So, we have this baker friend. Actually, she does bake, but that moniker does her no justice at all. She is really an artist who works in, well… cake (among many other delicious sweets). Recently, Danielle’s and my experience doing Whole30 came up in one of our conversations and this baker friend seemed rather intrigued. It turns out that conversation had motivated her to try the challenge herself.
Can you imagine? You make sweets for a living and you are doing the Whole30?! I thought I had it rough during those 30 days and I wasn’t BAKING CAKES FOR A LIVING! Now that is a food challenge.
In an effort to encourage her in the most difficult early days of her challenge (and maybe a twinge of guilt?), we decided to make her something sweet as a way of saying, “See, it’s not that bad. There is life without added refined sugar… you just have to get a little creative. You can do this!”
Now, in fairness to the Whole30 food challenge, desserts are not encouraged (even if technically on plan) and finding sweetener “workarounds” is not in the spirit of the challenge. But this qualified as a special circumstance, no? Seriously, she is a baker! Is there no mercy at all?
Enough qualifying. Let’s talk Whole30 dessert. Sweet and delicious dessert as a matter of fact. Is there anything better than guilt-free dessert that doesn’t taste like guilt-free dessert? Well, yes. Downright guilty dessert is better! Anyway. Moving on…
So if you are going to make a Whole30 compliant apple crisp that is even remotely like the real deal, you can’t just toss some apples and cinnamon together, bake it, and call it dessert. It’s not dessert. It is apple and cinnamon with a shamefully misleading name. To do this right, you need to look at what makes an apple crisp so delicious: the sweet and crunchy crust and the soft, gooey apple filling… in my opinion.
To replicate a sweet a crunchy topping laden with sugar, butter, grains – you know, all the fun stuff – you have your work cut out for you. For this recipe, we made a crust of pecans and raisins that were run through a blender until chopped to small bits and then topped that with no-sugar-added coconut flakes. Is it like the original? No. But when you taste it you couldn’t care less; it’s awesome.
Now, for the apple filling. This is where you need to call your friend, who knows a guy, who knows a guy who can get things done… if you know what I mean. But first a little background on how I came up with this semi-sanctioned workaround:
I am the kind of person that viscerally needs to have something, anything, sweet after a savory meal. During my Whole30 food challenge, these were the saving grace that calmed my shakes when I needed something sweet: medjool dates. I kept them in the freezer which gave them the consistency (and much of the taste) of a caramel chew candy. They were all I needed and they were technically plan-approved (if you don’t believe me, and you shouldn’t after tasting them, check this out).
So, back to the workaround…
I decided that medjool date puree was the key ingredient to giving this guilt-free dessert the slightly-less-guilty guilt that it needed. Did you follow that? Soon we will write a more in-depth post about using medjool dates as a sweetener and link to in on this page, but to give you a brief overview, here is the process:
- Remove the pits from 8-10 dates and dice the flesh.
- Add diced dates to a saucepan and fill with water, enough to cover the dates plus ½ an inch.
- Simmer until ½ of the water has evaporated. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
- Using a stand-alone blender or immersion blender, puree the dates as smoothly as possible
For the rest of the recipe, let’s start off from there:
LET’S GET STARTED
Take 4-5 large apples, peel and slice them (for an easy technique to slice them see here).
After I sliced the apples, I wanted to check to make sure I had the right amount for the 8”x8” Pyrex baking dish I was going to use before proceeding. Looks spot on!
To make the “crisp” topping, add pecans and raisins to a blender or food processor and blend until…
…the mixture looks like this… then set aside.
Here is the star player, the date puree. You can see, I have added cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and kosher salt to the puree.
Toss the peeled and sliced apples in the date puree and spice mixture until well coated.
Transfer the coated apples to your baking dish and top with the pecan/raisin mixture.
Bake, covered, at 400F for 25-30 minutes or until the filling is starting to bubble and release its liquid. Then uncover, add the coconut flakes, and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. This is what it should look like…
Before it completely cools, jump in and taste it. You’ll immediately realize, as you mindlessly take bite after bite, that not only are you not missing the real thing, but this might just be your breakfast tomorrow. Because after all, it’s healthy, right?
- 4-5 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
- ¾ cup pecans
- ¾ cup raisins
- ⅔ cup medjool date puree (find recipe here)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Combine pecans and raisins in blender or food processor and chop until granular. Set aside.
- Combine date puree with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt.
- Combine apples and date/spice puree and mix to coat thoroughly.
- Arrange the apple mixture in an 8”x8” baking dish and top with the pecan/raisin mixture and cover with tinfoil.
- Bake covered for 25-30 minutes, or until the apples have started to render their liquid.
- Uncover and evenly distribute coconut flakes.
- Return to oven uncovered for an additional 10-15 minutes. You want the apple mixture to be thoroughly bubbling and the coconut browned but not burned. Be vigilant, this can happen easily.
- Allow to cool slightly before serving. Enjoy as a dessert but don’t forget breakfast!