Friday’s royal nuptials seemed as good an occasion as any to try a bit of British dessert cookery.
Possets go back to at least the 16th century, when it referred to a drink of hot milk curdled with ale and sometimes spiced, and sometimes used as medicine. These days the only posset you’ll find is the lemon dessert, which is just as well.
I’ve been wanting to make it since I had it at Le Bal a few weeks ago. There it was explained in vague terms to be a sort of custard. It’s really closer to cheese: The acid in the lemon juice sets the cream which, because it’s high in fat, doesn’t curdle in the same way that milk does. The result is a thick, silky cream with the tang of lemon curd.
But seriously, if you enjoy creamy desserts, this is as easy as they come. There are no eggs as in pot de crème, no gelatin as for panna cotta.
The dozen or so recipes I looked at were almost identical. The amounts of sugar and lemon juice varied only slightly, and all said to boil the cream for about three minutes. Use an ample pot and keep an eye on it so that it doesn’t boil over.
I’d like to experiment with different flavors. The lemon juice is necessary, though I think lime juice would be acidic enough. Next time I’m going to infuse the cream with ginger, or maybe almonds.
Serve this plain, with fruit (it’s rhubarb season, people), or with shortbread.
500 ml (2 1/8 c) heavy cream
150 g (3/4 c) sugar
75 ml (5 T) freshly squeezed lemon juice
A few drops of vanilla extract
Put the cream and sugar in a heavy saucepan. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil for three minutes, stirring constantly, and lower the heat if the cream wants to boil over. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and vanilla. Let the mix cool and settle for about 10 minutes, then pour into serving dishes (ramekins, tea cups, whatever), cover and refrigerate for at least four hours, until thoroughly chilled and set, or overnight.
Serves 4-6, though I recommend smaller serving sizes.