Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls

Oh yes, I went there.  After playing around with the idea of blueberry cinnamon rolls, I realized that regular cinnamon rolls are a bit like a blank canvas.  Sure, they are wonderful all on their own but they also lend themselves well to showcasing other flavors.  The idea of caramel apple cinnamon rolls popped into my head and it wasn’t long before I just had to make them.

I added a touch of fall spices to a basic cinnamon roll dough, rolled them with caramelized apples and cinnamon sugar filling the swirls, and drizzled with a caramel cream cheese glaze.  The result was exactly what I was hoping for.  A tender lightly spiced dough with big chunks of apple, and the glaze was positively to die for.  Ben doesn’t normally get overly effusive about the things I bake, but he called these his other true love.  They are definitely sweet enough to be a dessert, but I’m sure they would be the hit of any fall brunch.  After adding the filling, rolling and slicing the dough log, the filling may seem to be overwhelming the dough but don’t worry.  After the rolls proof the dough and filling will be nicely proportioned.

Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls
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Yield: 8-12 large cinnamon rolls or 12-16 smaller rolls
For the cinnamon rolls:
6½ tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg
5½ tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp. lemon zest
3½ cups bread flour
2 tsp. instant (rapid rise) yeast
1 cup plus 2-4 tbsp. whole milk or buttermilk, at room temperature

For the filling:
1½ tbsp. unsalted butter
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch slices
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp. cornstarch
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg
Pinch salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. sugar
¾ tsp. ground cinnamon

For the glaze:
4 oz. cream cheese
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 tbsp. caramel sauce
1 tbsp. milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and butter on medium-high speed until smooth.  Mix in the egg and lemon zest until incorporated.  Mix in the flour, yeast and milk until a dough forms.  Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed, about 8 minutes until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky.  (You may need to add a little extra flour or liquid to achieve this texture.)  Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, make the filling.  To make the caramelized apples, melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the apple slices, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Mix until the apples are evenly coated.  Cook about 18 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.  Set aside to cool.  In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and cinnamon to blend; set aside.

Mist a work surface with spray oil.  Roll it out into a rectangle with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the dough with flour if needed to keep it from sticking (about 12 x 14 inches for larger rolls or 9 x 18 inches for smaller rolls).  Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and mix to blend.  Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the surface of the dough.  Evenly distribute the caramelized apples over the top of the dough.  Starting with the wide edge, roll up the dough into a cigar-shaped log, creating a cinnamon sugar spiral as you roll.  Pinch the seam shut, and with the seam side down, slice the log into your desired number of rolls.  Transfer them to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, placing the rolls about ½-1 inch apart.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature 75-90 minutes, until the rolls have grown into each other and have nearly doubled in size.  At this point, the rolls can also be covered and retarded in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.  Pull the pan out of the refrigerator 3-4 hours before baking to let the dough proof.

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown.  Let cool in the baking about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

To make the glaze, combine the cream cheese and butter in a small heatproof bowl and microwave in 15-20 second intervals until it is warm enough to whisk together.  Whisk in the caramel sauce, milk and vanilla extract until smooth.  Whisk in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth.   Swirl the glaze over the top of the cinnamon rolls.  Let cool at least 15-20 minutes before serving.

Source: adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

61 Responses

  1. Yummmmmmmmmmmmmy,, that really looks amazing,Great job! i love anything with appless cant wait to try it 🙂

  2. Impressive! I love this idea, and so would my husband! Thanks for sharing.

  3. wow! these look great. i made a caramel apple cake last year and that was fabulous but i think this might top it all! 🙂

  4. OMG those look and sound incredibly tasty!! I love the caramel glaze!!!

  5. Yum! You just keep coming up with these great ideas. I can’t wait to see what the next recipe is.

  6. they look so fluffy and delicious!

  7. Oh goodness…these sound just amazing. All those spices and the caramel cream cheese glaze?! Delicious!

  8. Wow! These look and sound amazing. Another great job. 🙂

  9. Oh wow these look beyond amazing!! Apple cinnamon rolls, are you sure these aren’t illegal?? I’m making them this weekend. Delicious!!!

  10. Oh my goodness…these look amazing! Why…I’m practically drooling over here! Yum!

  11. i’d say that caramelized apples can only make something better!

  12. Wow. I could definitely go for one of these right now as I sit here in my pajamas! They look so warm and flavorful and flaky. I bet whoever was lucky enough to enjoy them would agree!

  13. These look amazing!! I just made Caramel Apple Donut Muffins.

    I say we continue the trend . . . what else can we caramel apple-ize? 😉

  14. these cinnamon rolls look heavenly! i should not be looking at this right before lunch time!

  15. YUM! this looks so delicious.

  16. Annie, these looks incredible. You ROCK!

  17. I am DYING to make these…..they look simply amazing. Caramel cream cheese glaze?! Yes please! 🙂

  18. Oh my! These look so delicious, but too much work for me right now. I think I will bookmark these for a time when I am not 8-months pregnant and chasing a three year old around!

  19. Oh my gosh, I have died and gone to heaven!!!

  20. Wow.

    There is nothing else I could say. I am in love!

  21. These look so yummy! I think I’ll make them today. Just a quick question about the caramel sauce in the glaze. Do you have a recipe for that? Is it the same caramel sauce that you made for your Snickers Cupcakes?

    • Yes, I used the same one from the Snickers cupcakes but I didn’t specify here because I know tons of people will just use jarred caramel sauce anyway.

  22. Wow! I’ve had cinnamon rolls and orange rolls on the brain lately wanting to make them and now I don’t think I can go another day without making these! We picked some apples last weekend and this will be a great use for them. Thanks so much for sharing!

