Halloween candy already lines the grocery store shelves. Spirit Halloween costume shops are open. Pumpkin spice lattes are back at Starbucks. It’s official: fall is here.
Sure, UCSB is still on vacation for a few more weeks and the sunny Isla Vista weather will continue for a few more months, but there’s something so comforting about fall that I personally don’t mind cutting summer a little short. Fall, by definition, is the coziest season. The air is just chill enough to bring out my cute chunky sweaters and soup recipes but not so freezing that I’m questioning whether to turn on our apartment’s janky heater that may or may not have mice living in it.
But until I get that desperate, heating up the oven for some freshly baked goods does the trick. Arguably, fall has the best seasonal treats. Pumpkin bread, pecan pie, chai spice cookies … the list goes on and on. But, for me, apples are my go-to ingredient for fall. Apples pair perfectly with spices, caramel, nuts and brown sugar — all quintessential fall flavors — and they conveniently come into season at the start of September.
Recently, my favorite way to incorporate apples is baked into cinnamon rolls. Other than rolling small chunks of apples into the dough, there are no other changes to my basic cinnamon roll recipe. For the amount of fall flavor that the apple chunks bring, adding this one extra step is a no-brainer.
When baking with apples, it’s important to remember that not all apple varieties will work. Because hot temperatures cause apples to secrete their juice out, firmer apples are preferred for baking. I recommend Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Cortland or Honeygold apples. Softer apples, like Fuji, Gala and Red Delicious, will secrete more juice while baking, which could ruin the rise of your rolls.
Apple Cinnamon Rolls
Yield: 15 rolls
Time: 4 hours
For the bread dough:
- ¾ cup warm milk
- 3 cups bread flour (all-purpose flour can work in a pinch!)
- 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup melted butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 packet (3 teaspoons) of dry active yeast
For the filling:
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 ½ cup thinly sliced then chopped apple slices
- 1 ½ tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons margarine
For the frosting:
- 4 ounces plain cream cheese
- 3 tablespoons butter, softened
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Add a pinch of granulated sugar to a bowl of warm milk and stir, then sprinkle the yeast over the top of the sugar and milk mixture. Wait for the yeast to foam, about 5 to 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, granulated sugar, melted butter and yeast mixture.
- Add flour and salt to the large bowl and mix with a wooden spoon until nearly combined. Transfer the dough onto a floured surface and knead with your hands until the dough forms a ball. If the dough is really sticky, incorporate another ¼ cup of flour.
- Place the dough ball in an oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and put it in a warm place to rise for 1 ½ hours.
- Place the dough on a floured surface. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle, about 20 inches by 25 inches.
- Using a knife, spread the margarine until the entire rectangle is coated. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle evenly over the dough. Sprinkle 1 cup of the apple slices on top, making sure no slices overlap.
- Starting at the 20-inch edge, roll up the dough into a tight log. Using a serrated knife, cut the dough into 15 rolls.
- Place the rolls in a greased casserole dish, leaving about 1 inch of space in between each one. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel, then let rise for another 1 ½ hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake the rolls uncovered for 20 to 22 minutes or until the edges are just barely golden.
- Whip together the softened butter and cream cheese using an electric mixer. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar and whip until combined. Spread over the top of warm rolls. Top with the remaining ½ cup apple slices.
Making cinnamon rolls from scratch is a long process, but the result is worth it. If you want them for breakfast and don’t want to wake up at 6 a.m. to finish them by 10 a.m., you can start making them the night before. Instead of letting the sliced rolls rise in a warm place, put them in your fridge overnight and continue to Step 9 in the morning. Cold environments slow yeast activity down, but if you let the rolls sit all night, they’ll be done rising by morning.
Not only will these rolls taste amazing, but your whole house will smell like a Bath & Body Works apple spice candle. Happy fall!