Saturday, January 29, 2011

Burns Supper - Dessert: Posset and Shortbread


...I have drugg'd their possets
That death and nature do contend about them
Whether they live or die.

-Lady MacBeth, in the Scottish play (fitting, no?)

A cup of eating-posset and a shortbread cookiePosset is an old British drink of cream curdled with sack (fortified wine) or ale.

Nowadays the term usually refers to sweetened cream curdled so that it sets like a custard.

During the years in which liquid posset was declining in popularity and solid posset was rising, the term "posset" on its own was ambiguous. Qualifiers were added for clarity, resulting in terms like "rich eating posset."

Anyways, eating-posset is one of the simplest desserts to make

Lemon Posset
From Bon Appétit Magazine, May 2007
  • 2 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
Combine the sugar and cream in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Simmer for three minutes. Stir in the lemon and lime juice, then pour the mixture in the serving vessels. Leave to set in the fridge overnight.

ShortbreadShortbread cookies cooling on a rack
Adapted from a recipe of the same name in the Culinary Institute of America's Baking and Pastry, Second Edition.

Many would not consider this cookie a shortbread, as shortbread is usually virginal white. I happen to like the molasses and bran flavours of this (pardon the pun...) "less refined" version. These cookies are very crisp, and lack the powdery mouthfeel of some shortbreads.
  • 8oz cake flour
  • 8oz whole wheat flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 11oz butter
  • 5oz white sugar
  • 8oz brown sugar
Sift together the flours and salt. Using the paddle attachment of a stand-mixer, cream the butter and sugars at medium speed for about five minutes. Gradually add the flours and salt to the butter and sugar while mixing slowly. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl for even incorporation. Refrigerate the dough until stiff but still workable.

Roll the dough to 1/4" thickness. Cut into desired shapes, then transfer to a heavy sheet pan covered in parchment. Refrigerate the pan for thirty minutes before baking at 350°F until the edges of the cookies are a light golden colour, roughly twenty minutes.

At the Burns Supper, these shortbread cookies were served on top of the eating-posset, with one end hanging over the bowl. The idea was to dip the cookies in the posset à la Dunkaroos.


  1. ODD shortbread recipe. I would love to have tasted it. The traditional one (now days) is a simmple ratio of 2:1:1/2 of flour, butter, and sugar) mixing the flour with the sugar first, and then adding in the butter and kneading it etc.
    I am charmed by the recipe you found. Was the posset curdy or creamy?

  2. Very creamy, with a bright lemon flavour. And absolutely delicious.

  3. Val - It's definitely not a classic shortbread. I can't stand when shortbread turns to powder in my mouth, so these cookies are more like "snaps", though they are still very "short" (ie. lots of butter).

    I've been taught that the classic shortbread ratio by weight is 3:2:1 flour, butter, sugar. We should have a taste test...

    Hi Martin - Glad you liked it!