Easy, Soft Apple Cinnamon Rolls

if you thought cinnamon rolls couldn’t get any better, you need to try these apple cinnamon rolls. This unique apple pie twist elevates this timeless dessert like you never could have imagined. you’ll never want to go back to regular old cinnamon rolls again!

Two of my favorite desserts in the world are cinnamon rolls and any dessert that follows the world apple – pies, strudel, cobbler, crisp, cake, you name it! So naturally, I figured why not combine the two. This one was the result of a hankering for soft, cushy cinnamon rolls and apples lying in my fridge.

These rolls will invariably leave everyone dying for more! They’re pillowy soft and so tender to bite into. The apple mix inside adds texture and elevates the flavor of a simple cinnamon mixture. So, without wasting anymore time, let’s get talking apple cinnamon rolls!

Dough Notes

After making this over a hundred times, I’ve simplified the process as much as possible. These will be the easiest cinnamon rolls you can will ever make, from scratch! There are a few important steps and pieces of information you should keep in mind before you proceed though.

What kind of yeast to use?

I used active dry yeast here, but instant yeast will work just fine. My yeast was newly bought so I knew it’s still alive. However, if you’ve had your yeast for a while, it’s worth checking to make sure.

To check if your yeast is alive, take half the water and a tablespoon of the sugar used to make the dough. Heat the water till it’s lukewarm and the sugar dissolves, then add your yeast to it. Wait 5-10 minutes, until you start seeing bubbles on the surface of the water. Then you know your yeast is alive. Don’t use hot water as it might kill the yeast, and cold water will not activate the yeast. So it’s important to make sure your water is lukewarm to touch. Then continue with the rest of the recipe using the remaining water and sugar.

Which type of milk to use?

As for the milk, I use lactose-free whole milk. However, you can use the regular kind, part-skim or skim, or even non-dairy. Whole milk does yield a slightly richer flavor. However, in all honesty, the difference if you substitute with other milks is hardly noticable.

What should your dough feel and look like?

Cinnamon roll dough should be slightly sticky and soft. This will give you softer, fluffier rolls once you bake them. Once it roughly comes together after baking, it’s important to knead the dough for about 5-10 minutes on a lightly floured surface, till you see no unmixed flour and all the ingredients look very homogenously mixed. Don’t add too much flour because you want the dough to stay soft and slightly sticky. Watch the video below to get an idea of how to knead cinnamon roll dough.

Once the dough has roughly come together, drop onto floured surface.

Knead for a good 10 min, folding the dough over itself and stretching it out.

How to proof doughs?

You’ll often hear recipes call for proofing at room temperature. This is misleading because room temperature differs from place to place.

If you live in a hot country or during the summers, your room temperature will be warm. You can easily leave your dough to proof on the counter top, tightly covered so it’s not exposed to draft.

If you live in cold climates, or during the winter months, or if you’d just like to speed up the proofing process, a great place to proof your dough is inside a closed oven, with only the light turned on and the door shut. The light alone will heat up the oven to create the perfect temperature for an ideal rise. Turn the light on before you start making the dough so the oven is pre-warmed nicely.

This recipe calls for two rises. The first rise is a short rise in a warm environment for at least 30 minutes, but ideally an hour or longer. You can even push it down to 10 min if you manage to create a warm and humid environment. When I’m short on time, I usually place the dough in a closed oven with the light on. In the mean time, I can work on my filling and the dough should be proofed enough by the time I’m done.

The second rise is after you assemble the rolls and place them on your baking sheet. This is a longer rise for at least an hour in a warm environment, but ideally overnight in the fridge. Whenever proofing for a long time, like overnight, proof in the fridge as this controls how much the dough expands. Once, I let my rolls rise in a warm environment for half the day, and they had proofed so much that they had merged into one giant dough. So don’t make that mistake after all that hard work!

Second rise in action – watch the dough double in size!

Rolling your dough

The trick to getting good, uniform rolls is the way you roll your dough out. I like to pat and press my dough out into a square shape. Then, start making indentations for an easier roll. Start to roll side to side and up and down to try and get a rectangle shape. I roll mine out to a quarter of an inch thick, but you know what, you’re the boss of your own rolls so roll it a bit thicker if you wish.

Don’t be afraid to pull the dough gently from the edges to get a nice rectangle shape.

After placing your fillings onto the dough, it’s important to roll tightly. With each roll, gently pull back with your fingers to tighten each roll.

Can these be frozen?

Cinnamon rolls can be par-baked and frozen for up to 2 months. After you form the rolls, let them rise in a warm environment for an hour. Then, bake at 360F (180C) for 8-10 min or till they set, but not brown. Then let cool and cover tightly with plastic wrap, place in freezer for 2 months.

Whenever you’re craving a cinnamon roll, bake from frozen for up to 15 minutes or till they look golden brown. Or let them thaw overnight in the fridge and then bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Filling Notes

What kind of apples do I use?

You want apples to be the star of your apple cinnamon rolls! I opt for sweet, soft apples, like McIntosh or Gala. They break down easily as you cook them and get mushy so they can be spread easily on the dough.

Regardless, if you simply prefer tart apples in with your sweet cinnamon rolls, that’s a great contrast too and adds another flavor layer to these rolls. Opt for any apple you like, really! Just chop your apples very small if you’re using ones that are firmer and hold their shape while cooking. Otherwise, it will be difficult to roll your dough without tearing or piercing it.

The cinnamon roll filling

We don’t have as much cinnamon sugar filling as you’d find in regular cinnamon rolls. This is because we already get much of that sweet caramel coming in with the apple filling. You can choose to omit it completely if it’s feels too sweet to you. But in my experience, cinnamon rolls are best when they’re warm and sugary.

So, now that you know everything there is to know about these to-die-for apple cinnamon rolls, don’t waste a second more and get baking!

If you tried out this recipe, I’d love to know how it turned out! Post in the comments below or share a picture on instagram or twitter with the hashtag #hungrybyayesha

Ayesha Bilal
Ayesha Bilal

A 25 year expat, living currently in Turkey, and living my happiest life exploring the world, bit by bit, with my favorite travel buddy, and my partner, Argun. Follow my travel across England on FellowPrimo, and check out delicious recipes and the best spots to grab a bite around the world.

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