Soft, fluffy cinnamon rolls stuffed with brown sugar & apples, and generously glazed with homemade caramel.
For the Dough
- 1 package active dry yeast (I prefer Red Star Platinum)
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1/2 cup apple juice or apple cider
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3 – 3.5 cups all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
For the Filling
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 2 medium sized apples, peeled, cored, & thinly sliced (about 1.5 cups)
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
For the Caramel Sauce
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 2 and 1/2 Tablespoons heavy cream (no substitutions)
- Make the dough: Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water for about 1 minute. No need to use a thermometer for the water’s temperature, but to be precise: about 105°F (41°C)-115°F (46°C). Stir the yeast/water around. Then add apple juice, sugar, salt, egg, vanilla extract, butter, and 1.5 cups of flour. Beat everything together on low with a handheld mixer, scraping down the sides as needed. (A mixer is definitely needed to break up all the butter and beat everything to the proper consistency.) With a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough easy to handle – about 1.5 – 2 more cups. You are looking for a dough that is not sticky and will spring back when poked with a finger.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it with your hands for about 5-6 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly greased bowl. Cover the dough and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1.5 hours.
- Line the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish with parchment paper, leaving room on the sides. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and, using a rolling pin, roll into a 15×9 inch rectangle. I used a ruler for accuracy. Make sure the dough is smooth and evenly thick, even at the corners.
- For the filling: As the dough is rising, melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a saucepan. Add the thinly sliced apples and cook down for about 20 minutes until the apples are very soft. Drain the apples from the butter and juices and place into a small bowl. Stick the apples in the refrigerator to cool down. In another small bowl, mix together brown sugar and cinnamon. Spread the dough rectangle with 2 Tablespoons of softened butter and sprinkle with 1/2 of the cinnamon/brown sugar. Line the apples on top of the cinnamon/brown sugar then sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon/brown sugar. Tightly roll up the dough and cut into 15 even rolls (1 inch in width each) with a very sharp knife. Arrange them in the prepared baking pan, cut sides up. Cover the rolls and let them rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes – 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (191°C). Cover the rolls with aluminum foil and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until they are lightly golden in color. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for about 15 minutes.
- Make the caramel sauce: Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Once melted, add brown sugar and heavy cream. Stir constantly over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Allow to bubble for 3-4 full minutes, no more. Remove from heat pour over cinnamon rolls before serving. Caramel sauce will thicken up at room temperature or if cold. You’ll have to warm it back up to pour over rolls. Baked rolls can be frozen up to 1 month (without sauce) and warmed up to enjoy at a later date.
- Overnight Instructions: The dough may be made the night before through step 4. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, remove from the refrigerator and let rise, about 1 hour.
- Reference my Baking with Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.
Keywords: caramel apple cinnamon rolls