Creamy Lemon Possets Infused With Lilac
These creamy possets are made with basically 3 ingredients; cream, sugar, and flavored with lemon zest, and thickened with freshly squeezed lemon juice. They set into a pudding-like consistency almost like a creamier, less aggressive version of lemon curd. These possets are deceptively easy to make, and although they are quite fabulous on their own I love to infuse them or spice them up with different flavours. This time I chose to do that with lilac and the hint of lilac was so nice with the lemon.
What is a posset?
Originally a posset was an English drink made from hot milk and honey, spiced and laced with ale or wine. It was popular in the Middle Ages as a remedy for colds and minor ailments and as a sleep-aid. It has changed over the years and nowadays it’s a cold set dessert made with cream and lemon juice. It has a good balance of sweet-tart flavour, it has a thick lush consistency with a very delicious lemon tart flavour.
How does a posset set so well with so few ingredients?
There is definitely a simple science behind it. According to Serious Eats, adding the acidic lemon juice to the cream causes it to thicken into a spoonable dessert, and the sugar balances the tart lemon flavor. With no eggs, no gelatin, and no starch required to thicken the cream. It’s amazing how it sets into the creamiest dessert. A lot of recipes that I have read for possets say that you can use any citrus to achieve this perfectly set and spoonable treat but I have tested it with oranges and also with clementines - followed recipes to the tee and they just didn’t set. The thing about oranges, tangerines and clementines is that they have a higher sugar to acidity ratio than lemons and limes do so they will not set as quickly or as easily. I haven’t experimented enough with them to say never try with oranges or clementines but I have never had mine set as well as they do when I use lemon or lime juice. A mixture works too.
How do you make possets?
These possets are deceptively easy. The key is to boil the cream sugar and lemon zest mixture just enough to reduce the mixture but not to let the cream boil over. This sounds easier than it is. Milk tends to behave one second as it simmers but the next minute it’s boiling over. Just keep a close eye on it and if you have to remove it from the heat for a few seconds for it to calm down before placing it back on the heat it’s totally fine. After it’s reduced the lemon juice is stirred through it and that is when the magic happens. Allow it to sit for a few minutes and you will start to see it thicken. I then like to pass it through a metal mesh sieve to remove any bits of zest but that is optional. Pour it into ramekins and refrigerate for 4-6 hours until set and that is it.
How do I add flavour to my possets?
Get inspired to create and customize your own posset recipe. Here’s some options:
- Citrus: Change the lemon to lime
- Vanilla: Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the cream. I wouldn’t add more than a teaspoon of any extract as it can overpower and spoil the lemon flavor.
- Spices: Try a pinch of nutmeg or a pinch of ground ginger.
- Liquor: Add a splash of sweet wine, or even a splash of orange liqueur like Cointreau or Triple Sec.
- Fruit: Top with berries or fruit jam or compote before serving.
- Almonds: Toast some sliced or slivered almond and serve a traditional posset with a mint leaf for garnish.
- Shortbread cookies: Scottish shortbread cookies traditionally pair well with lemon posset. Any vanilla cookie would work well.
- Flower/tea infusion: edible flower infusion is a really nice touch. Start with a little because once you add it’s hard to reduce the flavour. Overly floral notes in a dessert can make it overpowering and soapy smelling. Use edible flowers that you think will complement the lemon flavours of the dessert. The lemon flavour is the star and the floral flavours should be sort of in the background enhancing the lemon flavour. My favorite to use in lemon possets is lilac, lavender and elderflower. You can use either fresh or dried. Some lovely tea infusions would work too like earl grey or even chamomile.
This simple dessert is the perfect make ahead dessert that is wildly creamy and delicious. It’s a refreshing and cooling dessert that is elegant and great to serve at a dinner party.
Servings: Makes 4-6 possets depending on size of ramekins you use
Prep Time: 3-5 min
Cook Time: 8-12 min
Setting time: 4-6 hours
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- ⅔ cup of granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp of lemon zest
- 6 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 cup fresh lilac blossoms* if using
- Pinch of salt
Night Before (if infusing with lilac). Remove all stems from your lilac blossoms. Soak these in cream overnight or at least 4 hours. You can also gently warm on a warming burner.
Strain lilac from cream before using.
In a medium saucepan, heat cream, lemon zest and sugar to just boiling on medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Continue to light boil/simmer for 8-12 minutes until reduced to 2 cups. Watch the heat - don’t let the cream boil over. Remove from heat for a few seconds if it starts to boil too hard then return to heat.
Remove pan from heat once reduced and stir in lemon juice and pinch of salt
Allow to sit undisturbed to cool slightly 10 min and a thin skin has developed over top of it (at this point for a stronger lilac flavour/infusion add 1 more cup of lilac to soak in the hot cream mixture)
Then pour through fine mesh sieve into large bowl, laddle/pour out into to 4-6 ramekins and refrigerate for 4-6 hours until set then wrap with plastic wrap, and keep refrigerated until ready to serve. They keep in the fridge for up to two days after they set.
- Be sure to remove all stems, especially from the Lilac & Elderflower…and if you are using lavender, you’ll need just half a cup!
- For more of an intense flavour double the amount of lilac and soak half with the cream the night before and the other half steep when you take cream off the heat before you strain it again.
- Make a jury stick by wrapping a rubber band around a chopstick or skewer at the two cup mark. Pour 2 cups of water in the pan you are planning to use for simmering the cream. Adjust marking accordingly. Then as cream reduces, occasionally insert this jury stick into the cream and use it to tell how far the liquid has reduced. Or pour out liquid into a measuring cup a couple of times while it’s boiling to check how much it has reduced and pouring it back into pan to further reduce as needed.