Pitch-perfect posset

raspberry and champagne posset 

A couple of months ago while on vacation, I enjoyed a creamy, indulgent dessert that perfectly straddled the lines between rich/heavy and sweet/tart. I had not heard of the dish prior to that meal and was excited about making a new food 'discovery'. Of course, just like many explorers before me, I hadn't 'discovered' anything at all, but rather became acquainted with a dish not known in my area. The mystery dessert was posset, a modern take on an age-old British dish that traces to medieval times.

Originally, posset was a hot drink made from milk that was curdled with alcohol (usually wine or ale). It was served as a tonic or health drink in its early days. Today, posset is a sweet dessert served chilled, more closely resembling syllabub than its ancestral namesake. Although the ingredient lists are similar, posset is cooked where syllabub is not.

The allure of posset is that it possesses a delicate, creamy custard-like texture without the hassle that accompanies making custard. There are no eggs to curdle, and it's astonishingly easy to make. The basic preparation is to boil cream with milk for several minutes (the only step fraught with danger - turn your back on the cream and it will boil over), then 'set' the mixture with an acid, usually lemon or lime juice. (In essence, you are making a loose-set sweet cheese.)

From there the possibilities are endless. Herbs like lavender and spices like ginger can add layers of flavor, and sweet-tart berries provide a natural counterpoint to the lush dish. The Champagne & raspberry possets from BBC Good Food Magazine, pictured above, would be a wonderful dessert for Valentine's Day. I recently tried Food52's recipe, adding a few stems of rosemary to the boiling liquid. It came together in a snap, used only four ingredients including the rosemary, and tasted divine. My only regret is that I didn't 'discover' posset years ago.

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