Apple Butter Cinnamon Rolls with Caramel Frosting
We all love a classic cinnamon bun. The light, fluffy dough with a rich creamy frosting... it's a fan favorite around here.
We also love fall flavors, and one that my kids can't seem to get enough of is anything APPLE. Especially homemade apple butter. We were chatting one night about breakfast for school mornings and cinnamon buns made their way into the conversation - but so did apple butter with croissants.
And then I got an idea. What if, instead of cinnamon, brown sugar, and butter inside of cinnamon buns, if we used apple butter?
It was a homerun.
The secret to light, fluffy cinnamon buns can be found here, so start with that dough. For an added layer of apple flavor, I chopped up Honeycrisp apples into small pieces and sprinkled them on top of the apple butter so they are baked into the rolls. The key to perfect cinnamon rolls is to use a combination of all-purpose flour and bread flour. It gives the dough the perfect texture. Making the day before makes a huge difference in the texture, too. Giving the dough extra time to rise in the fridge overnight keeps the rolls light and fluffy.
Apple Butter Cinnamon Rolls
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
3 Cups Bread Flour
2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
1/2 brown sugar
1 1/4 cup whole milk, warmed
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
2 Large eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
Apple Butter (we use this recipe!)
Approximately 1 cup diced Honeycrisp apples
1/2 cup whipped cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla paste
3 cup powdered sugar
3-4 Tbsp heavy cream
3 Tbsp soft butter
1/4 cup caramel sauce, or to taste
Combine yeast, 1 Tbsp brown sugar, and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Gently stir together and let sit for 10 minutes for the yeast to activate. Wait for it to get nice and foamy!
In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the butter and milk. About 30 seconds - so it doesn't get too hot. Stir until the butter is completely melted.
Add the butter and milk to the yeast mixture. Using the dough hook, slightly mix together. Add eggs and mix at a low speed.
Slowly add the dry ingredients - AP flour, bread flour, brown sugar, sea salt, and cinnamon - to the wet ingredients. Mix on low-medium speed until the dough ball forms.
Put the dough ball in a greased bowl and cover. Set the bowl in the oven with the light on for 2 hours, until the dough has more than doubled in size.
Once the dough has doubled (or more) in size, gently roll out onto a floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle, approximately 1/4" thick. Don't make it too thin or it will be difficult to roll up.
Using a silicone pastry brush (or basting brush), spread the apple butter filling in an even layer across the whole rectangle. Leave a 1" border on the edges, so rolling is easier.
Roll tightly (long-ways) and cut into 1" slices using a scraper/chopper.
Place each roll into a greased baking dish and cover. Set in the fridge overnight. The buns will rise once again. I pack the rolls into the dish tightly, but you can leave space for them to expand.
When you are ready to bake, take the rolls out of the fridge and uncover them for about 1 hour before it's time to cook.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush with melted butter and bake for 25 minutes.
While the cinnamon rolls are baking, it's time to make the frosting. In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese. When it's light and airy, add in heavy cream, caramel sauce, and vanilla paste. Mix on low.
Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time until the frosting is the right consistency. This is a thicker frosting, not a thin icing.
While the cinnamon buns are still hot, use a spatula cover with frosting. Dig in while they're still warm!