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. But 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 rolls, throw your hair into a pony, put on your apron and get peeling! This recipe is labor intensive but SO totally worth it in the end. The tartness of the apples, combined with the bouncy yeasty dough and cream cheese frosting are a perfect combo.
Plus, there’s something therapeutic about peeling apples. It takes me back to my youth, when I used to watch my mom bake apple pies and I’d help peel. So much of cooking and baking is an active meditation and peeling apples is 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 of late I’ve also been seeing posts of cinnamon rolls on Instagram feeds.
Luckily these rolls aren’t as cloying as my former mall favorite Cinnabon (that smell!). Because these apple cinnamon rolls are filled with granny smith apples and studded with toasted pecans, they don’t make me feel horrible about myself (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 it’s hard to eat a whole pan in one day – as these really are best day of, warm out of the oven. You can reheat them but they’re never the same. Make this tray of rolls for a family gathering or holiday and you’ll be the life of the party, I promise.
Apple Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting
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 fitted with a 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! After it blooms, add sugar and salt, stir to combine.
Add half of the flour and turn mixer on low until just combined (around 30 seconds). Add the eggs, mix until eggs 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 a sprinkling of flour if the dough feels too wet.
Once the dough is shiny and elastic, oil a clean mixing bowl and place the dough inside 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 before you begin cutting. Using a serrated knife, cut the log into 12 pieces, around 2 inches thick each (you can measure if you want them to be perfectly consistent.
Preheat your oven the 375. Place rolls in the pan cut side up. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise again for around 3o minutes until puffy!
Bake the cinnamon rolls for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
For the icing, whip butter using with the whisk attachment for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy. Add cream cheese an ounce at a time. Add sugar and vanilla. Pour icing over hot cinnamon rolls and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Let the rolls cool at least 15 minutes before digging in.