Welcome to our occasional series, “How They Made It.” We’re clinging to the final days of summer and its plentiful array of fresh berries by making Cranachan with Mrs. Graham.
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Lazy long days, high humidity, frizzy hair…wait, why is summer so good?
Well, for one thing, I love summer for its large array of available fruit, like peaches, apricots, cherries, and berries. Eating them out of hand is a sure-fire treat, but I love to use fresh fruits in baking and desserts…pies, tarts, cobblers, and shortcakes are all favorites of mine.
Cranachan (pronounced “CRAH-nuh-kun” according to The Case for Cranachan, an article I found on the Whiski Rooms website) is another way to use fresh berries. It’s a confection of whipped cream, mashed berries, and toasted oats, all sweetened with honey and spiked with whisky (as any good Scottish dish should be).
Making Cranachan isn’t hard at all, the wonderful taste belying the simplicity of the dish.
The History of Cranachan
The history of Cranachan is lost to the mists of time (or at least to the mists of the Interwebs as I couldn’t find when it came into being). I do know that this dish is very old, and was originally called “Cream Crowdie” after the crowdie cheese used to make it (crowdie is a soft cheese similar to ricotta or cottage cheese). Cream Crowdie, served at breakfast, was made with layers of crowdie, toasted oats, cream, and honey…raspberries were added when they were in season.
When whisky was added to the recipe I don’t know, although hopefully not for breakfast for the kiddies! Layered like a trifle, Cranachan is usually served for special occasions like Hogmanay or Burns Night Dinners. I can imagine this lovely dish being served at any of the time periods of Outlander, but the image in my head of wee Roger sitting with the Reverend & Mrs. Graham with whipped cream all over his face captured my fancy so I decided set this recipe in the 1940s.
Why make Cranachan?
Why did I settle on making Cranachan in the first place?
Well, besides the fresh raspberries I saw at the Farmers’ Market, I had toasted oats in my freezer in the form of bannock crumbs. When I ran across this Cranachan recipe from Christina’s Cucina, I thought, “Aha! Glad I saved those bannock crumbs!”
(My next thought was, “now when are you going to use those frozen chicken bones and leek tops taking up freezer space?”)
If at first you don’t succeed…
I ended up making Cranachan twice, and there were two reasons why. First, I had a bit of a mishap on Step 6. My older daughter was helping me whip the cream (she likes to do this by hand). When it was time to add the granulated sugar specified in the recipe and the scotch at the soft peak stage, she forgot to include the honey. As she continued to whip, the added liquid from the scotch caused the whipped cream to break a bit (my theory is that the honey counteracts this from happening).
It still tasted good, though it had a softer body than proper whipped cream. We then folded in the scotch-soaked bannock crumbs to the whipped cream, then layered the dessert as indicated.
Here’s where the second reason came in. I had used too heavy a hand adding the scotch (remember, it’s in the bannock crumbs, the raspberries and the whipped cream), plus I had used cask strength whisky. For those that don’t know, that’s scotch that hasn’t been diluted to bring down the alcohol content. This ended up as a dram in a dessert – too strong even for me!
…make it again
On the second try, I whipped cream in the blender for 30 seconds, then added powdered sugar and honey and whipped again to stiff peak, and this method worked much better.
I also toned down the scotch by adding a bit of water, then tasted each component as I went to make sure I didn’t overdo it again.
I did get distracted talking to my younger daughter on the phone and forgot to mix in the soaked bannock crumbs into the whipped cream, but no matter, I just ended up layering the Cranachan like a trifle.
This version was delightful! Creamy, sweet (but not overly so), lightly textured and spiked just right. Jackpot!
I encourage you to try this dessert, hopefully avoiding the pitfalls I encountered. Don’t wait for a special occasion… celebrate the final days of summer! That’s all the occasion I need. How about you?
Have you heard of or tasted Cranachan before? What was the occasion? Do you have a special way to prepare and serve it?
- cast-iron skillet
- hand mixer
- whisky glasses
- ½ cup steel cut oats, divided (or bannock crumbs, if you've got them) (85g)
- ½ cup whisky, divided, see Recipe Notes (113g)
- 2 cups raspberries, preferably from Scotland (240g)
- 3 Tbsp honey, from heather, if possible (63g)
- 2 tsp granulated sugar
- 2 cups heavy cream, (476g)
- Prepare the oats: Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the oats and toast until very lightly browned, stirring frequently to keep from burning. Put the half of the oats in a bowl and add ? cup (70g) of the whisky. Cover the bowl and let the oats stand on the counter for several hours to soften. Set the rest aside.
- Prepare the raspberries and whipped cream: Select a few raspberries (about 3 per serving) for garnish and set aside. Place the remaining raspberries in a bowl and sprinkle with sugar and 1 tablespoon each of the honey and whisky (or to taste). Lightly mash the mixture and let macerate until it’s softened, but not mushy. Set aside.
- In a medium chilled bowl, whip the cream until it just starts to thicken, then add the remaining honey and whisky (or to taste). Whip the cream with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form (don't overwhip or you'll get whisky-flavored butter). Fold in the whisky-soaked oats.
- Assemble the Cranachan: This dessert comes together in layers like a trifle, so try to make it as close to when you're ready to serve as possible.
- Spoon some of the macerated raspberries in a whisky glass to cover the bottom, then add a layer of the cream mixture. Next sprinkle with some of the toasted oats.
- Whip the cream until it starts to thicken, then add the other 2 tablespoons of honey, and 2 tablespoons of whisky. Continue to whip until stiff peaks form, then fold in the whisky-soaked oats. (Look to my comments in the post…)
- Repeat the layers, finishing with the toasted oats. Garnish with the reserved raspberries.
- Refrigerate until ready to eat, taking them out about 20 minutes before serving. Enjoy & slainté!
Discovering Outlander after Season 1 first aired, Tammy quickly went down the rabbit-hole on social media and podcasts and found a world of like-minded fans who not only tolerated her obsession, but encouraged the madness! She combined her Outlander-inspired interest for scotch whisky with her continuing passion for baking and storytelling in her blog, Scotch & Scones…Explorations in a glass and in the oven. Joining the staff of Outlander Cast as the resident baker has brought Tammy full circle, from a podcast fan to a contributing writer. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest at @scotch_scones, and find her on Facebook at @scotchandsconesblog.