Cranachan - Gastro Obscura



A now-archaic Scottish breakfast paved the way for this popular dessert.

In centuries past, Scots ate “cream crowdie” for breakfast. The meal consisted of oats and heather honey—a fragrant, woody product harvested from the moorlands—mixed into a soft cheese called crowdie. Over time, fresh raspberries (when in season) and whisky (always in season) were tossed into the mix, creating a festive trifle more akin to an after-dinner treat. Today, Scots across the country call it cranachan (pronounced CRAH-nuh-kun), and regard the mixture as traditional dessert fare.

Cranachan bears only a slight resemblance to the simple meal that inspired it. Nowadays, crowdie cheese—once a staple of every single-cow household in the country—is hard to come by. Due to lack of access to raw milk and regulations against its commercial sale, chefs often replace the rare cheese with freshly-whipped cream. Heather honey, an expensive, difficult-to-acquire delicacy, is similarly elusive. “Cranachan” still shows up on restaurant menus, but you’re likely to receive a trifle of heavy whipped cream layered with whisky- and honey-soaked toasted oats and raspberries if you order one.

Cranachan has also become a staple at the Burns Supper, a contemporary, feast-centric holiday celebrating the Scottish poet Robert Burns on January 25. Modern Scots’ decision to feature this dessert on their holiday menus is likely a result of cranachan’s association with a sense of national identity more so than seasonal significance, as the dead of winter is verifiably not raspberry season.

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