Lady Macbeth used spiked possets to drug the royal bodyguards so her husband could murder the king. That was the only thing I knew about possets until Diana Henry showed me that they had far kinder uses.
Historically a milk-based libation fortified with ale or wine, posset these days more likely refers to dessert — specifically, a lemony custard topped with berries that’s a summer treat across Britain.
“A posset is a wonder,” Henry writes in her marvelous cookbook “Simple” (Mitchell Beazley, 2016), “all you do is heat cream, add citrus juice and let cool, and yet you end up with a silky, rich dessert.”
It sounded too good and easy to be true — no eggs, gelatin or cornstarch? No water bath?
Happily, I was wrong. My posset gelled perfectly, like panna cotta without the wobble. It was creamy and velvety, thick enough to mound onto my spoon, but also ethereally light, with a bright, pure cream flavor that was just tangy enough.
Most posset recipes call for only three ingredients — cream, sugar and lemon juice. Henry adds orange juice and a rosemary sprig to hers. My version plays up the lemon, heightening the juice with loads of grated zest. Then I top everything with sugared strawberries dusted with black pepper, which gives a hint of spice without overwhelming the fruit.
But possets are very adaptable, so feel free to play around. Because no matter how you mix it, a posset will always make for a killer dessert.
NO-BAKE LEMON CUSTARDS WITH STRAWBERRIES
By Melissa Clark, New York Times
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (from 1 to 2 lemons)
- Pinch of fine sea salt
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 to 3 lemons)
- >> Strawberry topping:
- 1 cup sliced strawberries
- 1 to 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- Freshly ground black pepper, for serving
In a medium saucepan, combine cream, sugar, lemon zest and salt over medium-high heat. Bring to simmer, stirring frequently to dissolve sugar. Simmer vigorously until mixture thickens slightly, 4 to 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Let sit until mixture has cooled slightly and a skin forms on top, about 20 minutes.
Stir mixture, then strain into a measuring cup with a spout; discard zest. Pour mixture into six 6-ounce ramekins or small bowls.
Refrigerate, uncovered, until set, at least 3 hours.
As the custards chill, prepare the strawberry topping: Toss strawberries and sugar in small mixing bowl. Let fruit macerate at room temperature 30 minutes to 1 hour, until sugar is dissolved.
To serve, top each custard with some strawberry topping and grind black pepper on top. Serves 6.
Nutritional information unavailable.