This lemon posset recipe is the no-fuss pudding you need in your life

Lush but light, lemon posset is a creamy dessert that takes all of the usual custard requirements as a side step. It contains no eggs nor starch nor gelatin. It takes them minutes to mix up on a stovetop, and then sets into a silky, spoonable pudding after a spell in the fridge.

Get the recipe: Lemon Posset.

I learned about the British recipe while working as a pastry cook in Paris. The first time I was tasked with making it, I was almost sure someone was playing a trick on me. All I had to do was boil cream and sugar, mix in some lemon juice, pour it into glasses and put those in the refrigerator? I tried to question the chef, but he waved me away. Nervously, I made the recipe as instructed. I went back to check on the possets a few hours later. To my surprise, they were no longer liquid and had taken on the texture of a baked custard.

Later, I learned more about this chemical magic trick. Anyone who has made cheese knows that when you add acid to dairy, it starts to clump. The fat in heavy cream prevents the casein proteins in the dairy from forming curds, so it simply thickens. Sugar, dissolved into the cream before the acid is added, encourages the cream to thicken evenly.

Posset recipes don’t vary much, because too much sugar will throw off the ratio of acid to dairy. Adding too much sugar makes an overly sweet pose, but if you don’t add enough it will taste like cream that’s gone sour. You might think more lemon juice would help the pose set faster, but lemon juice contains a lot of water, and that will actually impede thickening.

Today’s posset bears only a passing resemblance to those made in their heyday in the 16th century. Back then, possets were warm, boozy drinks. “A well-made posset separated into three layers: a frothy cream called the ‘grace’ floated on top, a smooth custard occupied the middle tier and warm ale or spirits lay below,” writes Jeri Quinzio in “Dessert: A Tale of Happy Endings.” Potters even made special posset cups, which featured a drinking spout so that a diner could sip the liquid at the bottom while spooning out the cream and custard from above.

In this recipe, adapted from one I used when I worked in restaurants, I suggest you add a little crème fraîche in with the heavy cream and sugar. It’s not necessary, but I like the density it gives the finished puddings. The longer you let the posset sit in the fridge, the firmer it gets. Lots of recipes suggest serving it with cookies, but I like mine with fresh, macerated or jammy berries on top.

Get the recipe: Lemon Posset.

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