I love the autumn. Crunchy leaves. That wonderful chill in the air. Scarves, sweaters, Halloween (my FAVORITE holiday). And the food. Oh, lordy, the food. In my opinion, it just doesn’t get better than the flavors of fall and those sweet-spiced treats you just can’t get enough of.
Like these caramel apple scones, for example.
You heard me right: caramel. apple. scones. The ooey-gooey-ness of caramel meets the sweet-tart of apple, and it’s all wrapped up in a fluffy scone. Can it get any better? YES! Because this recipe is ENTIRELY FREE OF REFINED SUGARS.
Wait, wait. A caramel sauce that’s free of refined sugars? But, how?! Surely, there must be some trick! You are right to be wary, but let me assure you that this is the real deal. Let me introduce you to my secret weapon: dates.
If you’ve never had a date before, you need to go to the store and buy a bag. Right now. In fact, you need to buy two because you will immediately want to make this caramel sauce. Dates are a sweet, succulent dried fruit that are essentially nature’s caramel. They are ooey. They are gooey. And they are the main ingredient in this homemade, no-cook caramel sauce.
Now, let’s talk about these scones. I usually dive head-first into pumpkin baking, but this year I wanted to explore the other flavors of fall as well (never fear, I’ll be posting a plethora a of pumpkin recipes before too long. Did I mention pumpkin is my favorite flavor EVER?). I adore caramel apples and look forward to them every year. However, the “caramel” you buy at the store–whether individually wrapped in plastic or in those white tubs–has a lot of questionable ingredients and is laced with scary chemicals. On the other hand, making a homemade caramel sauce is a PAIN (at least in my mind). I don’t have a candy thermometer, so I thought my caramel days were over.
Then, I met dates and my life changed forever.
*Cue romantic music*
I discovered that if you soak dates and throw them in a food processor (or blender) with some vanilla, milk, and salt it becomes INSTANT CARAMEL SAUCE. It really does taste like traditional caramel, and yes it is FANTASTIC to dip apples in. I’ve been snacking on caramel apples all week, and feel good about it because I’m essentially getting two servings of fruit instead of tons of artificial ingredients and empty calories.
My recipe tester (aka, Shane) is a notorious scone-hater, but he has been raving about my caramel apple scones. They taste like heavenly dessert, but are healthy enough to eat for breakfast. Now that’s what I call a win-win.
Julia’s Caramel Apple Scones
2 small-medium apples, coarsely grated
2 cups white whole wheat flour + enough to dust work surface and hands
½ cup Sucanat
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground ginger
pinch salt, optional and to taste
½ cup coconut oil, cold
1 large egg
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup Medjool dates (they’re the most caramelly), soaked (note: make sure your dates are pitted! You can buy most with the pits already removed)
¼ tsp sea salt, or more to taste
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ cup milk, plus more to add for texture
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp coconut oil
For the Scones:
- Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
- Grate the apples using the coarsest blade of a box grater and set aside.
- In a large bowl, add 2 cups flour, Sucanat, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, optional salt, and whisk to combine.
- Add the coconut oil, and with a pastry cutter or two forks, cut the butter in. I smoosh the butter with forks and when it’s the size of large marbles, I use my hands and knead it in. It will feel like semi-wet, cool sand. Some larger pea-sized butter clumps are okay.
- Add the egg, yogurt, vanilla, to the apples and whisk together
- Pour wet mixture over dry, and fold until just combined. That’s enough. Good job. The dough will be wet and soggy. You want that.
- Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons flour over a clean work surface and lightly coat hands.
- Turn dough out onto surface and shape it into a 8-inch round, approximately. Dough is very moist, wet, sticky, and tacky, but if it’s being too stubborn or too wet to come together, sprinkle with flour 1 tablespoon at a time until you get it to come together and into a round.
- With a large knife (coating the knife in flour helps), slice the round into 8 equal-sized wedges.
- Using a flat spatula or pie turner, carefully transfer wedges (aka, curse and yell as the scones stick to the work surface) to prepared baking sheet spaced at least 2-inches apart. Do not crowd because scones puff and spread while baking. Bake for about 20 to 24 minutes, or until scones are very lightly golden and cooked through. Because they’re baking in quite a hot oven, watch them closely starting after about 15 minutes to ensure the bottoms aren’t getting too browned.
- While the scones cool, make the sauce!
For the Sauce:
Drain water from the soaking dates. Dump all the ingredients into a blender or food processor. Blend. Add more milk. Blend some more. Add more milk. Blend again. Blend until you get the creamy, delicious texture you want for your caramel sauce. Lick the spatula. Heck, lick the blender. I won’t judge. Okay, you’re done.
Slather the warm apple scones with the date caramel sauce and enter to autumnal baking heaven!
A mug of pumpkin coffee and a winding trail through fall foliage