Apple Cinnamon Rolls
Oh, how I love cinnamon rolls. Whether it’s Christmas with the family or just a rainy morning, there’s nothing quite as homey as a sweet and gooey roll straight out of the oven. Of course, everyone’s got an opinion when it comes to the filling. Raisins. No raisins. Nuts. No nuts. Glaze. Cream cheese frosting. Lucky for me, I’ll take one in just about any way, shape or form. I’m easy like that.
For awhile now, I’ve wanted to try a cinnamon roll filled with apples. I mean, how could you go wrong with that? Seems like a stroke of genius, right? Spiced Grannies rolled up in a sweet yeast dough and drizzled with glaze? I drool.
So here’s the recipe I came up with. I’ll just be straight with you and tell you these were amazing. So. Good. The apples were a fantastic departure from the ubiquitous raisin and they were loved by one and all. The Grannies really gave these rolls a wonderful flavor and, needless to say, made the entire house smell just heavenly. Though they take a little work, these apple cinnamon rolls are most definitely worth it.
Oh, and did I mention these have half the calories you’d find in many similar bakery creations? Nice.
Apple Cinnamon Rolls
For the dough:
½ cup warm water
2 teaspoons yeast
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
½ cup half and half
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons shortening
1 whole egg plus 2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ½ to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray or vegetable oil for your rising bowl
For the filling:
2 medium Granny Smith apples
2/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter, softened
Cooking spray or a dab of shortening for your baking dish
Unflavored and unwaxed tooth floss
For the Cream Cheese Glaze
1 tablespoon cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon butter, softened 1-2 tablespoons milk
1 cup powdered sugar
In a small bowl, combine your warm water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar. Let this sit for a few minutes until foamy.
Meanwhile, combine the half and half, 2 tablespoons of butter, and shortening in a microwave-safe bowl or liquid measuring cup. Microwave for 30-60 seconds, or until the half and half is warm and the fats are mostly melted. Add to this your 1/3 cup granulated sugar, egg, egg yolks, and vanilla; whisk to combine.
Measure 3 cups of flour into the bowl of an electric mixer and stir in the teaspoon of salt. Now that your yeast has proofed, add this as well as your half and half mixture to the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough begins to come together and then switch to the dough hook attachment. Knead on medium-low to medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Add the remaining ½ to 1 cup of flour as you go. Keep in mind this is a soft dough, so don’t go overboard with the flour!
Spritz a large mixing bowl with cooking spray (or oil with a teaspoon of vegetable oil). Add your dough to the bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 ½ hours.
While your dough is rising in a cozy place, you can get on with the filling. Peel and chop the Granny Smith apples into small bits and set aside.
In a separate small bowl, mix together the 2/3 cup brown sugar, cinnamon, and pinch of salt. Set this aside as well.
Once risen, punch down your dough and transfer it to a silicone work mat or a floured work surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a large rectangle, approximately 12 inches deep by 18 or 20 inches long. Then, using your fingers, spread the 3 tablespoons of softened butter over the surface of the dough, leaving about a 1-inch unbuttered border on the side closest to you. Next, sprinkle over your brown sugar mixture, again being careful to avoid that 1-inch border. Use your fingers to lightly press the sugar down. Finally, sprinkle your chopped apples on top of the brown sugar.
Now it’s time to roll! Beginning with the end furthest from you, start to roll the dough toward you. Try to make the roll as tight as you can while simultaneously keeping that filling in place. Keep rolling until you reach your naked border. Once you do, pull this edge up and then pinch to seal everything in place. If your roll isn’t very uniform, use your hands to squeeze and make it as even as you can.
Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish and have it nearby.
My favorite way to cut cinnamon rolls is with tooth floss. That’s right. Tooth floss. Just make sure it isn’t flavored! Begin by making little score marks along the top of the roll, so you know where to cut. Next, take your tooth floss and slide it underneath one end of the roll. Now take each end of the floss in either end, cross them over the top to the other side, and pull. As you pull, the floss will cut through the dough perfectly without mangling or squashing the roll. If this method just isn’t your cup of tea, you can certainly use a very sharp knife. Either way, as you make slices, place each one cut-side down into your baking dish, leaving a little space between each one. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place, until just about doubled in size. (Or, if you’re prepping these the night before, cover with plastic wrap and pop the pan in the fridge overnight. In the morning, pull the pan out of the fridge and allow to rise in a warm place for 30 or so minutes before baking. Because the chopped apples have been allowed to macerate all night with the sugar, you may find a pool of sugary apple juice in the bottom of your pan. Not to worry! You can simply spoon this out before baking to avoid soggy buns and either toss it or use it in your glaze for extra apple flavor!)
When it gets close to baking time, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap, pop these beautiful rolls in the oven on the middle rack, and bake for 20-25 minutes. When done, the tops will be just lightly golden brown in places and a sharp knife poked into the center of one will reveal dough that looks cooked (as opposed to doughy).
While your rolls are baking, take a minute to make the cream cheese glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together the softened cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar. The glaze will be really thick at this point; use the milk to thin it to your desired consistency.
Once the rolls are out of the oven, let them cool for just a few minutes and then drizzle with the glaze. Serve warm and enjoy!
Nutrition information per roll (1/12 of recipe): 338 calories, 12 g total fat, 6 g saturated fat, 59 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 5 g protein