October 2, 2014

Apple Cinnamon Rolls + A few Apple Picking Photos

It all started with a trip to the Christmas tree farm, November 25 2012. I was feeling sentimental that year. I was missing my grandmother, feeling as though her/our holiday traditions were slipping away. So I decided to start my own holiday traditions one of which included making a double batch of boozy Christmas cake, and the other involved hiking through rows of pine trees, looking for the perfect Charlie brown replica to fit in our apartment, paying the man dressed as Santa to carry it back to our car while we drank apple cider from styrofoam cups. Only, the story went more like: Heather was jacked up on hormones and raging, got so mad at Brent because he was just not that into 'making traditions' and not committed enough to finding the perfect tree. I spent the next hour crying it out in the car. I mean, in the end it worked out, we got a tree, we drank cider, even though I am pretty sure it was the packaged variety evident by its sickly sweet and somewhat fake apple taste. We can now sit back and laugh about how crazy I was that Nov 25th afternoon. I've now started a new autumn tradition where I like to begin the season with a trip to an apple farm. I find it helps me get mentally prepared for autumn/fall/decorative gourd season (insert swear), and besides, it's a very Seattley thing to do, and now that we own a craftsman in Cap Hill, it's time to start fitting in with the locals. I should also mention that if you're looking for ways to fit in, or not fit in in Seattle, I highly suggest this read.

The best thing about fall is the beginning. The part when the weather has turned only slightly crisp, and you still have many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, drink beer by the fire, enjoy an occasional afternoon patio, and are not yet ready to throw-up at the site of anything pumpkin/spice/cinnamon related. Last weekend I went apple picking thinking that the air was going to be nice and crisp, the leaves would be falling off the trees, we'd all frolick in the leaves wearing our Hunter rain boots, and it would be magical. I wore what I thought was a seasonal (apple picking) outfit, a plaid flannel shirt, cords, and these cute short boots. And then fall decided to piss off for the day, the sun shone so bright, and the weather was mid summer hot. The leaves have barely started to fall off the trees, 2 hours north of Seattle. I should have been wearing shorts, a sun hat, sun screen, and a margarita, but instead I spent the afternoon dripping in sweat. Also, next year I will make an effort to avoid the apple-picking farm on a Sunday afternoon because it turns out that apple picking is a thing that small children like to do, and if you show up with your girlfriends looking for the spiked cider people are just going to look at you weird and really not appreciate the fact that you are just trying to enjoy your afternoon, in the fields, with a buzz.
Last weekend, we decided to stop at two apple farms, to try and maximize the apple picking options. The first farm had hundreds of jacked-up Honey Crisp apples. They weren't the type of honey crisp you would see in the store. Giant honey crisps on steroids. We didn't pick any because we were holding out for these exotic sounding heirloom varieties that we heard the second farm offered. We showed up to the second farm later in the afternoon and they had rows and rows of rotting apples. I guess we were two weeks too late this year? I did manage to find a tree that was covered with these tiny beautiful little Liberty apples, and I was so excited because the have they most delicate skin, fragrant flavor, and juicy flesh. I picked a bag, stems intact because it reminds me of how hardcore I was to traipse through the spider laden trees to get a bag of apples that I could have bought in the store 5 minutes from my house for half the price.

I've already made two apple crisps this season and a pie, so I was pretty keen on turning these apples into something other than pie/crisp/crumble. Cinnamon rolls. You really can't go wrong with making cinnamon rolls. Unless you over bake them, but I have put some detailed instructions in my recipe below to try and help you with that. I made these rolls for a get-together with friends. People seemed to love them. Brent was sad that he couldn't eat 5, for dinner. I mean, sometimes I wish I had his metabolism.  I've made this cinnamon roll recipe many times before. I shared it on my blog a few years back. This time I added cooked apples and it was a game changer. Cooking the apples beforehand gave them a nice soft texture similar to the apples in pie. They melted into the dough and became pockets of pure deliciousness. I am actually kinda sad that I didn't get to eat 5. They were pretty dang good.

photo credit: Genevieve Houdet-Cote

makes 15 rolls

 1 package (2 1/4 tsp) dry active yeast
1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1/4 cup warm water 110-115 ºF
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup bread flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1 tbsp vanilla
3/4 cup water

2 1/2 cups peeled apples, sliced
1 lemon, squeezed
1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed

8 oz cream cheese, room temp
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp (2% or whole) milk

Proof the yeast with 1/2 tsp sugar and 1/4 cup warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer. 

In a separate bowl, combine the all purpose flour, bread flour, 2 tbsp sugar, and salt.

In a separate bowl beat the egg, vanilla, and melted butter. Add to the yeast mixture, along with 3/4 cup of water. With the paddle attachment, mix on slow speed. 

Slowly add the flour mixture. Once all of the ingredients are combined, increase the speed to medium and continue to mix until the dough sticks to the sides of the bowl, approximately 3 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl and set onto a well floured surface. Cover your hands in flour and gently shape the dough into a ball. Place into a large well oiled bowl. Cover and set in a warm draft free area for 2 hours. Punch down the dough and then let it rise for 20 additional minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Move the oven shelfs, one to the middle and the other to the bottom. Fill a baking dish with water, half way, and place it on the bottom shelf.

