Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls: Fluffy, sweet, and cinnamony, these rolls taste like fall with a caramel apple filling and maple glaze. Breakfast has never tasted so sweet.
Do you remember the first time you were introduced to the amazing cinnamon roll? The first time you tasted that fluffy, soft dough full of cinnamon and brown sugar with the amazing icing all over the top?
You do? Well, I don’t.
Okay. You’re probably thinking that was pretty anticlimactic and maybe pointless. But here’s the thing, I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember my first cinnamon roll experience, because with my love for them, you would think it would be a moment that would have stuck–like the way the cinnamon roll goo sticks to your fingers–and I’ve got nothing.
I just don’t remember. All I know is that I love cinnamon rolls. And I can’t remember a time that I didn’t.
I can remember the time my best friend had cinnamon rolls for her 8th birthday party. And I remember the time (okay, let’s be honest–times) I got cinnamon rolls from Cinnabon. And the times when the caf at college made the weekend brunch extra special with cinnamon rolls.
But the introduction? Gone. Lost. Nada.
And since I can’t remember the first time I had a cinnamon roll, I can only assume my love for them was inbread in me, just like my sweet tooth. How else can you describe my love for all things sugar and spice and chocolatey nice?
And, even though cinnamon rolls are great any time of the year (month, week, day, etc.), I especially love them during this time of the year. They feel very holiday-ish to me–just like mint bark, and cheesecake stuffed carrot cake bread, and pumpkin pie dream bars, and apple pie crumb bars. I think it has something to do with the cinnamon. And the fact that it’s comfort food, and comfort food is perfect during the fall and winter months because there’s nothing like it on a cold, blustery day.
Granted, fall has yet to reach me yet. But it did rain today, so that’s a step in the right direction. It was a hot, humid rain, but rain is rain, so I’ll take it. 🙂
I’ve tried my hand at making cinnamon rolls before, and the result was a steady progression of terrible to less terrible to semi-okay to all right to ah-mazing! My problem? Yeast.
Yeast was intimidating. It was partly intimidating because I didn’t know how to activate it properly. Whenever I looked at recipes, I felt no one described an accurate depiction of how to activate yeast. It didn’t help that different recipes called for different ways to activate it, and I was at a loss.
But, through trial and error, I finally discovered the secret: temperature matters. In order to activate the yeast, the water needs to be between the temperatures of 105-115. Too hot and the yeast dies. Too cool and the yeast doesn’t awaken.
Once I learned that, yeast became a piece of cake to work with. Thanks, Ina Garten.
This cinnamon roll dough is my favorite because you can make it all at once, or you can make it the night before and allow the dough to rise in the fridge. I’ve done it both ways, and both turn out equally delicious and equally soft and fluffy.
You begin by activating the yeast in warm water (105-115 degrees). Once the yeast has grown foamy and bubbly (about a few minutes), give it a stir, and pour it into the bowl of a standing mixer (you can use a hand mixer as well, but a standing mixer is easier if you have access to one).
From this point, mix milk, sugar, egg, salt, butter, vanilla extract, almond extract, and flour. You’ll want to add in the flour slowly as to not explode flour everywhere. Now, mix the dough until it pulls from the sides and forms itself into a ball. If the dough is sticky, add in a little more flour. If it is springy, it is ready to go.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough for about 5 minutes. Kneading the dough allows for the dough to become elastic, which is essential to the dough rising well. Place dough in an oiled bowl (I used cooking spray) and allow to rise either overnight or in a warm, non-drafty place for about 1 1/2 – 2 hours (preheat the oven to 175 degrees, turn it off, then allow the dough to rise in there). Make sure to cover the dough with a lightly damp towel.
When the dough looks doubled in size, begin preparing the caramal apple filling. Place diced apples into a small saucepan with brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and a little heavy cream. The apples will begin to cook down and the sauce will thicken into caramel. When the apples are soft and the sauce has thickened (about 10 minutes or so), pull off the heat and allow to cool.
Once the dough has risen, punch the dough down and roll out into a long rectangle (the dough should only be about an 1/8″- 1/4″ thick, making the rectangle around 14×8). Spread a couple Tbsp of butter over the dough and sprinkle with sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Next, with a slotted spoon, spread the cooled apple mixture over the dough. Drizzle just a bit of the caramel sauce over the apples (too much and the dough won’t roll properly).
Tightly roll the dough up and slice into 12-15 even rolls. You can use whatever pan you have on hand (I used two 9″ cake pans with 6 rolls in each). Make sure to grease to the pans thoroughly. Place rolls in the pan making sure there is space between them. Allow the rolls to rise again for about 30 minutes, or until the rolls have expanded and are touching each other.
Bake at a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes.
While baking, make the maple glaze. Drizzle over the rolls once they have come out of the oven.
These rolls are absolutely heavenly! Your house will smell like apple pie and cinnamon rolls and fall, making these rolls totally worth the effort! And, even though this recipe has a lot of steps, it’s really a simple recipe! Promise 🙂
Yields 12-15 rolls
4 hrPrep Time
15 minCook Time
- 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
- 1/2 c warm water (105-115 degrees)
- 1/2 c milk
- 3-3 1/2 c all purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/3 c sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 2 apples finely diced
- 1/2 c brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp heavy cream
- 3 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 c sugar
- 1 - 1 1/2c powdered sugar
- 1 Tbsp butter, melted
- 3 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1 - 2 Tbsp milk
- Dissolve yeast into 1/2 cup of warm water. Once it turns foamy you know it's activated (about 4-5 minutes). If it doesn't turn foamy, your yeast is dead and you'll need to use another packet.
- Mix (in a standing mixer or hand held) yeast with milk, butter, sugar, salt, egg, vanilla extract, and almond extract.
- Add flour slowly, as to not explode flour everywhere. Start with 3 cups of flour.
- Mix dough until it pulls away from the bowl and turns into a ball. If the dough is sticky, add in the extra 1/2 cup of flour. If the dough is springy, it's ready.
- Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes. Form into a ball.
- Place in an oiled bowl (I used cooking spray) and allow it to double in size, overnight in the fridge or for 1 1/2 - 2 hours in a warm place**
- Once the dough has doubled in sized, begin making the filling.
- In a small saucepan, cook diced apples with 2 Tbsp of butter, 1/4 c brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, and heavy cream until apples have softened and the caramel sauce has thickened, about 10-12 minutes. Pull off the heat and allow to cool while you roll out the dough.
- Punch down the dough and roll it out into a rectangle on a lightly floured surface. The dough should be about 14x8" or 1/8" - 1/4" thick.
- Spread 2 Tbsp of butter over the dough and sprinkle with 1/4 c white sugar, 1/4 c brown sugar, and 2 tsp cinnamon.
- With a slotted spoon, spoon apples all over the dough. Drizzle just a bit of the caramel sauce the apples cooked in over the dough (too much and the dough will be too wet).
- Tightly roll up the dough and cut into 12-15 even slices.
- Place in two 9" greased cake pans (or any baking dish you have) making sure there is space between each roll. Allow to rise once again for 30 minutes, or until the rolls have risen and are touching each other.
- Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 15 mintutes, or until golden brown.
- Mix melted butter, maple syrup, powdered sugar, and milk together. Once it reaches your desired consistency, pour over the warm cinnamon rolls.
- Eat and enjoy!
**Preheat the oven to 175 degrees, turn it off, then allow the dough to rise in there. Make sure to cover the dough with a lightly damp towel.
Adapted from Paula Deen
Check out my other fall recipes: