Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lemon Posset with Lemon Pistachio Shortbread

Lemon Posset is a traditional British dessert that was based on a drink popular during the Middle Ages, when access to lemons was a sign of wealth and power. Known simply as Posset, it was originally made ​​with milk beaten with eggs, sugar, and spices and curdled with ale or wine. The curdled milk rose to the top, the eggs created a custard mid-layer, and at the bottom was a warm spicy alcoholic drink, served from the spout of a posset pot.

English Posset Pot, circa 1695

Over the centuries, the word posset has come to mean a simple pudding, and although this recipe is over five hundred years old, the hallmark of any great dish that has stood the test of time is simplicity, and Posset is no exception, containing just three ingredients: heavy cream, sugar and lemon juice. Simple, elegant and deliciously tangy, Lemon Posset delivers great results with very little effort. Similar to Italian panna cotta which is made with milk, a posset is made ​​with cream for a more velvety, rich and smooth texture.

An old recipe for Lemon Posset from 1764 by cookery writer Elizabeth Moxon

This is the science of desserts at its finest. First you cook the cream which must be sufficiently fatty — no lower than 35% — with granulated sugar. Once warm, you take it off the heat and add the lemon juice. Made in a matter of minutes, then left to chill, this rich tangy and creamy lemon curd-style dessert is delicious garnished with a dollop of whipped cream, fresh Ontario wild blueberries, and a flurry of lemon zest. Serve with one of the great pleasures of life — buttery Lemon Pistachio Shortbread. 

Lemon Posset
Makes Four 4-oz servings
Adapted from a recipe by Gordon Ramsay

1 1/3 cup English double cream (48%) or whipping cream (35%)
1/3 cup caster sugar
2 lemons, juiced

Pour the cream and the sugar into a small saucepan over a low heat and bring to the boil slowly, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar. Once it comes to the boil, let the cream bubble for three minutes, stirring continuously. Remove the pan from the heat and pour in the juice of 1 lemon, stirring the mixture thoroughly as you do so. It should start to thicken instantly. Taste the mixture and add a little more lemon juice if it’s not tart enough. The posset should be sweet, tangy and creamy.

Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, then pour into individual glasses, pots or decorative bowls. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight. If the possets are very firm, take them out of the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving to soften. Serve with lemon pistachio shortbread cookies.

Lemon Pistachio Shortbread
Makes about 40

2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 lemons, finely grated zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups + 1 tbsp all purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup pistachios, finely chopped
2 tbsp cornstarch, sifted
2/3 cup icing sugar for garnish, sifted

Place the butter and icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 8 minutes or until pale and creamy. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla and beat until combined. Add the flour and corn starch and beat just until a smooth dough forms. Add the chopped pistachios and mix until well blended. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Divide the dough into two parts, and roll each into a log about 2-inches in diameter. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and referigerate for at least 2 hours or until firm.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. When the dough is chilled, use a sharp knife to cut 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch thick disks from the log. Bake on a parchment covered baking sheet for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and let cool about 5 minutes, then gently toss the warm shortbreads in the extra icing sugar and allow to cool completely on wire racks.