Friday, February 12, 2010

Lemon Posset and Shortbread

Growing up, we had our fair share of junk food in the house: chips, soda, chocolate chip cookies, pretty much the basics, and we were never at a loss for something good to snack on. The few things my mom wasn't a big fan of were things like Little Debbie, Entenmann's, Kool Aid, products that were packed with sugar and mass produced. And because I didn't have them in my house, I was always eager to trade at the lunch table for one of those soft and delicious oatmeal cookie pies or a chocolatey swiss cake roll that I would delicately unroll as I ate it. But the one thing I always wanted to like but could never choke down was Sunny D. It masquerades as orange juice when in reality it contains only about 2% of real fruit juice. At birthday parties or friend's houses, I would always thirst after the bright orange drink that I never got to enjoy at home, but as soon as I took a swig, the citric acid combined with all the sugar would begin to burn my throat and I would have to guzzle water to dull the pain.

What's my point? You may ask, and why am I rambling on about this disgusting beverage? Because when I tried this Lemon Posset, that familiar burning sensation began to tickle the back of my throat. Given that a burning sensation isn't typically the response that I want my body to have from a dessert, you can probably guess how I felt about this one. But the preparation is really simple so here it is.

I juiced four lemons into a shallow pan and added the caster sugar. Caster sugar here in the states is known by its other identity, superfine sugar, which can be difficult to find in regular grocery stores. Clark almost exclusively uses caster sugar in her recipes unless she is making an icing or otherwise decorating a dessert, so I knew it was something I was going to have to eventually locate, even if that meant ordering it online. I did some research and determined that Fresh Market (love of my life) carries it, but I was prepared to make this dish using regular granulated sugar since I didn't think I would make it out to Fresh Market this weekend. As luck would have it though, as I was getting the rest of the ingredients for these dishes at Ukrops, there was caster sugar, staring me in the face. And yes, it was even called caster sugar. I considered buying out their whole stock (about 10 1lb bags) because knowing my luck, the next time I go to get it, it will miraculously be gone, but I restrained myself and only got one.

I put the lemon-sugar mixture over a medium-low heat and stirred to incorporate the sugar and lemon juice.

I continued stirring until all the sugar dissolved, and then stirred occasionally as I brought the mixture to a boil. This basically resulted in a beautiful, thick lemon syrup that I kind of wanted to lick off the spoon.

Once all the sugar had dissolved

after the syrup had come to a boil
Meanwhile, I began warming heavy cream in a separate pot. 

I did this very slowly as I didn't want the cream on the bottom of the pot to heat too quickly and burn. Once the lemon syrup boiled, I poured it into a bowl, but kept it close to the stove to keep warm. When the cream finally boiled, (after at least 40 minutes. Ok, so maybe I was a bit paranoid about the burning thing. But really, have you ever tasted burnt cream? It's disgusting and there's no CPR to be done to save it.) I whisked it into the lemon syrup mixture. I then poured this through a sieve that I had lined with cheesecloth. 

Using a ladle, I divided the mixture between four ramekins and put them in the fridge to set 

which supposedly takes about 2 hours. After about 2 1/2 hours, we took one out to try it. It was still very creamy, and hadn't set like I thought it would. It had the consistency of a thin pudding rather than a thick custard, but the recipe doesn't indicate what the correct texture should be. It had an intense lemon flavor but was also incredibly sugary, hence the burning sensation in the back of my throat. A few hours later, I tried another ramekin to see if it had set a little more fully, and also to give it a second chance. The texture was a little firmer, but the taste was the same, super tangy and intensely sugary. I could only eat about half of it.

Meanwhile, I had started on the Shortbread. The Lemon Posset and Shortbread are not technically to be served together, but I thought the posset would need a little texture to accompany it and decided Shortbread would be a good match. 

First, I combined the flour and caster sugar in a mixing bowl. 

Then, using my fingers, I mixed in room temperature butter. 

Once this was partially combined, I added about 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla extract. The recipe calls for vanilla seeds from a vanilla pod, but when I wrote "vanilla" on my grocery list, I dumbly crossed it out once I got to the store since I knew I had vanilla extract at home....not smart. Anyway, I substituted with vanilla extract, which I think worked pretty well. I continued to work the mixture with my hands until it formed a dough, and then formed it into a ball. 

I transferred this to a piece of parchment, dusted with flour, and flattened the dough slightly. 

Using a rolling pin, I rolled it out until it was about 1cm thick.

Using a sharp knife, I cut "oblong" shapes out of the dough and transferred them to a parchment-lined baking sheet. To me, oblong meant rectangle, but I really should have used a ruler, because I ended up with some rectangles and some squares. 

This recipe makes 15 cookies, but I ended up with about 20 plus a few scraps of extra dough, so I don't know if I cut my oblongs too small or perhaps rolled the dough a little too thinly. In the long run, it didn't really seem to matter. I put the dough in the oven for 15 minutes, then turned the pan and baked for another 10 minutes. The cookies weren't quite as brown as I wanted them, so I left them in for another 2 minutes, and then took them out of the oven. While still warm, I dusted them evenly with some granulated sugar and left them on the tray to cool, which didn't take long. 

If the Lemon Posset was a disappointment, the Shortbread exceeded my expectations. It was flaky and buttery, a little dense and pleasantly chewy, just like Shortbread should be. The sugar on top added just the right touch of sweetness.

Next Indulgence: Apple and Poppy Seed Cake


  1. Your descriptions of these two are perfect! Please make more shortbread, those little guys were delicious.

  2. I probably won't try to make these...Though I really appreciated the recounting of our childhood snack foods and how gross Sunny D is. I am so with you on that.

  3. The shortbread sounds delicious! I'd really like to try it with some rich dark coffee mid-morning.


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