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Apples are like a blank canvas. They can be sweet or tart. They can be crisp or savory. Apples connect us to our heritage—who doesn’t know the Johnny Appleseed story?—yet are a modern trend too (note the increased interest in alcoholic sparkling ciders). Apples are as patriotic as a food can be: they go in apple pie and provide us with close family activities too, like the annual apple pressing.
We tuck apples into sweets like candied apples, apple tarts, and applesauce. We spice them up in recipes like spiced crabapples and apple butter or even rosehip-apple butter. Apples add a little something extra to savory dishes too like the delicious apple-turkey casserole my mother made every year with leftover Thanksgiving turkey.
Apples sing when combined with cinnamon and other warm spices, rum or brandy, and nuts. So I decided to use them all and update my old cinnamon roll recipe. I used two old-fashioned apple varieties, Golden Delicious and Jonathan, but any apples would work in this recipe. Personally I would avoid extremely sweet apples like Fujis or Honeycrisp, but I that’s because I prefer less sweet cinnamon rolls. That’s also why this recipe avoids the traditional frosting and uses a caramel drizzle instead.
For the Sweet Rolls
• 1 cup lukewarm milk
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 tbsp instant dry yeast
• 2 eggs, room temperature
• 3 Tbsp butter, melted
• 1 tsp salt
• 4 1/2 to 5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
For the Spiced Apple Rum Filling
• 2/3 cup brown sugar
• 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• 1 tsp ground allspice
• 1/2 tsp ground cloves
• 2 tbsp butter
• 1–2 tbsp dark rum or brandy
• 2 large apples, cored and diced
• 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
For the Caramel Icing
• 1/4 cup brown sugar
• 1/2 cup powdered sugar
• 1 tbsp butter
• 1 1/2 tbsp milk
Making The Sweet Dough
1. In a stand mixer or large bowl, combine milk, sugar and yeast. Let sit until foamy—about 5 minutes.
2. Add eggs, salt and melted butter. Beat to mix. Add flour, one cup at a time, until dough holds together.
3. Knead dough 4-8 minutes or until shiny and smooth.
4. Place in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise 1 1/2 hours.
5. Gently deflate the dough and turn out onto a floured surface.
6. Roll into a 13-by-15-inch rectangle.
Making The Apple-Rum Filling
1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat.
2. Add the rum or brandy and stir to combine.
3. In a small bowl combine the spices and brown sugar.
Making the Spiced Apple Rum Rolls
1. Brush the butter-rum over the rolled out dough.
2. Sprinkle with the sugar-spices mix.
3. Sprinkle the diced apples and nuts over the sugar mix.
4. Starting at the short end, roll the dough up tightly, like a jelly roll.
5. Cut the roll into 12 equal sized rolls.
5. Place in a greased 9-by-13-inch pan.
6. Cover and let rise another 1/2 hour.
7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
8. Remove the cover from the rolls and bake for about 35 minutes, or until rolls are slightly brown and cooked through.
9. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 5 minutes.
10. Turn rolls out onto a cooling rack and cool completely—or as long as you can stand it!
Making the Caramel Icing
1. In a small saucepan, bring the butter, milk and brown sugar to a boil.
2. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Beat in the powdered sugar.
3. Drizzle icing over the cooled rolls.
Since these rolls are not too sweet, they make a wonderful breakfast, brunch or late afternoon snack. Enjoy with a cup of tea.
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