Besides the Scotch, this dessert has a couple of very good things going for it. Number one, it's easy. Just whip some cream, toast some oats, and chop some berries. Heck, this is traditionally made with raspberries so usually you don't even need to cut up the fruit; just toss them in. But raspberries aren't available yet at my market, so I had strawberries and blackberries instead, which I cut into bite-sized pieces.
Number two, your guests do half the work. To avoid softening the crispy oats, it's best to assemble this table-side. Bring bowls of cream, fruit, and oats to the table, along with your best spoons and pretty glasses, and invite your guests put their own trifles together. It really doesn't get much easier than that.
One more note: traditionally this is made with steel-cut oats, the crunchy chopped groats that make such fabulous oatmeal. These might seem too hard or hearty to eat uncooked, but once toasted they get nutty and brittle, and really delicious. If you're still unconvinced, you can make this with rolled oats instead, but just know that they'll soften more quickly in the cream.
Toasted Oat & Walnut Whisky Trifle (Cranachan)
For the oats
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup steel-cut oats
For the cream
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
2 to 4 tablespoons honey, very warm
4 to 6 tablespoons blended Scotch whisky, such as The Famous Grouse
6 to 8 ounces raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, or some combination thereof
Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Finely chop or grind the walnuts to about the same size and texture as the oats. Melt the butter in the hot pan and immediately add the walnuts and oats. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until they are well-toasted and a shade darker brown. Do not let them burn; turn the heat down or take off the heat sooner if necessary. Set the toasted oats and walnuts aside to cool and toss with the salt.
Whip the cream until it holds firm peaks, then drizzle in the honey and Scotch and whip to blend. Taste and add more honey and Scotch, if desired. Chill the cream until serving.
To serve, layer in individual glasses, starting with the fruit, then the cream, then the oats, and repeating. Eat immediately.
(Images: Faith Durand)