Fluffy and soft with a sticky gooey filling, these comforting caramel apple rolls are not only delicious but will fill your house with an irresistible scent.
I remember the first time I followed the smell of cinnamon rolls to a bakery and saw those giant sticky delights waiting just for me. It was true love.
All the years I spent making homemade cinnamon rolls, I was convinced there is no filling that could make me as happy as cinnamon and sugar. But that all changed once I tried these fluffy, soft, gooey, sweet, and slightly sour apple rolls that will fill your heart with warmth on a cold day. Or a warm day. Or any day actually.
There are a few steps you’ll need to follow before you get to enjoy these treats, but they’re all rather simple. I usually prefer to start making the rolls the night before; I put together the apple filling and the dough and let it rise in the fridge overnight. That takes away some of the work for the next day. In the morning I roll out the dough, spread the filling, shaping it into a log, cut it into 12 pieces, place in on the pan, let it rise again, and bake. Then I just have to wait patiently to eat them all.
To make the dough you just need to mix all the ingredients in your mixer bowl—first the dry ones, then the wet ones. I use instant yeast almost exclusively for all my recipes because I find it to be easier to use than either fresh or active yeast. No yeast proofing is required, just mix it with the rest of the ingredients.
For the filling you don’t actually need to make caramel. Instead, cook the apples with some butter and sugar and you’ve got this wonderful gooey filling. I like to use sour apples such as Granny Smith or a combination of sweet and sour. Other than the raisins (that you can choose to omit), you can add ½ cup nuts to the filling for some crunch.
- 1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
- ¼ cup (½ stick/55 g) unsalted butter, melted
- 3 ¼ cups (450 g/16 oz) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- ¼ cup (50 g/1.7 oz) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons (6 g) instant yeast
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 3 cups (450 g) apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into ¼-inch thick cubes (from 2½ large apples)
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ⅔ cup (140 g/5 oz) light brown sugar
- 1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
- pinch of salt
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
- 3 tablespoons (42 g/1.5 oz) unsalted butter
- ½ cup raisins, optional
- To make the dough: In a small saucepan (or using the microwave), heat milk and butter until melted and lukewarm to the touch (110F-115F, no more).
- Place flour, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer and mix to combine, then stir in salt. Add egg and milk-butter mixture. Attach dough hook and mix on low speed for 3 minutes, until dough starts to come together. If dough is too sticky and looks more like batter than dough, add a bit more flour, 2 tablespoons at a time (but don’t be tempted to add a lot, the dough should be rather soft). Increase mixer speed to medium-low and mix for another 10 minutes, until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl (it’s ok if it sticks to the bottom). Stop periodically to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm place for 1.5-2 hours, until doubled in size. Alternatively, you can refrigerate the dough overnight; it will rise slowly and be ready for the next step by morning.
- Meanwhile, make the apple filling: In a medium bowl, toss together apples and lemon juice. In another bowl, mix together sugar, flour, salt, and cinnamon, then add it to the apples and toss to combine. Add vanilla, and mix again.
- In a large heavy skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add apple mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender but not mushy and coated with a caramel-like sauce, about 8 minutes. Stir in raisins and remove from heat. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes (or, you can prepare it a day before and keep it in the fridge).
- Keep preparing the dough: When dough has doubled in size, gently punch it to remove air. Roll dough into an 18x10 inch (45x25 cm) rectangle. Spread apple filling evenly, leaving a small border around the edges of the long sides of the rectangle. Starting with the long edge, roll dough to form a log, and pinch to seal the seam.
- Cut into 12 equal size pieces and place cut side up on a greased 9x13-inch pan. Cover and let rest to rise for about 1-1¼ hours, until dough has almost filled the pan.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F/175C.
- Bake rolls in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until the tops have browned and a skewer inserted into the rolls comes out clean. If the rolls brown quickly while baking, cover them loosely with aluminum foil. Allow rolls to cool completely on a wire rack
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Rolls are best the same day they’re made. You can freeze any leftovers and rewarm them when ready to eat.