This week for the Alpha Bakers it's Lemon Posset Shortcakes. Posset, it appears, is an olde worlde (non-gelatin) set fruit cream and it's paired with a sponge cake that's moistened with lemon syrup and glazed. If I'd read the recipe by myself I would never have chosen to make it. It has multiple, and at first glance, inexplicable steps and you only end up with six little cakes. It also involves making a old fashioned sponge/genoise mixture without any added raising agent, which always has potential for disaster.
HOWEVER since I have promised faithfully to bake along with the Alpha Bakers I gave it a go. It turned out, of course, to be fairly simple and really quite explicable. And the finished product was so very delicious.
These are the cake ingredients; plain flour doctored with a little cornflour to lower the gluten, caster sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla. I probably would have added some lemon zest but I hadn't been shopping for the posset ingredients at that point, so no lemons.
I was a little nervous about the cake part of the recipe, sponge cake having a bit of a terrifying reputation.
First you heat the butter to separate the milk solids and make beurre noisette. This gives the butter a lovely nutty taste. It's one of those processes where you have the heat low and stare at the saucepan anxiously for ages, glancing away only to look at the recipe again to see if there are any more clues as to success (why is failure so immediately obvious?).
We're looking for dark brown (not burnt) milk solids in amongst the foam. Not sure I can see that...
But it will do. The butter tastes nice so I call it a success.
Then on to the more nerve wracking part. Combining the eggs and sugar and heating them over a bain marie.
At this point in an old fashioned sponge cake, you would keep whisking over heat until the egg mixture ballooned to the 'ribbon stage'. Those cooks must have had super arm muscles. Well thank goodness for modern technology, we just whisk the egg mixture until it's lukewarm and then transfer to the stand mixer to do the rest.
As Alpha Baker, Marie mentioned in her post this week, there really is nothing better that watching eggs whisk into something entirely different. And with sugar it becomes a silky, voluminous pillow.
Once you've quadrupled your egg mixture, you hold your breath and fold in the flour and then the butter. I tried out the fold setting on my mixer but I think it might be just as easy to do that step myself.
I was in such a hurry to get these into the oven without losing the 'airiness' that I didn't get any pre-oven photos. I used a friand cake tin because shortcake tins are unknown to Darwin (as is shortcake) and I decided the expense was too high to order online. And Rose suggested you could cut out the little 'holes' for the lemon posset, so that was all the permission I needed to make do.
I left them in for the full 20 minutes although I think I could have taken them out before then as they were just a touch dry. Luckily all that syrup and posset meant that didn't matter.
I did try a cake by itself and it had a lovely flavour from the butter. I was tempted briefly to ditch the lemon posset idea and just sandwich them with cream and raspberry jam.
I cut reasonably deep pockets for the posset so I was able to fashion myself a cooks treat of lemon posset 'trifle'.
There was a lot of waiting between stages in the recipe but I'm never inclined to wait so I whipped up the lemon syrup (very easy) and brushed it on.
Then not long after I brushed on some heated, sieved apricot jam. It was meant to be apple jelly but neither Darwin nor I had heard of that, so apricot jam it was. I was hoping it didn't overpower the lemon flavour.
I had been wondering why all this brushing of the cake with different mixtures but once I started making the recipe I realised that the cake needed something to keep it moist and also to seal the posset mixture in its little pocket. The only change I would have made would be to add in some lemon liqueur at some stage. I think a bit of alcohol would elevate these little cakes into dinner party territory, which is probably the only time I would go to the trouble of making multiple little desserts like these.
There's no before or during photos for my lemon posset making, only after (below). It was late, I was tired and just wanted to get them finished. It seemed very easy since you just heat the cream and add it to a syrup made from lemon juice and sugar. I'm not sure mine set exactly as it should have but then I didn't really give it a chance. The aforementioned impatience to finish meant I cut short the waiting time on every stage. I only gave it two to three hours to set and it was good enough to spoon onto the cakes at that stage. I didn't mind if it sank in and soaked the cakes. In fact if it turned into one big floating lemon posset cake-island type desert I wouldn't have minded. Although not what Rose had intended, presumably.
I found the instructions about multiple measuring jugs and moving things around a bit confusing. In fact I think Rose is wildly overestimating the number of glass measuring jugs the average home cook owns. From my Baking Bible experiences thus far I think I can safely advise that one should have a measuring jug and sieve on standby at all times. (I may have to add a set to my cyclone kit)
At the back of the photo below you can see my little pot of cake cut outs with lemon posset. Yum.
I had a few more spoonful's of 'leftover' posset out of the bowl before it dawned on me that it was just lemon juice, sugar and cream that I was downing so liberally.
They could have done with some sprinkled decoration to cover the slightly messy filling. Rose suggested making lemon fairy dust (or something like that) but I didn't have the energy. I wasn't taking these anywhere special so it wasn't necessary.
These little cakes were lovely. I used lemons rather than Meyer lemons (Darwin...) and the taste was creamy but piquant and light. I'd like to try making a whole cake with the lemon posset in the middle which would be less fuss and just as delicious.
Next week is hamantaschen, a sweet made for Purim.