It’s that time of year again, when we venture out into the bitter cold and brave the vast retail wilderness in quest of holiday treasures. Exactly one hundred years ago, also at this time of year, Anglo-Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton was out freezing his bum off on a quest for the South Pole. To warm the crew’s spirits, they brought along a few cases of McKinlay and Co. “Rare Old” whisky — at £1.40 a case, hardly the good stuff, so they probably weren’t overly put out when bad weather forced them to dump it not a hundred miles short of their goal. It’s been sitting there ever since, frozen solid. Next month an expedition team plans to retrieve a sample in an attempt to replicate the original liquor. Hey, I’m down for a whisky popsicle. But I think I’ll skip the trip down south and instead whip up an Iced Cranachan, a frosty spin on a traditional Scottish dessert.
Benromach was kind enough to supply the whisky (of a caliber I’d never leave behind, even if attacked by a gang of emperor penguins in a blizzard), as well as the recipe. This fancy parfait treat is just the thing to warm everyone’s holiday spirits (we won’t tell Santa about those extra nips you’re taking from the bottle — but you might want to leave him some, lest you risk having to stock up on carbon offsets for all that coal you’re about to get.) Typically it’s served with a raspberry coulis, but this time of year I’m dreaming of a hot chocolate, so I also improvised a sweet whisky-cocoa sauce that’d raise the ghost of a certain Christmas past. Mr. Shackleton, I presume?
Benromach Traditional Iced Cranachan Courtesy of Charles Lockley, Head Chef at Boath House Hotel, Nairn, Highland
Vanilla Parfait 6 egg whites 1 cup superfine sugar 1 ½ cup heavy cream 2 vanilla pods, de-seeded 1 tsp vanilla extract
Tuiles 1 ¼ tbs melted butter ¼ cup superfine sugar 2 ½ tbs pinhead or very fine oatmeal (finely ground oats work well) 1 ¼ tbs flour 1 ¾ tbs Benromach Traditional whisky ½ zest one orange
Coulis 1 cup fresh/frozen raspberries ¼ cup powdered sugar ¼ cup water 3 ¼ tbs Benromach Traditional whisky Juice of one lemon
Whisky Syrup 1/3 cup superfine sugar 3 ¼ tbs water 3 ¼ tbs Benromach Traditional whisky
To finish Raspberries, mint leaves, and runny honey 8 thin ready-made sponge rounds
To make the Vanilla Parfait Wipe around the inside of the mixing bowl with half a lemon and then discard it. This will ensure your bowl is free from grease. Put the egg whites and sugar into the bowl and place over warm water, whisking until the sugar dissolves into the egg whites. Now remove the bowl from above the water and whisk until firm peaks are made and the mixture is cool. The peaks should be smooth and shiny. Now whip the cream into soft peaks and add the vanilla seeds and essence. With a metal spoon gently fold in the meringue. Do not overwork. Place the mixture into molds or ramekins and freeze. Remove 10 minutes before serving so the parfait will turn out easily onto a plate.
To make the Tuiles Cream the melted butter and sugar together, stir in the sifted flour, orange zest, and oatmeal, then add the Benromach Traditional whisky. Lightly oil some parchment paper and place on a baking tray. Take spoonfuls of the mix and flatten into round discs onto the tray, making sure they are well spaced. Cook for 10-12 minutes at 350˚. Remove and leave to cool.
To make the Raspberry Coulis Place the raspberries, Benromach Traditional whisky, water, and icing sugar into a blender and blend until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve and stir in lemon juice to taste.
To make the Whisky Syrup Place the Benromach Traditional whisky, sugar, and water into a pan and gently bring to a boil. Lower the temperature and let the syrup simmer for five minutes until thickened slightly, then remove from the heat and leave to cool.
To Assemble First soak the sponge rounds in the whisky syrup. Then drizzle the raspberries with clear runny honey. Place a sponge on a plate and turn out the vanilla parfait onto it. Tumble the raspberries over the parfait and top with a tuile. Decorate with the mint leaves. Finish the dish by drizzling some of the raspberry coulis and more whisky syrup around plate. Serves 8.
Alternate Topping: Elizabeth’s Whisky-Cocoa Sauce 1 ½ tbs fine Dutch cocoa 2 tbs butter 1 tsp superfine sugar 2 tsp whisky Over low heat, melt butter in pan. Sift cocoa into butter, stirring gently. Add sugar and whisky and continue to mix until sauce is smooth and well blended. Note: from the original recipe, I converted dry and liquid ingredients from grams and milliliters as best as possible; a few ingredients were also Americanized for stateside shopping ease. Still don’t know what a “sponge round” is. A Nilla wafer, maybe?