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Social media image of a single, unglazed Apple Cinnamon Roll on a light grey plate in front of a batch of rolls drizzled in Apple Butter Glaze
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Apple Cinnamon Rolls with Apple Butter Glaze

Begin this recipe a few hours ahead.
Course Breakfast, Brunch, Dessert
Cuisine North American
Keyword apple, cinnamon rolls, cream cheese
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
rising times 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 15 minutes
Servings 12 apple cinnamon rolls
Calories 965kcal

Equipment

  • rolling pin
  • stand mixer
  • electric hand mixer

Ingredients

For the Apple Cinnamon Dough

  • 1 cup (250 milliliters) whole milk warmed to 110°F (43°C)
  • 1 tablespoon (10 grams) active dry yeast
  • pinch sugar
  • 5 1/2-6 cups (720-780 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (2 grams) ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon (6 grams) kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick or 113 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (110 grams) sugar
  • 1 large egg at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (210 grams) apple butter at room temperature

For the Apple Cinnamon Filling

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick or 113 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup, packed (100 grams) brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (6 grams) ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon (3 grams) ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) ground nutmeg
  • 2 small Honeycrisp apples

For the Apple Butter Cream Cheese Glaze

  • 8 ounces (1 package or 226 grams) cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • pinch kosher salt optional
  • 2 1/2 cups (325 grams) powdered sugar sifted
  • 1/4 cup (70 grams) apple butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice

Instructions

Bloom the Yeast

  • Add the active dry yeast and the pinch of granulated sugar to the warm milk in a measuring glass or bowl. 
    Stir the yeast and sugar into the milk and allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes. Within this time, the yeast will bubble and foam and emit a smell that's something between baked bread and beer.
  • If, after 5 minutes, the yeast hasn't foamed up in the container, the yeast is probably dead. You need to dump this mixture and begin again with new yeast.
    While you wait for the yeast to bloom, combine the flour, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and nutmeg together in a mixing bowl. Set this bowl aside.

Mix the Apple Cinnamon Bread Dough After the Yeast has Bloomed

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend together the unsalted butter and sugar on medium-high speed or until the mixture is fluffy (about 3 minutes).
  • Once the sugar and butter mixture takes on a lemon-yellow color, add the egg and apple butter to the bowl.
    Blend them into the sugar and butter mixture for 2 minutes at medium speed, then add the yeast mixture. Blend on low for another minute.
  • Once the mixture looks slightly curdled, begin adding the flour mixture to the bowl, two cups at a time.
    After adding the fourth cup of the flour the mixture, the dough will resemble a thick cookie dough. Switch from the paddle attachment to the dough hook, after scraping the paddle attachment and bowl down.
  • Continue mixing the dough on second speed, and add the remaining flour until a firm, but supple dough forms.
    If a lot of dough is sticking to the bottom of the bowl, add more flour, a 1/2 cup at a time. The dough should wrap itself around the dough hook, and no dough should stick to the bottom of the bowl.
    Add additional flour as needed, and only 1/2 cup at a time until it forms the proper consistency. Avoid making the dough too stiff. It's better to have a soft dough than one that is too hard. 
    Once all the flour is added, knead the dough for 10 minutes at second speed.

Allow the Dough to Rise for 1 Hour

  • After 10 minutes of kneading, remove the bowl from the stand mixer.
    Remove the dough from the bowl and lightly grease the bowl with vegetable oil or melted unsalted butter.
    Return the ball of dough to the bowl and flip it, so its surface is lightly greased. This will keep the top of the dough from drying out as it rises.
  • Cover the mixing bowl with a clean kitchen towel and set it in a warm, draft-free area of your kitchen.
    Allow the dough to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in volume.

Prepare the Cinnamon Schmear and Slice the Apples

  • Add the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to a mixing bowl.
    Use an electric hand mixer to blend these ingredients together at low speed.
  • Once the ingredients are combined, stop the mixer and scrape down both the bowl and the beater.
    Next, increase the mixing speed to medium-high to whip the butter-sugar mixture for 2-3 minutes, or until the mixture looks light and airy and is a nutty brown color.
    Scrape the bowl down once more and set this schmear to the side while the dough finishes rising. 
  • Fifteen minutes before the dough finishes its first rise, cut off the rounded top and bottom of the apple with a sharp chef's knife.
    Use an apple corer to remove the center of the apple, then cut the cored apples in half from top to bottom and thinly slice the apples 1/8-inch thick.
  • Lightly grease a 15x10-inch baking dish with non-stick baking spray.

Roll Out, then Form the Apple Cinnamon Rolls

  • Once the dough finishes rising, roll it into a rectangle that is roughly 18x15-inches in size. The dough needs to be less than a ¼-inch thick.
    Use an offset spatula to spread a thin layer of the cinnamon schmear over the surface of the rectangle leaving a 1-inch margin along the far, long edge of the rectangle of dough.
  • Arrange the thinly sliced apples in rows on top of the cinnamon schmear. Overlap the apples slightly as you form the rows.
    Begin a new row about ½-inch away from the previous row of apples. Once the apples have been arranged on the schmear, press them slightly into it to help them stick better.
  • Beginning with the covered long edge of the rectangle, fold the dough over a ¼-inch to start your log.
    Continue rolling the dough into a log shape, pulling back slightly on the dough often to tighten the log. Once you get to the long uncovered edge of the dough, pinch it to the body of the log to seal it.
    Position the log so that the seam is pressed between the body of the log and the countertop.
  • Use a very sharp knife to cut the log of dough into 12 pieces of equal width.
    Arrange the cut rolls in the prepared baking dish spacing them ½-inch apart.

