It’s sooooo smooooooth — Not kidding! Smooth. Luscious. Creamy. Velvety. Lemony — all the elements of a perfect, refreshing summer dessert. In fact, It’s almost like a pudding married a mousse, and gave birth to this incredible citrussy love-child with a British accent (it is, quite literally, an English creation with origins that go way back to the 14th and 15th centuries, though as a recipe it was quite different! Keep reading).
We’re not entirely sure why it’s called a “posset” but according to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, there is a possibly-related word, spelled variously as “possenet", "postnet", or "posnet", which meant a small pot or saucepan… and aside from a few other tools, the saucepan or small pot is where all the magic happens in this modern version.
A little more in-depth history here -- a posset (also historically spelled poshote, poshotte, poosay) was originally a popular British hot drink made of milk curdled with wine or ale, often spiced, which was often used as a remedy for a multitude of ailments (thanks again, Wiki!). The original drink became extinct, and the name was later revived in the 19th century by British chefs and creatively applied it to a cream, sugar and citrus-based dessert, known today as Lemon Posset.... thank heavens for experimentation and creativity!
So how do you make this? All you actually need are 3 very simple ingredients — sugar, cream and lemons. Yes, seriously. That's it.
You’ll also need a small sieve, and some glass ramekins or small glass pots to pour your posset into, and that’s about all.
How does it firm with with only cream and lemon and sugar then? No cornflour slurry, no gelatin…. how does the science behind this work? It’s actually the combination of cream and acid from the lemons that thicken it and give it its luscious creamy texture, and firm it up so its set but still supple once it cools. The thicker the cream and the more acidic the lemon, the better. There are various other citrus-based versions lurking on the internet (with blood oranges, grapefruit and lime and so on) that are yet to be tried... but this one? It's a winner.
This recipe yields 4 medium ramekins, so feel free to double the recipe if you want more.
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon (or 2-3 small ones)
2 cups heavy cream (or double cream)
3/4 cup fine white sugar
Optional garnish: Candied lemon peel, berries, or mint.
In a bowl, zest the skin of the lemon, and in another bowl, squeeze out the juice. Set aside.
In a medium sauce pan you’ll combine cream and sugar, and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved — be very careful here, as the mixture may start boiling over, so occasionally remove from heat if you feel its about to do that. Continue to do this at a boil for about 5 more minutes.
Remove the cream mixture from the heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice, mixing well. Set aside to cool for 15-20 minute — you’ll notice the mixture may have made a thin film at the top.
Whisk the film gently through the mixture, and strain though a fine mesh sieve into a jar or a bowl, catching the zest. Divide the mixture into 2 individual glasses, jars or ramekins.
Refrigerate uncovered for at least 3 hours, or until set. Garnish with candied lemon, berries, or mint leaves, and enjoy cool from the fridge.
This is one of those incredible no-fuss desserts that is both light and refreshing, and also extremely easy to make — beginner’s level easy! It’s also very impressive if you have guests coming over, and it can be whipped up in no-time the night before or a few hours earlier. And while it screams summer, it can be enjoyed at any time of the year.