; stir 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest (the orange part only) into the batter after the flour and cream have been added.

Rum: Measure 1 cup light cream less 2 tablespoons, which are replaced with 2 tablespoons light rum. VANILLA-SCENTED CONFECTIONERS' SUGAR (Makes 1 pound)

This vanilla-flavored confectioners' sugar is wonderful when used for sprinkling over baked goods, as it is imbued with a fine vanilla essence. Use it, too, in recipes calling for confectioners' sugar in pastry doughs, cookie doughs and cake batters.

16-ounce box confectioners' sugar, sifted

1 hefty, plump and moist 6-inch log vanilla bean, cut down the center to expose the tiny seeds, and halved

Pour the confectioners' sugar into a storage jar. Bury the vanilla bean halves in the sugar, cover the jar tightly and let stand for at least 3 days before using, shaking the jar occasionally. The sugar keeps indefinitely and the vanilla beans may be used once again to flavor another batch of sugar.