These apple-filled cinnamon rolls starts with a light and fluffy homemade brioche. They're then packed with oodles of cinnamon-spiced apples, baked into soft spirals, and finally finished with tangy cream cheese glaze!
7cupschopped apples(6-9 apples depending on size, peeled and cut into ¼" cubes)
FOR THE DOUGH:
2 ½teaspoons(one 7g packet) active dry yeast*2
2large eggs*3(room temperature)
4 ½cupsall-purpose flour
¾cup(1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter(very softened, cut into tablespoon chunks)
FOR THE CINNAMON + SUGAR:
FOR THE GLAZE:
2tablespoons(¼ stick) unsalted butter(softened)
¼cup(2 ounces; ¼ brick) Philadelphia Original Cream Cheese(softened)
1 ⅓cupspowdered sugar(sifted)
2tablespoonsmilk, half and half, or cream
TO MAKE THE FILLING:
Mix dries: stir together the sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt for the apple filling in a small bowl.
Melt butter: melt ¼ cup butter in a medium-sized non-stick pan over medium heat.
Cook apples until tender: add the dry mixture, lemon juice, and apples to the melted butter and stir until combined. Continue to cook on medium-low until apples start to soften, about 12-14 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning. When ready, the apples will have released some of their juices, which will have formed a thick, tacky caramel.
Cool while preparing the dough: once softened, transfer apples to a bowl and place in the freezer for at least 45 minutes (ideally an hour+) to cool before assembling your rolls. To help the filling cool evenly, stir the apples briefly about every 15 minutes until the mixture is room temperature or a little cooler. Once cooled, simply leave the filling on the counter until it’s time to assemble the rolls.*4
TO MAKE THE DOUGH:
Combine yeast and water: stir together yeast and lukewarm water in the bottom of stand mixer’s bowl (a hand mixer won’t work for this dough).*5 Allow to sit for 5 minutes while you measure out remaining ingredients (this helps the yeast start to activate and dissolve).
Stir in eggs: after the 5 minutes is up, add the eggs to your bowl and blend with the water/yeast mixture.
Add dries and butter, then mix on low to combine: add dry ingredients and soft butter cut into tablespoons into your mixer bowl. Using a dough hook, run mixer on the lowest setting (usually “stir”) until all ingredients are roughly combined, scraping bowl as needed to help any dry pockets blend in (about 1-2 minutes).*6
“Knead” on medium-low speed until elastic: with mixer on 2/10, allow the dough to mix for 2 minutes so it can start forming into a single, sticky mass. After that, raise the speed to 3 or 4/10 (no higher than 4/10)*7 and allow dough to mix for 8-10 minutes, checking it often. You’ll know it’s ready when it has formed into a single smooth mass, and it springs back with a little elasticity when you pull on it. When ready, you should be able to stretch it into a thin “window pane” (see photos in post for more detail!).*8
Allow dough to rise: remove dough from mixing bowl and form loosely into a ball. Lightly grease mixing bowl with baking spray, then drop dough back into bowl, rolling it around to lightly grease it on all sides (this prevents a skin from forming). Loosely cover bowl with a dish towel or plastic wrap (that’s not sealed), and allow dough to rise in a warm place for about 1 ½ hours until doubled in size, soft, and very puffy. When it’s ready, an indent should remain with no bounce back when you press your finger gently into the dough (see photos in post for more detail!).
TO ASSEMBLE THE ROLLS:
Make cinnamon + sugar: stir the 2 tsp cinnamon and ¼ cup sugar together in a small bowl and set aside.
Knock it down and roll it out: working on a lightly floured surface, dump your risen dough out onto your surface, then press it down with your hands to deflate it and release the gases. Re-flour your surface as needed and roll dough into a 12” wide by 18” long rectangle.
Add filling: spread cool apple filling evenly over the surface of your dough, but leave a ½” border along one long edge to use as a seal. Then, sprinkle cinnamon and sugar evenly overtop the apple filling, again avoiding the clean seal edge.
Roll it up: starting with the long edge opposite of your clean seal edge, carefully roll dough in a tight log from one end to the other (do your best to keep your roll tight, but know the dough will be very soft, so don’t worry if the roll isn’t perfect). Once your roll reaches the clean edge, use your fingers to firmly pinch the seam together and seal your log up well.
