Today was the one year anniversary of my first day in my position at work. To celebrate I wanted to make something sweet that I could bring into the office to share. I had a few ideas going on in my head about what I could do. Then somehow I ended up circling back to either apple-cinnamon or caramel-apple something. Then I thought, how could you add apple and caramel to cinnamon rolls? This was an experiment, but I'm happy to say that they turned out really well and they were a hit among everybody at the office.
They're basically your standard cinnamon rolls only diced apples instead of where you might find nuts or raisins then drizzled with a buttery caramel sauce and traditional cream cheese icing. I wanted to do a criss-cross design of both sauces running against each other. Not only does it make an appealing look but it allows you the opportunity to use sparing amounts. There isn't a lot of sugar in the dough itself so most of the sweetness comes from the filling and the sauces. I added more milk to the cream cheese icing to make it thinner than usual to resemble the consistency of the caramel.
I'm not going to lie, this is an intermediate level recipe and it requires patience. There isn't much manual labour but you do need to let the dough rise twice before you bake the rolls. All that patience will be rewarded with a fluffy, light texture.
1 8-gram package of yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup scalded milk
1/4 cup sugar + 1 tsp
1/3 unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp salt
1 large egg
4 cups all-purpose flour + more for dusting
1 stick butter, melted (1/2 cup) + 1 tbsp or so to grease the pan
3/4 cup dark brown sugar + 1 tbsp or so to sprinkle in the pan
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 apples, peeled and finely diced (preferably one sour and one sweet)
1 cup white sugar
3/4 stick unsalted butter (6 tbsp)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup whipping or heavy cream
Cream Cheese Icing:
1/2 cup cream cheese, room temperature
2 1/4 cup powdered sugar (sifted)
2-3 tbsp milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 F/177 C.
In a small bowl, dissolve the package of yeast and 1 tsp of sugar in warm water. If the water is too hot it will kill the yeast. If it's not hot enough it won't activate. Ideally you're looking at about 43 C/110 F or very warm but comfortable to the touch. Allow the yeast to proof while you combine the scalded milk, sugar, melted butter, salt and egg in a large bowl until incorporated. Be careful not to scramble the egg. Gradually incorporate 2 cups of flour until smooth. Add the yeast mixture and gradually incorporate 1.5-2 additional cups of flour.
Lightly flour a clean surface area and turn your dough out onto it. Knead well for 5 to 10 minutes or until smooth and tough. Place in a well greased bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm, draft-free place for an hour to an hour and a half or until about doubled in size.
Punch down the dough and roll it out onto a lightly floured surface area. Roll out to a 15 x 9" rectangle. Brush all over with melted butter. Combine the dark brown sugar and cinnamon then sprinkle all over the dough. Peel and finely dice 2 apples and sprinkle them evenly over the butter/sugar mixture.
Beginning on the longer side, firmly (but not too tight) roll up the dough and pinch the edges all along to seal. Cut into 12-15 slices. I somehow ended up with 13 so 2 pieces were smaller than the rest. My bad. lol
Grease a baking pan with butter and lightly sprinkle with dark brown sugar. Arrange the rolls close together in the pan. Cover with a damp towel and leave in a warm, draft free place for 30-45 minutes or until about doubled in size again.
Remove the towel and place the pan in a preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
For the Caramel Sauce:
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt 1 cup white sugar. Do not stir or touch it. Let it naturally run its course. After about 3 minutes the edges will turn brown. Using a heat-resistant spatula, pull the melted sugar toward the center until it has completely melted and turns a deep amber colour (about another 3 minutes). Immediately whisk in the butter, salt and vanilla extract (be careful as the sugar will bubble and be dangerously hot). Finally whisk in the cream and pour into a heatproof container to cool. Any excess can be reserved in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
For the Cream Cheese Icing:
Beat the powdered sugar gradually into the cream cheese until the mixture is light and creamy. Gradually beat in the milk and vanilla extract on medium speed until well combined. Adjust the consistency if necessary by adding a little more milk to thin it or a little more powdered sugar to thicken.
When the rolls have cooled slightly turn them out onto a new pan and again onto another to make them right side up again. Starting with the caramel sauce drizzle in a diagonal pattern. Then do the same with the cream cheese icing in the opposite direction. Don't be afraid to get a little messy. If some of the sauces drip down the sides, even better!
Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Allow them to cool before placing in an airtight container. Consume preferably within a day, no more than two.