Cranachan is a very traditional Scottish dessert made with a couple of quintessentially Scottish ingredients – oats and whisky. My first introduction to Cranachan was during a burns Night celebration when I was still working and living in London.
I had a Scottish friend named Matthew who used to always make this when he entertained, a handful of times a year, and most certainly, on Burns Night. It was his favourite dessert and reminded him of Burns Night celebrations as a child, I used to always enjoy listening to his stories of old. I guess I learnt (by eating) how to make this from him, goodness knows, he made it often enough!
Despite its popularity on Burns night, I think this dessert is meant for the summer, after all, raspberries grow like weeds at summertime! Have you tried planting raspberries? They take over everything, sending shoots everywhere!
What does Cranachan taste like? The flavour of the whisky is most certainly in the background, it never dictates the play but is quite happy to be cast in a supporting role.
The raspberries are definitely the main attraction here, even before you get anywhere near the dessert, their deep red hue draws you in and promises endless bliss. Their sugar-coated tartness hits you with the very first taste and wakes up all your senses but this is quickly tempered by the more laid back nature of the cream, giving you a delightful, multi sensory experience with every mouthful.
The oats? Well, the oats provide sweet, contradictory texture that is a welcome side show.
How to Make Perfect Cranachan
There are 4 defining ingredients in this recipe, the aforementioned oats and whisky, as well as cream and raspberries.
I know, I know, the idea of oats doesn’t sound too exciting does it, especially if you were subjected to many an oatmeal breakfast while growing up! Personally, I rather like oat porridge! But stay with me and let’s see if we can tantalise your tastebuds as we look at the recipe.
Why oats, you might ask. Oats have a long culinary history in Scotland, being better suited to the cold, damp and dark climate than wheat. But more on oats and its history in another post.
In the recipe, the pinhead oats are lightly toasted with or without sugar before being used. This adds a lovely, nutty-with-a-touch-of-sweet flavour and a crunchy texture to our dessert. A wonderful contrast. I take this a step further by just using granola, you know those packets of ready toasted crunchy oats that’s great sprinkled on yoghurt? I use the most basic stuff, and just pick the oats, no raisins, no almonds, no tropical fruit; I happily use all those, for a dessert that is not called Cranachan!
The traditional recipe calls for the oats to be mixed into the cream. I must tell you, I really, really do not like cream with bits in it! In this instance, the oats end up being neither crunchy nor soft, but a rather sad, insipid component! So what do I do? I sprinkle it in layers and garnish the dessert with it too.
It’s a Scottish dessert, it’s gotta be Scottish whisky, although technically, any good one will do. And therein lies the key. Get a good whisky. For 4 people, you only need 4 tablespoons, so if you are not a whisky drinker, get a small bottle. Having said that, there are so many cocktails you can make with whisky; mix it with lemonade, with orange juice or, if you mix some whisky, ginger beer and maple syrup, you get a Canadian drink called Beacon Hill Buck.
Raspberries are synonymous with Cranachan, which, as mentioned, makes this the perfect summer dessert. This day and age though, we can find so many fruit and vegetables around the year, if you do this out of season, and of course, there is always the frozen option. You can always also use strawberries but the result will not be Cranachan.
You want to use cream that can be whipped up, as we want a little shape in the cream, as we fill the glasses up. So you are looking for cream with a minimum 30% fat content, 40% is better. Here in the UK, we use double cream for that, in the US, I believe that it’s called Whipping Cream or Heavy Cream. Mascarpone also goes rather well in this too, given its similar to cream flavour.
Shall we get to it?
- 4 heaped tbsp granola
- 300g/10.5 oz fresh raspberries
- 250ml/1 cup double cream (or cream that can be whipped)
- 3 tbsp honey
- more honey to drizzle over
- white sugar to taste
- 4 tbsp whisky
- Put aside 24 raspberries and crush the rest, either with just a potato masher or in a blender/chopper.
- Using a medium mesh strainer, strain the raspberry puree, to get rid of the seeds. Make sure your strainer is of medium mesh, using a small mesh will take forever! You want the holes just small enough to catch the seeds.
- Sweeten the puree with the white sugar, to taste. I usually use about 2-3 tsp of sugar, does depend on how sour the raspberries are. Set aside.
- Whisk/Beat the cream until the soft peak stage.
- Add the 3 tbsp of honey and whisky and whisk to mix. Don't overbeat the cream, no need to get to the stiff peak stage, just until the honey and whisky and fully incorporated.
- We're going to layer the dessert, starting with the cream, 3 raspberries per layer, with a total of 2 layers.
- Cream, raspberries, puree, granola.
- Cream, raspberries, puree, granola.
- Finish with a small drizzle of honey.
- Serve immediately, can be made about 30 minutes ahead.