Like clockwork, my cinnamon roll cravings become pretty intense in September. It’s as predictable as the leaves changing color and the sun freaking setting.
Every Single September.
Greeting us all at the corner of comfort food and calorie-laden are APPLE CINNAMON ROLLS drowning in caramel icing. Move over every other type of cinnamon roll out there… there’s a new boss in town.
Just in case your cinnamon rolls cravings aren’t as intense as mine, here’s a little extra enticing: (1) start the day with a treat that’s like eating a slice of apple pie and cinnamon roll in one. (2) the mornings are getting chillier and granola bars aren’t cutting it anymore. (3) granola bars don’t belong on the weekends anyway. (4) you can make these apple cinnamon rolls ahead of time!!!! (5) caramel icing.
Go ahead, indulge with me.
Let’s get down to the basics though. How many of you are nervous when it comes to yeast? Proofing it, working with it, kneading dough. Forget the haunted hay ride this year, yeast is terrifying enough right?? Well trust me, I used to fear working with yeast too. A ridiculous fear, actually. But once I started to use it (well, if we’re being honest, once the cinnamon roll cravings got strong enough) my fears quickly subsided.
My little secret can be found in the little packets you see above. ↑ ↑
Red Star Yeast. Quality yeast and a carefully formulated dough to pair with it helps guarantee success, no matter how terrified of yeast you are. The Platinum line makes working with yeast (even for you first timers!) super simple and approachable. I’m a huge fan of RSY and use this yeast exclusively in my kitchen because it’s always a guarantee.
The dough we’re using today is the same dough as my overnight cinnamon rolls. It’s become my standard traditional cinnamon roll dough. It’s soft and supple, rises up beautifully (obviously with Red Star Yeast!!!), and has this crazy awesome buttery flavor. I’ve used it plenty of times on my blog, too. Most notably: cinnamon roll wreath, maple pecan sticky buns, and biiiiiiig giant cinnamon buns.
Once the dough is made, allow it to rise in a warm environment, then punch it down so you can roll it out and fill it up.
The filling = brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, and apples. Music to our ears.
Let the rolls rise once again until they doubled in size.
And look how puffy they get!!! ↑ ↑
You have the option of making them in the morning OR you can get started the night before. Whichever you choose, the rolls bake up into this gorgeous golden brown color. And just WAIT until you smell them baking. In fact, if we could bottle the smell of this fall season, we would name it Apple Cinnamon Rolls. ?
A couple options for icing and I’ll let you be the judge. Some of my suggestions:
In short, you must: combat your fear of yeast, satisfy your weekend cinnamon roll craving, embrace fall, and make caramel icing.
- 1 cup (240ml) whole milk*
- 2/3 cup (135g) granulated sugar
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons (14g) Red Star Platinum yeast (2 standard size packets)*
- 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature and cut into 4 pieces
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 and 1/2 cups (558g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting/rolling
- 6 Tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 2 cups chopped apples (peel if you’d like, about 2 medium apples)
- 1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons milk
- 2 Tablespoons warmed salted caramel
- Make the dough: Heat milk to about 95°F (35°C)– use microwave or stovetop. Pour the warm milk into the bowl of a stand electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment (OR you can use a handheld mixer OR no mixer, but a stand mixer is ideal). With a whisk, manually whisk in the sugar and yeast. Cover with a towel and let sit until the yeast is foamy, about 5-10 minutes. If the yeast does not dissolve and foam, start over with fresh active yeast. On low speed, beat in the softened butter until it is slightly broken up. Next add the eggs, one at a time, and then the salt. The butter won’t really be mixing into the mixture, so don’t be alarmed if it stays in pieces. On low speed, gradually add the flour. Once it is all added, beat on medium speed until a soft dough forms. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until the dough is soft and supple, about 6 minutes longer. *If you do not have a stand-mixer with a hook attachment, knead the dough by hand in this step.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it with your hands for 1 minute. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly greased bowl. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap, a paper towel, or aluminum foil and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 2 hours. Here’s what I do: turn the oven on to 200°F (93°C). Once heated to that temperature, turn the oven off. Stick the covered dough inside the oven and allow it to rise in this warm environment.
- Grease the bottom and sides of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, punch it down and, using a rolling pin, roll into a 12×18 inch rectangle. Make sure the dough is smooth and evenly thick.
- Fill the rolls: Spread the softened butter all over the dough. In a small bowl, toss the brown sugar and cinnamon together until combined and then sprinkle evenly over the dough. Top evenly with chopped apples. Tightly roll up the dough to form an 18-inch-long log. Cut into 12 equal rolls. Arrange them in the prepared baking pan. Cover the rolls very tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rise in a warm environment again for about 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size.
- Bake the rolls: Preheat the oven to 375°F (191°C). Bake rolls for about 25 minutes until they are golden brown. About halfway through the bake time, I like to cover the rolls loosely with aluminum foil so the tops don’t brown too much. Remove pan from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
- Whisk all of the icing ingredients together and drizzle over warm rolls. Serve warm.
Overnight instructions: To prepare the night before serving, prepare the rolls through step 4. Cover the rolls tightly and refrigerate for 8-12 hours. The next morning, remove from the refrigerator and allow to rise on the counter for 1-2 hours before continuing with step 5.
Freezing instructions: Baked rolls can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and warm up before enjoying. You can also freeze the unbaked rolls and here’s how: bake the rolls in step 5 for only about 10 minutes at 375°F (191°C). Cool completely, then cover tightly and freeze. To serve, take the rolls out of the freezer and put into the refrigerator a few hours before serving. Then, finish baking them.
- Whole milk or even buttermilk is ideal for this dough. You can get away with 2% or 1%, but I do not recommend skim.
- If using active dry yeast, the rise times will be slightly longer. I always use an instant yeast.
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Here are some items I used to make today’s recipe.
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