Clementine posset

What is it that makes a posset set just so? Is it the act of boiling the cream for exactly two minutes? Is it the sugar that’s in the cream at that time? Is it the addition of a little acid, by way of the juice from a citrus fruit or three?

Dunno. Perhaps it’s down to all of the above … but as it’s the holiday period, I’m not going to spend any time reading up on it. Instead, I’ll set out what I do know.

1. Possets make an excellent dinner party dessert on account of the fact that

(a) they’re decadent enough (mostly cream, innit), but also refreshing and reinvigorating thanks to a citrus hit; and

(b) all the admin is done well in advance, leaving you with a stress and mess free finish to your meal.

2. They’re also extremely easy to make. Just a little bit of work in advance gets you a silky smooth posset, topped by a lively set jelly layer.

3. This particular one is mostly clementine flavoured. So it’s seasonal. Play around with other citrus fruits if you fancy. The ratios should still work.

4. All possets need a biscuit to go with – that cream will be too much without a bit of crunch. I suggest making candied ginger, cardamom and butter thins. Like the possets themselves, they’re relatively easy to create, cheap, and far better than anything you’ll buy in a shop.

This method owes much to Simon Hopkinson’s St Clement’s cream recipe, which can be found in his excellent collection of Indy columns ‘Week In, Week Out‘. The most important thing to note is that when boiling the cream, you’ll need a much larger saucepan than you expect.

Clementine posset with ginger and cardamom butter thins

To feed 8

For the possets

  • 800ml double cream
  • 8-9 clementines
  • 1 lemon
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 2 sheets gelatine (3.5g total)
  • 8 ramekin dishes

For the biscuits

  • 100g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 100g plain flour
  • 20g corn flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 piece candied ginger, finely diced

Grate the zest from the lemon and six of the clementines into a large saucepan. Add the sugar and the cream.

Juice those six clementines and the lemon, and strain that liquid through a fine sieve into a small saucepan. Boil the liquid rapidly so that it reduces by half and becomes almost syrup like.

As the juice is reducing, slowly bring the cream, sugar and zest to the boil. As the cream warms, stir so that the sugar dissolves. Then watch carefully as the cream starts to bubble and expand when it hits boiling point. It will quadruple in volume at this point, but won’t burn – the sugar in the cream stops that from happening (this much I know).

Boil for two minutes exactly – during that time you may need to put a metal spoon in the pan or take the pan off the heat to prevent the cream from invading your stove top.

Stir the syrup into the cream and set aside to cool to room temperature (thirty-forty minutes)

Strain the cream through a fine sieve into a jug. Then divide the cream equally between eight ramekins or small cups. Leave a cm gap from the top of the cream to the edge of the vessel. Cover with cling film (to prevent other smells from flavouring the cream) and place in the fridge for at least three hours to chill and set.

To make the jelly layer, extract the juice from two to three more clementines – so that you have 200ml liquid. Gently warm this in a small pan whilst soaking the gelatine sheets in cold water. After three or four minutes, remove the gelatine from the water, squeeze them to get rid of excess water, and drop into the warm clementine juice. Stir until dissolved, then allow to cool completely.

When room temperature or below, divide the clementine juice between the possets by carefully spooning it onto the set cream. You should have about three dessert spoons per ramekin. Put in the fridge to chill and set completely – for at least another two hours.

At some point when the cream or jelly is setting, make the biscuits by creaming the butter and sugar together (using a stand mixer is easiest). Add the flour, cornflour, cardamom, baking powder and diced ginger and mix well.

Set your oven to 180C. Prepare two flat baking trays / upturned trays by putting non-stick teflon baking sheets or (ideally) silicon baking sheets on top.

Use a tea spoon to spoon six walnut sized balls each baking sheet, and then squash them down to a rough circle with the back of the spoon. (I tend to weigh each ball so that it’s the same size (10-11g), roll them quickly in my hands, then squash onto the sheet). Don’t be tempted to put more than six on the sheet – they spread.

Bake for ten to fifteen minutes until they are turning golden. Remove and whilst they are still warm, use a circular cutter to trim the biscuits to a neat round. As they cool, they harden.

Repeat until your biscuit mix is used up – you’ll have about two dozen biscuits.