  23. Oh my goodness. I could lick the screen and probably taste these! I can’t keep up with you- you are a cooking machine!

  24. I seriously feel like crying because I don’t have on of these to try 😦

  25. Oh This look amazing!! It’s just the right time of year too!

  26. These look amazing!

  27. My jaw actually dropped. This is very dangerous….if it wasn’t 9:30 at night I would start them now…TGIF and I can make these tomorrow night!

  28. Wow these look so. dang. good!!! I’m so glad you went there 🙂

  29. Do you use brown or white sugar to roll up with the apples in your cinnamon rolls?

  30. I love everything about these!

  31. Absolutely fantastic! My idea of heaven. Will have tp give these a go for sure

  32. Oh my these sound like the perfect warm spices gooey autumn cinnamon roll!

  33. Is it just me, or do your recipes look better and better with every post!? Thanks for sharing 🙂

  34. These look simply divine! My mouth can’t stop drooling over the photos! Would it be possible to make these ahead of time? How would you suggest doing so?

  35. Mmmmm! I don’t know how you made regular old cinnamon rolls even better but you did! Delicious!

  36. Hi Annie,
    I have a quick question… the directions of the cinnamon rolls it didn’t indicate when to add the cinnamon and nutmeg. I have the dough rising right now, and I am wondering if I can add it when I roll out the dough?? I will probably have to knead it into the dough… or should I just forget it??

    • Sorry, that’s a mistake. You would have added it with the rest of the dry ingredients. It will be fine without it, just proceed as is.

  37. Yum! It’s like you’ve been inside my mind! I’ve been brewing up a very similar idea to bake in the next few weeks. The caramel cream cheese glaze is a really nice touch! I hadn’t thought of that! They look delicious!

  38. I am impatiently waiting for these to warm up this morning so that I can bake them! What is the best way to seal the roll edge before slicing them? I had several “tails” that I tucked under when the edges did not seal right. Do you just pinch the dough together or wet the edges or something else? Thanks!

  39. The glaze looks fantastic! Gotta pace myself on making baked goods–my husband is grumbling that I’m making him fat. I keeping a list of recipes to try, and yours is tops.

  40. You are such a great cook and I’m so impressed on all the things that you are baking. These rolls sounds luscious.

  41. Making a version of this fall treat with cranberries and almonds. Thanks for inspiring me to branch away from the traditional cinnamon roll. Hope they turn out!

  42. I keep seeing cinnamon rolls popping up on blogs and it is taking every ounce of restraint I have to NOT make a few batches right now.

    Do you ship to Queens, NY? 🙂

  43. Made these yesterday-What is supposed to happen with the apples when you cook them. Mine mostly turned to applesauce-Did I stir too much? Oh and the sugar question earlier…Once you have something in your head, it’s hard to understand the obvious….I knew that about sugar in a recipe I really did, but I always make my cinnamon rolls with brown sugar so….hence the stupid question.

    • You may have stirred them a little too much. With mine, a few get mushy but most hold their shape enough to still be apple slices.

  44. oh my heavens my mr wold love these
    I must make them:)

  45. Simply beautiful dishes!

  46. OMG I must make these. My mouth is watering right now. 🙂 YAY!

  47. Annie, thanks so much for your beautiful blog! But I must ask…how in the world you keep up with it! With your work, family and time to bake or cook the recipes you share…holy moly! Do you have some time machine to play with time! Girl, how do you do it! I can barely get a baked cake in a month! You are baking, cooking and updating your blog almost daily! You are wonder woman! 🙂

  48. Annie, I love your blog! My mom sent me a link to your site about a month ago (for a recipe using basil b/c she knew I had more than I knew what to do with growing in my garden) and I’ve been reading it every since. I work full-time and am married with a 4 year old. I love baking but feel like I don’t have much time to do so. When I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it. I love all things pumpkin, so thanks for labeling and linking things so I can easily find other recipes with pumpkin. I just taste tested a (ok, THREE) pumkpkin butterscotch cookie and it was excellent.

    I think I’ll try the garlic knots next!

  49. Wow! These look sooo delicious! Will have to try these!

  50. Annie, I LOVE your site. I am always using your recipes. The German chocolate cake was a BIG hit with all our friends and family. I am planning to make this cinnamon rolls and I know this is a dumb question but I am so literal I have to be sure…the yeast. Do I mix it in with the flour or do I need to first mix it with lukewarm water? The directions weren’t specific and I just wanted to be sure.
    Thank you!!

    • Actually, the directions are specific. You mix it right into the dough, hence why I don’t say to dissolve in water first.

  51. I made these last night – so good. I think I put too much flour in – mine were a little heave – but very good.

    BTW – I hope you are OK that probably eight recipes on our next two week menu came from your site! We are doing England week next week so the Beef Wellington was a nice find – but all of our meals for the following week came from here – can’t wait to try that mac n cheese recipe!

  52. Cinnamon rolls are one of my favourite things and I LOOVE what you’ve done with them here!!

  53. So delicious I had to feature these on my blog as well! Thanks for sharing!

  54. Soooo glad to see that you used bread flour. For anyone making this recipe do yourself/family a favor and use bread flour not all purpouse. Although the AP flour will work the texture is VERY different. Also invest in a can of Sasco brand dry buttermilk as most of us do not drink regular buttermilk. (found in the baking isle) The Sasco gives depth of flavor and also better rise and texture to any baked goods. I have a version of Cinnamon Sticky Buns and tried the dry buttermilk in my recipe WOW could not believe how much better.

    P.S. You would still use regular milk as the liquid in a recipe but add the dry buttermilk to your dry ingredients then mix as usual.

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