Give the Rolls a Second Rise

  • Cover the baking dish with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and put it in a warm, draft-free area of your kitchen.
    Allow the rolls to rise for 30 to 45 minutes or until slightly puffy. The rolls will not double in size as the ball of dough did earlier.

Bake the Apple Cinnamon Rolls

  • Fifteen minutes before the end of the second rising time, preheat your oven to 350°F (177° C).
    Uncover, then bake the cinnamon rolls for 30 to 45 minutes or until they are a deep golden brown and bubbly.
    If you find that the rolls are browning too fast, rotate the pan or lightly cover the baking dish with aluminum foil. The fully baked apple cinnamon rolls should not look wet or doughy when you remove them from the oven.
    Once the rolls are finished baking, remove them from the oven and cool in the pan slightly.

Make the Apple Butter Glaze

  • Add the cream cheese, cinnamon, ginger, and salt to a small mixing bowl.
    Use a hand mixer at low speed to blend the cream cheese and spices together in the bowl until combined.
  • After the ingredients are combined, add the powdered sugar to the bowl.
    Blend the sugar together with the cream cheese on low speed until combined. Once combined, increase the mixer’s speed to medium-high and beat the cream cheese and sugar until thick.
  • Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beater. Next, add the apple butter to the bowl.
    With the mixer at low speed, blend the apple butter into the cream cheese sugar mixture until smooth. If the glaze is too runny, chill it in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes to thicken the cream cheese up a bit.
    The water in and the texture of the apple butter might cause the glaze to appear slightly grainy. This is normal and will not affect the texture or taste of the apple butter glaze.

Cool, then Glaze the Apple Cinnamon Rolls

  • After the apple cinnamon rolls are baked, allow them to cool on the counter for 15 minutes before topping them with the apple butter glaze. 
  • If you prefer a thin glaze, after 15 minutes use an offset spatula to spread the glaze over the apple cinnamon rolls.
    For a slightly thicker glaze, wait 20 minutes or until the rolls are completely cool before spreading the glaze over them.
  • Enjoy the baked Apple Cinnamon Rolls within 2 days.

Notes

Swaps and Substitutions:

  • If you can't get or make apple butter, simmer jarred or homemade applesauce in a saucepan over medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes. This will help thicken it to the consistency of apple butter.
  • You replace the active dry yeast in this recipe with instant yeast, but you do not need to warm it or bloom it in the milk. Just add it to the mixing bowl with the first quantity of flour. 
  • If you don't have an apple corer, cut the apples into quarters and use a paring knife to carve out the core. Don't forget to remove the dried areas where the stalk and calyx of the apple are.
  • If you don't want to top the rolls with the Apple Butter Glaze, try these recipes instead:
  •  

Make Ahead Instructions:

  • For the Cinnamon Schmear:
    1. Prepare the cinnamon sugar schmear 2-3 days ahead.
    2. Transfer the schmear to a covered container and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. 
    3. Remove the schmear from the refrigerator when you begin proofing the apple cinnamon roll dough to give it time to warm and soften. This makes spreading easier. 
  • To Freeze Unbaked Rolls:
    1. Arrange the cut rolls in a lightly greased freezer-safe dish.
    2. Wrap the dish well to prevent freezer burn and freeze the rolls for up to 2 months.
    3. When you're ready to bake the rolls, thaw them in the refrigerator for 24 hours or until completely thawed.
    4. Once thawed, remove the rolls from the fridge and allow them to proof or rise a second time for 1-1 1/2 hours in a warm area. Rolls that have been frozen before baking will not rise as high as freshly made rolls.
  • Make Ahead Apple Butter Glaze:
    1. The apple butter glaze can be prepared a week ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 
    2. Remove the apple butter glaze from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before spreading it on the apple cinnamon rolls to give it time to warm up and soften, which makes spreading easier. Alternatively, you can warm the apple butter glaze slightly in a microwave for 20-30 seconds.
    3. Be sure to stir any glaze made ahead of time to smooth it out before using.
  • To Freeze Apple Butter Glaze:
    1. Transfer the prepared glaze to a freezer storage bag.
    2. Freeze the glaze for up to 2 months.
    3. Thaw the apple butter glaze in the refrigerator when you're ready to use the glaze (it probably will not have frozen solid).
    4.  Stir the glaze thoroughly before using it. 
  • To Freeze Baked Apple Cinnamon Rolls:
    1. Wrap the rolls in a freezer-safe dish or transfer them to a gallon-size freezer storage bag.
    2. Freeze the rolls glazed or unglazed for up to two months.
    3. Thaw the frozen rolls at room temperature before reheating slightly in the microwave just before serving.

Storage Instructions:

  • Store the baked rolls at room temperature for 2 days. Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap or foil to protect the rolls from drying out.
  • You can also store the apple cinnamon rolls in a covered baking dish in the refrigerator for 3 days. However, I don't recommend storing baked goods in the refrigerator because the cold air causes the rolls to stale faster.
  • Reheat leftover apple cinnamon rolls in the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds on high.
  • You can also reheat leftover rolls in an air fryer. Preheat your air fryer to 350°F (149°C) on the toaster oven setting. Add the apple cinnamon rolls to the rack and heat them until warmed through or for 1 minute or less. It's best to use the air fryer only if you have un-glazed rolls. 

Nutrition

Calories: 965kcal | Carbohydrates: 173g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 81mg | Sodium: 248mg | Potassium: 275mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 84g | Vitamin A: 825IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 103mg | Iron: 6mg