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A 5-Ingredient Pudding With All the Charm of Key Lime Pie

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A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big, BIG everything else: flavor, ideas, holy-cow factor. Psst: We don't count salt or cooking fat (say, olive oil to sauté onions), since we're guessing you have those covered. Today, we're introducing Key lime pie to a old-timey pudding called posset. Spoiler: They totally hit it off.

Possets were “all the rage in the Middle Ages.” As John Ayto notes in The Diner’s Dictionary: Word Origins of Food and Drink, these British booze-set puddings reigned from then into the 19th century. But now, they’re “no longer heard of.”

Debatable, John. Debatable.

In 2010, Food52er mrslarkin wrote a recipe for Lemon Posset that over 2,000 people have favorited. And in their review, the editors swooned: “This recipe is a wonder of science. It’s the perfect thing for anyone who may be fearful of making custard.”

Basically, you boil cream with sugar, then add just-squeezed citrus juice, pour the mixture into dishes or ramekins, and chill in the fridge. There, it turns into the silkiest, thickest custard, like the easiest pudding or creamiest lemon curd or dreamiest throw-together dessert. And all without eggs.

It doesn’t have to be lemon either. You could do Meyer lemon or grapefruit or orange or tangerine or, my favorite, lime. If there’s anything sunnier, breezier, and more vacation-y—you know, even when you aren’t on vacation—than custardy Key lime pie, I need not know it.

Photo by Rocky Luten

But we should talk about that. Key lime. This petite variety is often praised for its standout flavor, but there are a few reasons why I’ll never call for it in my recipes:

  • It’s hard to tell the difference. In Kitchen Hacks by Cooks Illustrated, they did a side-by-side comparison, where tasters noted that they’re largely indistinguishable. If anything, the standard (a.k.a. Persian) limes are slightly tarter. Which I love.
  • They’re difficult to source. Bottled juice is more accessible but incomparable when it comes to taste. Fresh-squeezed always wins.
  • If you can source Key limes, you’ll need a lot. As Cooks Illustrated noted, to get 1/2 cup juice, they squeezed 3 standard limes and 20 Key limes.

Which is to say, if you’re eating a Key lime pie, be it at a restaurant or a bakery, it’s probably just a lime pie. But if you can’t tell the difference, what’s the difference?

All the streusel for me, please.
All the streusel for me, please. Photo by Rocky Luten

This version uses standard. And, okay, it’s not a pie either. But everything else is the same. While pies rely on condensed milk and eggs for thickness and body, here it’s posset all the way. Go, posset, go!

I barely adapted mrslarkin’s recipe, swapping the citrus, and adding in zest for extra zing. And then, because streusel is the butter to my bread, the breath to my life, we’re turning the graham cracker crust into a crumble. You know when your graham cracker crust falls apart? Now that’s a good thing! I like it layered on the bottom and top because, well, why wouldn’t you? It’s not the way they would have done it back in the day. But I think you’ll love it all the same.

Lime Posset With Graham Cracker Streusel

Lime Posset With Graham Cracker Streusel

Emma Laperruque Emma Laperruque
Serves 4

Graham cracker streusel

  • 7 graham crackers (108 grams)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, cold

Lime posset

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest, plus more for garnish
  • 5 tablespoons just-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
Go to Recipe

Have you ever tried or made posset before? Tell us about it in the comments!

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!