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

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. Psst—we don’t count salt, black pepper, and certain cooking fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we’re guessing you have those covered. Today, we’re introducing Key lime pie to an old-timey pudding called posset. Spoiler alert: 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:

  • When it comes to flavor, 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 three standard limes and 20 Key limes.

All of which 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 limes. 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.

This fruit crisp’s ingredient list looks like any other. But one simple trick makes all the difference: Before mixing them into the streusel, toast the oats. Just like toasting nuts, this amplifies the oats’ flavor, and makes the whole crisp sing. Feel free to swap in another stone fruit, like peaches or apricots.
Like peanut butter cups, but not. These chocolatey tahini cups need only two ingredients: chocolate and tahini. (While the recipe calls for milk, you can swap in dark if that’s your thing.) I love them straight from the freezer on extra-hot days.
Salt gets a lot of credit for balancing caramel sauce’s cloying sweetness—but, turns out, a little instant espresso powder is just as much of a game-changer. It adds a touch of bitterness and makes the best ice cream sundae around. (I’ve also been known to eat it straight with a spoon.)
To make chocolate–peanut butter mousse, just combine chocolate and peanut butter? Yes, it’s a thing. Here, water turns these two pantry staples into something fluffy as can be (and dairy-free, to boot).
Classic lemon bars have a butter-based shortbread crust, but this recipe ditches the butter for another fat that’s probably already in your kitchen: extra-virgin olive oil. A hefty pinch of salt dials up the olive oil’s flavor and makes for a thoroughly modern lemon bar.

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This article was originally published in May 2018. We brought it back for posset season summer because Key lime pudding is still as easy and refreshing as can be. Have you ever tried or made posset before? Tell us about it in the comments!

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