Sure, you’ll find a deep-fried Mars Bar at most fish and chip shops, but these desserts go back to Scotland’s roots and traditional flavors.
Scotland is known for many things but least of all is its sweets. It was the dramatic setting for the hit Starz show Outlander, is the location of the mysterious and intriguing Isle of Skye, and is also said to be somewhat haunted… but in between visiting all of these things, many people forget about the foods that make Scotland’s culinary scene all that it is. And, interestingly enough, most, if not all, of its desserts are rooted in the country’s history.
While bakers and pastry chefs have, of course, have taken their own liberties with the traditional dessert dishes of Scotland, nearly everything you’ll find on a dessert menu is extremely traditional. Even the names of the desserts echo Scotland and its culture in every way, helping to keep many of these sweets very much alive. When you’re in Scotland, be sure to find a clootie or order a cranachan, and you can thank us later.
A clootie is actually a steamed dumpling which is not all that surprising coming from Europe. This is a bit like Scotland’s version of England’s pudding, and, in a similar manner, is baked for holidays and special occasions. In contrast, though, a clootie usually has a generous spice blend, sultanas, currants, sugar, suet, breadcrumbs, and dried fruit. Occasionally, golden syrup is added to the mix for a little extra sweetness. This steamed dessert is compatible with that of a fruitcake but is far more delicious (with a better texture) than that.
Dundee cake is easily recognizable due to the pattern that’s created on top of it with almonds. Inside, this cake has candied peel, currants, and sultanas, and was originally created, supposedly, to use up leftover citrus peels. It’s said that the marmalade company known as Keillers was responsible for the first Dundee cake, although the recipe has been widely compared to the fruit cakes seen throughout the U.K., with the exception of the almonds on top marking the definitive difference.
Stepping away from cakes for a bit, cranachan is a nice reprieve from all of the dried-fruit-based desserts that can be found throughout the U.K. This dessert was first created as a festival version of oatmeal, also known as gruel centuries ago, and is now known as a popular 20th century cheese-based dessert. The cheese used is a Scottish cream cheese which is soft, rich, and creamy, with a slight tang on the end, to which fresh fruits are added. Today, the dessert is made with the same Scottish cream cheese, topped with lightly toasted oats, and, occasionally, a healthy amount of whisky is added for flavor.
Deep-Fried Mars Bar
It’s true, the deep-fried Mars Bar is, in fact, very much part of Scotland’s traditional desserts. The fried Mars Bar was first created in 1992 and has been a consistent hit since then, with the first restaurant to ever fry up this candy bar being the Carron Fish Bar. And no, rumor has it that the oil wasn’t changed prior to frying – the Mars Bar was fried in the same oil that the fish was fried in! Since then, it has been a specialty in many fish and chip shops throughout Scotland.
These cookies, or biscuits, as they would be called in the U.K., are an iconic staple with tea. They’re simply made and could be compared to the oatmeal raisin cookies of the U.S., but without the raisins – which leaves a slightly sweet cookie that has oats added for texture and flavor. They’re usually topped with a glacé cherry and are eaten as a sweet snack and not necessarily always with tea.
Tablets date back to the 18th century which likely makes them one of the oldest sweets to come out of Scotland. These are commonly made during the holidays and are flavored with whiskey nowadays, although they can be found outside of the holiday season, as well. They’re also made quite simply with a mix of condensed milk, butter, and sugar, similar to how fudge is made but without the actual chocolate. These little squares are sweet, decadent, and perfect for anyone who has a serious sweet tooth.
There’s shortbread and then there’s Scottish shortbread, and the two are very different. Scottish shortbread is made with only three ingredients: butter, flour, and sugar, with the former holding the emphasis in most recipes. The result is a biscuit that has a perfectly lovely flavor with an incredibly buttery texture, making it perfect for dipping in tea or eating on its own.
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