Kick up traditional cinnamon rolls by replacing the cinnamon filling with cinnamon caramel apple chunks. You'll never buy the canned rolls again.
I've been away from the What's Baking group for several months now, thanks to unemployment and moving. But when I saw that the group voted on "baking bread" as this round's theme, I got my butt in gear and got baking.
Thanks to my dad, my son loves baking bread. Every time Liam sleeps over with my parents, he and my dad bake a loaf (sometimes two) of bread. Sometimes plain white sandwich bread, sometimes cinnamon raisin. So, I asked Liam what kind of bread we should make for What's Baking. He said "apple bread!" Might have had something to do with the apple slices he was eating when he answered.
But I was curious to see what kinds of apple bread existed, and as soon as I stumbled upon The Pioneer Woman's Caramel Apple Sweet Rolls, I knew exactly what I'd be making.
Cinnamon rolls always remind me of holidays growing up as a child. On Christmas morning, we'd come downstairs. My mom would have coffee going, and cinnamon rolls (the kind in the tube in the refrigerated section) in the oven. As we opened our presents, the scent of cinnamon filled the air.
I've since learned how to make cinnamon rolls at home, and while there is some labor and a lot of dirty dishes involved, homemade cinnamon rolls are so very worth it. Especially when you can experiment with fillings and flavors that you just can't buy in the grocery store.
Don't be afraid of working with yeast. If you own and can operate a meat thermometer, you can make yeast bread. The hardest part is getting the liquid warm enough to activate the yeast, but not so hot as to kill it off before the bread bakes. The thermometer takes the guess work out of the equation, leaving you with knock-your-socks-off caramel apple cinnamon rolls.
For the dough:
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
- 3 ½ cups all purpose flour, divided, plus more as needed
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast, from 2 envelopes yeast
- 1 tsp salt
For the filling:
- 2 medium or large Granny Smith apples, cut into small dice
- 8 tbsp unsalted butter, 1 stick
- 1 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 tsp cinnamon
For the icing:
- 2 cups powdered sugar, plus more as needed
Make the dough:
- Place the milk and butter chunks in a 2-cup glass measuring cup and microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring between each, until butter is melted and the mixture reaches 120 to 130 degrees.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, place warm milk/butter mixture, 1 cup of the flour, the sugar, egg, yeast and salt. Mix on low speed for about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally.
- Add 2 ½ cups of flour, and mix on low speed until all of the flour is absorbed, and the dough begins to form a sticky ball. It should just start to clear the sides of the bowl.
- Lightly flour a clean work surface and scrape the dough onto the flour. Knead the dough by hand for about 8 minutes, until you form a smooth and elastic ball.
- Spray a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray and place the dough ball inside. Spray the top with nonstick spray, then cover the bowl in plastic wrap, then a kitchen towel, and place the bowl in a warm area of your house, and let the dough rise for two hours.
Make the filling
- Place the apples in a large skillet set over medium-high heat and saute for 3 to 4 minutes, until the apples just start to soften.
- Transfer the apples to a bowl, lower the heat under the skillet to medium, then add the butter and brown sugar to the same skillet. Stir until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolves. Add the cream to the skillet, and whisk until combined. Let the mixture bubble, stirring often, until it thickens.
- Add the apples back into the skillet, and let it cook on the heat another minute or two. Set aside to cool.
Assemble the rolls:
- Deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly floured work surface. Pat it into a rectangle, then use a rolling pin to roll it out to 11 inches by 15 inches.
- Spoon the caramel-apple mixture onto the dough (draining off any excess caramel), leaving a 1-inch border along one of the longer edges. Reserve the leftover caramel sauce. Working with the border edge, tightly roll the dough over on itself, pinching every so often to it stays rolled.
- Spray two 9x9-inch pans with nonstick cooking spray. Using a serrated knife, cut the rolled dough into 18 equal pieces. Divide the pieces between the two baking pans, placing them cut-side-up, in three rows of three pieces across. Place a piece of plastic wrap then a kitchen towel over each baking pan and let the rolls rise for about 45 minutes.
- While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Once the rolls have risen, remove the plastic wrap and towel, and bake the rolls for about 20 minutes, rotating 180 degrees once halfway through baking, until golden brown on the top.
Make the icing:
- While the rolls are baking, whisk the powdered sugar into the reserved caramel sauce. If you think the sauce is too thin, add more powdered sugar, ¼ cup at a time. If you think the sauce is too thick, add more cream, 1 tablespoonful at a time. Once you've achieved the desired consistency, spread it over the warm rolls as soon as they come out of the oven. Serve warm.