Try something different this Thanksgiving by making not one but two cream desserts inspired by the hit Dickensian musical, Oliver!
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Based on Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist, the musical, Oliver!, is a staple of many people’s childhoods, often from school productions or the 1968 Oscar-winning movie. I have very fond memories of being part of Fagin’s gang in my school production nearly 30 years ago!
The tale of orphan Oliver, who dared to ask for more gruel, and his adventures with the Artful Dodger, Fagin and his gang is well-know. Once adopted by the gang, in the song Pick A Pocket Or Two, Fagin inducts Oliver in the art of pick-pocketing, acting out various amusing crime-filled scenarios and breaking down Oliver’s natural reticence to stealing. What could be easier than picking-pockets? Why, making this pair of possets, of course! But which to pick… both?
Possets were originally a British medieval hot milk drink but have, over time, evolved to become a set cream dessert flavoured, usually, by citrus fruits. The acid in the fruit juice is responsible for thickening the cream and so there are very few other ingredients required – and in the case of our cranberry posset, just cream and cranberry juice is needed.
The cranberry posset takes its flavour from store-bought cranberry drink (mine came as a 1L carton and consisted 23% cranberry concentrate and contains sugar – you may need to adjust the sweetness depending on your brand).
Pour the cranberry juice into a pan, bring to a rapid boil and reduce until you have about 200-250ml of juice left. You will have made quite a sweet syrup – if too sweet, add a squeeze of lime juice, but you will be “diluting” the sweetness with cream shortly! In a separate pan, bring some double cream (heavy cream) to the boil. While this is happening, measure out 120ml of the hot cranberry syrup (reheat if needed), and whisk rapidly into the bubbling cream, turning the heat off. You should notice the cream thicken. Pass through a sieve into a jug and pour into four suitable serving dishes. Allow the posset to cool and top with a little of the remaining syrup. Refrigerate for at least an hour, by which time the posset will have set to a nice thick cream and the syrup will have almost set to a jello (you could add some gelatine to the remaining syrup if you want to, but I like it like this – and it’s simpler!).
For the orange and pumpkin spice posset, the method is exactly the same. This time, juice two oranges (having zested one first) and reduce by half to about 100ml (about 3-4mins rapid boiling), and add the juice of a lime and a little sugar, stirring to ensure the sugar has dissolved. To the double cream, add the orange zest and pumpkin spice and bring to the boil. Add the juice mix to the cream, whisking and sieving as before. Once set and when nearly ready to serve, melt marshmallows and add a layer to each posset. Using a blow-torch, give the topping a nice brûlée look and serve before the marshmallow can completely solidify. I have kept the posset quite sharp to contrast with the marshmallow topping, but you could always sweeten the juice a little more if not adding the topping (but where would the fun be!?).
One of these possets is enough for most people – if you want to serve up both flavours to each guest, you’d could make them even smaller (e.g. shot glasses or espresso cups).
Note for U.K. readers: pumpkin spice is a US spice/blend that contains nothing pumpkin-related, but is a mix of cinnamon, allspice, clove and nutmeg. A pinch of each (or at the very least, some cinnamon) will work just fine in this recipe.