Place the sliced apples into a medium saucepan with the juice from one lemon and 1/4 sugar. Heat on medium until the apples become soft. Drain and place in the fridge to cool.

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup white sugar, cinnamon, and flour. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly. This effect can also be achieved with a food processor. 

Place the dough onto a well-floured surface. With a generous amount of flour to prevent sticking, roll out the dough into a large rectangle. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture onto the dough, leaving a half inch gap along the top horizontal side of the dough.  Spread the apples over the cinnamon mixtures. Roll the dough into a tube shape, ending with the side with the 1/2 inch gap. With a very sharp knife, cut the dough into 15 slices. Place the flat sides down, into a 8 x 13" baking dish, or something similar. Let them rest, covered, for 10 minutes. 

Bake the cinnamon rolls on the middle shelf for 25 minutes. Begin to check the rolls at around 20 minutes. You do not want them to become too dark and hard. They should develop a nice light brown color, and the cinnamon sugar should start to bubble out of the tops. They should be soft to touch. Remove from the oven and let cool. 

While the buns are cooling, place the cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, and milk into the bowl of a stand mixer. With the whisk attachment, whisk until light and fluffy.

The cinnamon buns can be stored in the fridge covered for a couple of days. The buns are best eaten the day of.


  1. Making your own traditions is the best way to feel settled. I love the looks of these cinnamon rolls AND your trip! Definitely going to miss apple picking this year.

  2. Wow - I love the colours in these images. So beautiful & warm - if that makes sense?
    Love them!
    Hope you enjoyed apple picking!


  3. These photos are all so beautiful. Such a lovely story as well, I'm totally there with you with the whole making your own holiday traditions thing. Wish apple picking was a thing around here, but in the meantime, I'll drool over these beautiful photos and these amazing cinnamon rolls some more. :)

  4. Pesky children got some nerve raining on your lightly buzzed apple picking parade. I agree that early Fall is excellent when it's predominantly brisk. Surprise summer-ish weather just makes the vibe ambiguous. These photos though? Stunning all the way. Would kill for some melt-y ish apples in a cinnamon roll right now.

  5. these photos are totally gorgeous! i love the rows upon rows of apples you captured! and what's better than buns, especially with fresh picked apples in them!? so perfect in so many ways!

  6. I love the idea of apple cinnamon rolls! And I would have done exactly what you did, which is wear my ideal fall, apple picking outfit, not realizing that it's 80° out and I should be wearing a tank, shorts, and chucks instead. P.S. Your apple photos are so dreamy--they're making me want to pick some apples too!

  7. I also went cuckoo on my almost-husband last year while picking out the Christmas tree. I joined him and the "tree expert" about 5 minutes after we arrived, as he proclaimed that he'd already picked the one on his own. I had wanted us to traipse through the lot, hand in hand, to find the absolutely most perfect one. Must. have. traditions!

  8. These look to die for!! And despite the weather, you LOOK super cute in your autumn-y apple picking outfit!!

  9. wow! Buns with apples sounds so good! I am not friends with yeast dough, but I need to start somewhere. I think cinnamon buns are perfect for this)

  10. Those rolls look phenomenal! YUM
    I've been wanting to go apple picking. I missed my chance last year, and it sounds like I may have misse dmy chance this year---yikes!
    Also, that book (Where'd You Go Bernadette) looks hilarious, and as a former Floridian who is now a Seattleite, I feel I simply MUST read it!

  11. Your photos are gorgeous! I went to Gordon Skagit Farms last year and they had some really great apple and pumpkin picking. And also lots of squash to buy and some baked goods, honey and cider. It would definitely check it out...maybe next year for your new tradition!

  12. Such gorgeous photos!! I want to go apple picking and make a double batch of these cinnamon rolls! :)

  13. Gosh, do these apple cinnamon rolls look delicious! I bet I could eat 5; I would fight to have 5 of these.

  14. STUNNING photos. Can we go apple picking together, then eat all dem rolls, please? k thanks bye.

  15. These are just beautiful!! (Ahem, as per usual. :))

  16. Love your pictures! Really gorgeous post - I have to try this apple cinnamon rolls!

  17. These rolls sound so good! And I am super-jealous of your apple-picking abilities. We used to go to the orchard & cider mill in Michigan, for apples, cider, and hot doughnuts, all of which were eaten outside in the cold, but California just doesn't have either the weather or the available cider mills for such a thing.

  18. This looks amazing! I love any kind of cinnamon rolls, but when I make them they look hideous! I guess I should just keep trying!

  19. These photos are so beautiful. And I feel you on the traditions thing, Jeremy isn't super into all the holiday-y stuff but I just love it. Your apple-picking tradition sounds great, and holy crap those trees have SO MANY apples on them!! What a gorgeous day trip :)

  20. Yea!! A dietitian making cinnamon rolls, that's what I'm talking about! Love cinnamon rolls and I love this blog! I just found it from the best food blog awards!

  21. Such a great idea and they look delicious!

  22. Your photographs are amazing, I love the one with the apples in the white bag in the orchard, great light and colour. The cinnamon rolls look pretty fabulous too!

  23. Your photos are so lovely. On this and every other post I've read so far. I will be making these soon with my own apples from apple picking. So tasty!

  24. You're photos are absolutely stunning, what a magical post to read!

  25. Hi! Beautiful recipe, what are your thoughts on subbing milk for the water in the dough?