Yes, I have yet another fruit and cream dessert that I’m crazy for, and I’ve fallen rather hard. It’s one of those “please take it away so I don’t eat the entire thing myself” types of desserts. In reading British cookbooks over the years, I often came across a rustic sounding sweet called cranachan. Cranachan is a classic Scottish dessert and a quick look at the ingredients assured me I would love it. In the spirit of Eton Mess, Pavlova and strawberry shortcake, this is a cream-and-fruit inspired treat. Rather than including meringue or biscuits, though, this one features toasted oats. And whisky.
A traditional cranachan is made with raspberries, but as we won’t have fresh raspberries for a while I decided to break with tradition and use rhubarb. I’m itching to cook with rhubarb since the slender crimson stalks are appearing everywhere now. Growing up, we had a small patch and I remember my mom heading out many mornings with a kitchen knife to cut some for her pies. I’ve always had a fondness for rhubarb with its tart, bright flavor, and I thought it would make a lovely understudy for raspberries in my cranachan.
I simmered some diced rhubarb with honey, until it softened and turned into a rosy hued sauce. The oats were scattered on a griddle and heated until they browned a bit and smelled warm and fragrant. I whipped the cream and added a splash of Scotch whisky (I can’t mess with tradition here – it must be Scotch!) and the preparation was done.
This is a homey dessert, so I put the bowls of the ingredients out on the table and let everyone make their own. A layer of rhubarb, a scoop of oats, a dollop of cream and we could each stir up our cranachans. The cream balances out the tart rhubarb beautifully, with just a whiff of whisky, and the oats add toasty crunch and flavor. Simple comfort.
1 pound rhubarb stalks, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup honey
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons Scotch whisky, depending upon your taste (I used Glenlivet)
Place the rhubarb and honey in a medium sized sauce pan over medium-high heat. Bring it to a simmer and mix. The rhubarb will start to soften and break down, releasing juices. Lower the heat and let cook for about 15 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft and rather like a sauce. Set aside to cool.
Spread the oats out on a griddle or large fry pan. Over medium heat, stir and gently toast them until they begin to turn a bit brown and are fragrant. Watch closely as they can burn easily. Set aside to cool.
Using an electric mixer, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Add the Scotch whisky and gently stir. You can make it ahead and keep in the fridge.
When ready to serve, place the rhubarb, oats and cream in individual serving bowls with spoons and bring them to the table, along with small dessert dishes and spoons. Scoop from each bowl, mix and enjoy!