When I was studying pastry + bread making in Vancouver, our teachers introduced us to a dessert I had never heard of – the posset. Originally a thickened drink waaaay back in the day (think Shakespear), it has evolved into a set custard-like dessert which has the consistency of sour cream. Possets require only 3 ingredients, which is why they are the simplest “custards” you can make. (I use quotations on custard, as the term generally means something that has been set with eggs.) No need to worry about curdling eggs with this custard! Possets need no eggs, no gelatine, no flour… the only thing that they require to set into a velvet consistency, is acid.
I could get all science-y about it, but it’s similar to how yogurt is made. Except, instead of having bacteria eating the sugars (lactose) and producing lactic acid, you add the acid yourself! The acid lowers the ph of the cream, which changes the structure of the protein strands, allowing them to hold more water. Originally, I was taught that possets require citrus to set (lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit…), but there are other fruits with a similar ph to citrus.
My original recipe idea, was to make an orange posset, flavoured with pomegranate (mostly because I just wanted the pink/peach colour). But as I was making the first batch I was having a hard time. Possets need the citric acid to set, so I couldn’t substitute pomegranate juice for orange juice. I could only add a tablespoon or so for flavour. Now, pomegranate isn’t as strong a taste as the orange, so it wasn’t coming through. Then, as I was tasting things, I wondered to myself if the bitter pomegranate juice might be acidic? Turns out, pomegranate has a lower ph than oranges, and is closer to that of lemons! That made me realize you could use pomegranate juice all on its own!
So I went back to the store for more cream, and set about making three different possets – one solely orange, one 50/50 orange and pomegranate, and one solely pomegranate. I was curious about the different colours and flavours, and couldn’t settle on just one. The result? Well, the pomegranate one didn’t really taste of pomegranate – it’s too delicate a flavour. I used pomegranate juice though, so maybe freshly squeezed would come through? With the 50/50 one you couldn’t really taste the pomegranate, as again, it’s too delicate. The orange one was the best, as the flavour really cuts through the cream.
In my opinion, the best possets use the most sour flavours – like lemon and lime. They really come through the heaviness of the cream, unlike subtler flavours. Perhaps next time, I’ll try one with lime and ginger… doesn’t that sound nice?
So if you want to make a posset, experiment with flavours. Lemon is perfect, but you can also infuse things in the milk before you make the posset. Simply add whatever you want to infuse as you first simmer the cream. Then take it off the heat, cover with a lid (to prevent too much evaporation) and steep for 30 minutes. Bring it back to a simmer and continue with the recipe as before. You could infuse all kinds of spices, herbs, tea… just use your imagination!
Honestly, possets are so easy! My only advice would be to serve these in small dishes, as they are very very creamy… you don’t want to serve people too much. A double-shot of posset is all you really need!
- 600ml whipping/double cream
- 135g sugar
- 200ml lemon juice (about 5-6 lemons)
- lemon zest from all lemons
- Zest and juice the lemons to get 200ml. Place all of the zest, sugar, and cream into a pot and set over the stove on medium heat.
- Bring mixture to a simmer, stirring continuously, until the sugar has dissolved.
- Add the lemon juice, and bring back to a simmer, stirring to ensure completely mixed. Remove from the heat.
- Strain the mixture through a fine sieve, and pour into small containers. Allow to cool to room temperature before covering with cling film, and chill in the fridge to set.
- Allow to set in the fridge for a few hours, or overnight.