Since we went apple picking a few weeks ago, I have so many bags of frozen chopped and peeled bags of apples in my freezer. I knew that I wanted to start using them up, and what better way than to attempt to make some cinnamon rolls!
But not just any cinnamon rolls…caramel apple pecan cinnamon rolls. Ooey gooey, sticky, and so yummy.
I found this recipe from one of my new favorite baking blogs, Sally’s Baking Addiction, and I just modified the recipe so that I could use what I had on hand at the moment, and it turned out fantastic!
Caramel Apple Pecan Cinnamon Rolls (adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction)
For the dough:
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup apple juice or apple cider (I used water since I didn’t have either of these on hand)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3 – 3.5 cups all-purpose flour
For the filling:
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 medium sized apples, peeled, cored, & thinly sliced (about 1.5 cups)
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans
For the caramel sauce:
1/4 cup unsalted butter (or salted)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 and 1/2 Tablespoons milk
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 105-115F degrees. 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. 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 and chopped pecans. 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 375F degrees. 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 milk. 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