Slice off the rolls: using a sharp knife, and a “sawing” not “crushing” motion, gently slice off your rolls until you have 12 equal rolls, about 1.5” wide each.
Pan them up: space them out evenly in a lightly greased 9”x13” pan, arranged 3 by 4. (Don’t worry if the rolls aren’t touching - they’ll expand during both the rise and bake.)
Allow to rise again: place a lightly greased piece of plastic wrap loosely over your pan, not touching the rolls if possible, and allow the dough to rise about an hour in a warm place until the rolls are puffy, touching each other, and the dough again feels very soft and holds an indent when gently pressed. Near the end of the rise time, preheat oven to 350°F.
Bake ‘em: remove the plastic wrap and bake the buns on the middle rack of the oven for 30-35 minutes until they are a light golden brown.
Cool ‘em off a bit: once rolls are baked, allow them to cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 30 minutes while you prepare the icing.
TO MAKE THE GLAZE:
Combine butter and cream cheese: place softened butter and cream cheese in a medium-sized bowl. Mix together until smooth and fully combined by hand or with a hand mixer on low.
Mix in remaining ingredients: add in the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract, and blend until fully combined and smooth. The glaze should be fairly thick, but still just barely pourable.
Spread, slice and enjoy! Spread icing on warm (but not super hot) rolls, right in their pan. Then tear off a gooey apple roll and enjoy a perfectly warm and messy sweet mash-up!
Test Kitchen Tips
*1Lukewarm water: the best way to ensure the right temp of water is to use an instant-read thermometer (we’re going for 75-80°F in this recipe), but if you don’t have one available, simply use your best judgement to feel when the water is “lukewarm” but not “hot.”If the water is too hot or too cold, it will negatively effect the yeast and your rise.
*2Active dry yeast, not instant/rapid! For this recipe we want to use “active dry” yeast, bulk red yeast or bulk gold yeast, because they're all designed for the 2-rise process we’re using here. Rapid/Instant yeast is only designed to rise once, and likely will lead to a less risen, and less flavorful roll.
*3Room temperature egg hack: if you need to get your egg to room temp in a hurry, simply submerge it whole in a large container of warm water for 10-15 minutes until it’s warmed up and ready to go.
*4Filling temperature matters: we need the filling to be not too hot and not to cold when we go to assemble our rolls.If the filling is too hot, it'll melt the butter in your dough and your rolls will be difficult to handle and struggle to rise properly.If it’s too cold, it will have similar effect for different reasons.So aim for room temperature or a little cooler.
*5Not up for making the dough from scratch? If you’d really love to try this recipe, but homemade brioche dough is just a bit too intimidating, you can use this Hot Roll Mix as a relatively quick and easier alternative.If you’d like to use a refrigerated or frozen dough, you’re welcome to experiment, but I personally can’t recommend those here as they’ll vary greatly in flavor and performance, so I find it safer to stick with a scratch-based, predictable dough.
*6Kneading Options: I highly recommend using a stand mixer for this recipe as brioche is both very messy and rather difficult to make by hand unless you’re an experienced bread maker. But if you’d like to try it by hand, know you may need to knead the dough for 20+ minutes to reach full development. Alternatively, you can knead this dough in a bread machine. To make in a bread machine, “bloom” yeast by completing the first step, then add all remaining dough ingredients, including butter, to the mixing bin and run it on the “dough” cycle (not the bake).Once the dough cycle is complete, continue on with the recipe from assembly step 1.
*7Keep the mixer at 4/10 at the most! Don’t turn the mixer up past 4 or walk away from your dough for very long because it can over-mix very easily and there’s no going back from that unfortunately.
*8Sticky or Stiff Dough: if dough is extra sticky after 5 minutes of kneading, you can add flour, a tablespoon at a time, as needed. If it’s really dry and won’t grab the hook at all, you can splash water on it 1-2 teaspoons at a time, as needed, just until it gets a little tackiness to it. Just be careful not to overdo it with either addition and allow each addition to fully incorporate before adding another!
Storage: be sure to store these rolls in the fridge due to all their fruit, and feel free to reheat a roll in the microwave for about 30 second before enjoying. They will keep stored air-tight for 3-4 days in the fridge.
⭐ Did you bake up this tasty recipe? ⭐Please give it a ⭐ rating in the recipe card or leave a comment at the bottom of the page to help others find this sweet recipe - I'd so appreciate it! Xo, Jocelyn