Do you love cinnamon rolls? Do you love apple pie? Warm fall spices? Check, check and check? Then these are the apple cinnamon rolls of your dreams. If you keep reading this post, there is no way you’ll be able to resist making these. So if you don’t feel like staying up all night in the kitchen–stop reading now.
Ok, now that you’ve made the decision to conquer these, throw your hair into a pony (if it’s long), put on your apron and let’s get peeling! These rolls are labor intensive but are SO totally worth it in the end. The tartness of the apples, combined with the bouncy yeasty dough and cream cheese icing are to die for.
Plus, there’s something therapeutic about peeling apples, isn’t there? It takes me back to when I was a kid and my mom was baking apple pies and it was my job to help peel. It’s also the perfect way to “zone out” and think about nothing. I like to call it apple meditation. There’s no app for that.
So where’d my inspiration come from? Apple picking had a lot to do with it as I’d been thinking, “what in the heck am I doing to do with all these apples?” But also as of late I’ve been seeing posts of cinnamon rolls on peoples’ Instagram feeds. Waking up to delicious looking photos on Instagram always gets me.
But these aren’t as overly sweet as the mall favorite. Because they’re stuffed with granny smith apples and studded with toasted pecans, these don’t quite have the same effect on me as a traditional roll might (sugar and fat coma, anyone?).
So here’s the recipe below, from beginning to end. I’d recommend making these for a party or gathering as they really are best day of, warm out of the oven. You can reheat them in the toaster oven but in my opinion, they’re never the same. And since the holidays are fast approaching, it’s the perfect time (and excuse) to indulge.
Apple Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing
Makes a dozen rolls
For Apple Filling
1 stick unsalted butter
3 lbs Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped into 1/4 inch chunks
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk, heated to 115 degrees
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 packet of dry instant yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
1 cup chopped toasted pecans
For Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing
1 stick butter at room temperature
4 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract or beans from 1 vanilla bean pod
Pinch of salt
Make the filling by melting butter until it begins to brown 2-3 minutes (it will smell toasty). Add sugar, cinnamon, salt, apples and stir until combined. Cook down and stir consistently until apples are cooked and saucy (around 25-30 minutes). Set aside and let cool.
While apple filling cools, make the dough. In bowl of stand mixer (with paddle attachment), combine the milk, melted butter, and sprinkle the yeast on top. DO NOT STIR IN THE YEAST. Let it bloom for 8-10 minutes, it will look foamy and alive! Add sugar and salt, stir to combine.
Add half of the flour and stir on low until just combined (around 30 seconds). Add the eggs and mix until they are completely incorporated, then add the remaining half of the flour. Stir for 3-4 minutes until the dough becomes a ball.
Transfer the dough to a well floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic (3-4 minutes). Add flour if the dough is wet. Grab a clean mixing bowl and oil or butter the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise somewhere warm for 1 hour.
Grease a 9×13 pan with butter. When the dough has doubled in size, flour your working surface and rolling pin, and roll the dough out into a 1/8 inch thick rectangle. Make sure the dough isn’t sticking underneath. Spread the apple filling all over the dough, leaving a one inch border around the edge. Sprinkle the pecans on top. Begin rolling at the bottom, pinching the outside seam as you roll.
When the log is fully rolled, place the seam side down. Using a serrated knife, cut the log into 12 pieces, around 2 inches thick each. Place in the pan cut side up. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise again for around 3o minutes until puffy! Preheat your oven the 375.
Bake the cinnamon rolls for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
For the icing, whip butter (with the whisk attachment) for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add cream cheese an oz at a time. Add sugar and vanilla. Pour over warm cinnamon rolls and let the rolls cool at least 15 minutes before digging in!