Hello There, Lark & Linen Readers! Katie from Butterlust, here. After a brief hiatus, I’m thrilled to be back here, in this beautiful space, sharing my favorite recipes with you lovely folks. Somehow it only seems fitting that I’m making my comeback in the fall with a scrumptious apple recipe, just about one month short of the two-year anniversary of my first apple-themed post here. (How time flies!)
In a world where come autumn, pumpkins seem to get all the attention, I like to kick off fall with a recipe featuring the season’s other star. It helps ease the transition into the all-out pumpkin craze that I tend to fall into in November (pun intended). October though, October is for apples.
And today, on this lovely October day, I’m not just sharing any old apple recipe. Today, we’re feasting on buttery browned apples, coated in cinnamon and brown sugar and nestled into the most pillowy cinnamon rolls I’ve had in my entire life. Impossibly pillowy, guys. I didn’t even know dough like this was achievable at home.
Which leads me to a very important question — are you more of a crispy tops or gooey middles kind of person?
You know what I mean. Do you find yourself delicately picking at a fresh-from-the-oven cinnamon roll’s golden brown top, burning the tips of your fingers in the name of toasty deliciousness? Or do you instead under-bake yours just a little bit, ensuring the presence soft, gooey insides that melt in your mouth and leave you sticky with glee?
Either way, today I’ve got you covered. One recipe, two preparations; both insanely good.
I must admit, I came about the crispy tops version of this recipe by accident. Because of the fluffiness of the dough and the generous helping of apples we stuff between its layers, these are larger-than-average cinnamon rolls — two-dish cinnamon rolls, in fact. So, when on my second recipe test I couldn’t fit all of the unbaked rolls into a single dish, I looked to my muffin tin to handle the overflow. And let me tell you, it may just be one of the best cases of “recipe overflow” I’ve ever experienced.
When nestled together in a glass baking dish the cinnamon rolls bake up lofty and pale, with doughy insides and lightly golden brown tops. They’re the kind of cinnamon rolls that are perfect for a thick smear of maple frosting. In a muffin tin on the other hand, the lack of crowding allows the cinnamon rolls to expand, puffing up into giant swirls of airy pastry with plently of extra surface area that becomes a deeply golden on top with lots of pockets of caramelized crispiness. Which will you choose?
Like I said, this is a two-dish recipe so, good news, technically you can have both! I can’t wait to show off these guys off during the holidays when I have family in town. Take my word for it, they don’t disappoint!
Apple & Pecan Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
For the filling
2 large granny smith apples, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
11/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup pecan pieces
For the glaze
6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2-3 tablespoons whole milk (or cream if you want to be extra indulgent)
1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring
To prepare the dough
In a microwaveable bowl, heat milk for 45 seconds or until it reaches 95-100F. Add the warm milk to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with hook attachment then stir in the granulated sugar and instant yeast by hand. Cover the bowl and let it stand for 5-10 minutes, until the yeast foamy. With the mixer on low speed, beat in the softened butter. When it starts to break into large pieces, add the eggs one at a time and then the salt. Mix until the egg is incorporated -- the butter will stay chunky; this is fine.
With the mixer still on low, add the flour and mix until a dough forms. Turn the speed up to medium and beat for 6-7 minutes, until the dough it soft and supple. If the dough seems too sticky, add flour one tablespoon at a time, but be careful not to add too much flour or your dough will become tough. Note: If you do not have a stand mixer, you can knead the dough by hand.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for another minute. Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover lightly with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel, place in a warm part of your kitchen, and let rise for 1-2 hours or until it has doubled in size.
To prepare the filling: While your dough is rising, cook your apples as they will need plenty of time to cool. To do this, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the cubed apples and cook until slightly soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer the cooked appled to a dish and place in the refrigerator to cool. Whatever you do, DO NOT put warm apples in your dough.
To prepare the rolls: Before rolling out your dough, prepare a 9x13 inch pan (you may need a second smaller pan) or a muffin tin by greasing or lining with parchment and set aside.
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and use a rolling pin to roll it out to an 13x18 inch rectangle (use a ruler to measure if you have one).
Using your fingers, smear the remaining 6 tablespoons of softened butter all over the surface of the dough, making sure to cover every nook and cranny thoroughly. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar and spices, and sprinkle mixture evenly over the dough, followed by a generous sprinkle of pecan pieces and then the cooled apples.
Roll the dough up tightly into an 18-inch log and use a very sharp knife to gently cut it into 12 rolls. If any filling spills out, you can use it to top the rolls before going into the oven.
Place the rolls into your prepared pan(s). If baking them in a dish, the rolls should be close together but not too close, as they need some room to rise and then expand during baking. Remember, overcrowded rolls are less fluffy. If using a muffin tin, try to get as much of the roll into the tin as possible, as they will puff up quite a bit in the oven.
Cover the rolls again with plastic, place in a warm spot, and let them proof for another hour or so, until they are puffy. Note that rise time will be effected by the temperature of your kitchen and could take as long as two hours in winter.
When the rolls have risen, heat the oven to 375F. If baking in a dish, bake the rolls for 35-40 minutes, covering with foil about halfway through to prevent them from becoming too brown. If baking in a muffin tin, bake for 20-25 minutes or until deep golden brown. When ready, remove the rolls from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack while you make the frosting.
To prepare the frosting
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add in the powdered sugar and milk and continue to beat until smooth and desired consistency is reached (add more milk for a pourable icing, less for spreadable). Last add the maple flavor and mix until combined. Using a knife, spread the frosting over the top of the warm cinnamon rolls. Alternately, you can scoop the icing into a ziploc bag, use scissors to cut off a corner, and drizzle the icing over the rolls.
Rolls are best eaten immediately, but you can cover and store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Make-ahead tip: You can spare yourself an early morning by making the rolls the night before. Once you've rolled the dough and placed the cut rolls into your prepared pan, cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours. In the morning, remove the unbaked rolls from the refrigerator and let sit in a warm spot until they have come to room temperature and puffed up, about 2-3 hours, and then bake as instructed.