We have a new obsession in our house, and it’s lemon posset (pronounced “paw-set”). Fabulously simple (it has only 3 ingredients), stunningly luscious, it is our new favorite dessert.
What is a posset? We know it as a creamy, lemony dessert from Britain that a bit like a pudding.
An online search reveals that it was originally made with milk curdled with spiced wine or ale and served warm. Sort of like a warm eggnog I guess. It was used as a tonic for minor colds and other illnesses. Evidently “posset sets” used to be popular and were frequently given as gifts. According to Wikipedia (not exactly a primary source but useful when one is researching the history of obscure British desserts!), “The posset set that the Spanish ambassador gave Queen Mary I of England and King Philip II of Spain when they became betrothed in 1554 is believed to have been made by Benvenuto Cellini and is of crystal, gold, precious gems, and enamel.” Who knew!?
Those sets, resembling a type of tea set, were for the original hot version. Today possets are served cold and are curdled with a citrus, usually lemon.
How is a posset different from lemon curd, you might ask? Lemon curd uses butter and eggs to make a rich, pudding-y filing for cakes or a spread (such as for English crumpets). Unlike lemon curd, lemon posset is eaten with a spoon from a bowl.
We first had lemon posset at the home of Sonja, a good friend and wonderful cook. When I tried it I thought it seemed vaguely yogurt-y, but I soon learned that was due to the sour quality of it and the smooth texture. She served it with raspberries and whipped cream. We prefer it either plain or with just berries, as the whipped cream texture I think competes with the texture of the posset itself.
This recipe hails from The Beach House Kitchen. I’ve adapted it to make 8 servings, as that is what is most useful to our family!
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Cook method: simmer
- 3 c. heavy whipping cream
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 1/2 T lemon zest (usually from 1 1/2 to 2 lemons)
- 9 T lemon juice
1. In a heavy saucepan combine the cream, the sugar, and the lemon zest. Heat over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.
2. Continue boiling the cream – yes, this is one time you want it to actually boil! – making sure it doesn’t boil over. The original recipe says 8-12 minutes, but I always boil it for at least 12. Don’t get tempted to leave it – it can boil over in a second!
3. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Set aside to cool for 20 minutes.
4. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve or a cheesecloth and divide into 8 equal portions. You can use ramekins or small glass dishes – even tea cups! Allow to cool (uncovered) in the fridge. Once cool, you can cover and keep cold until you’re ready to serve them. Garnish with some fresh berries or serve plain.
Interested in more of our favorite dessert recipes? Try these:
- Panna Cotta from Italy
- Pear Tarte Tatin from France
- Lemons Macarons from France
- Simple White Cake with Pasty Cream Filling
And let us know if you like lemon posset as well as we do!
By Peg Kern
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