Apple Cinnamon Rolls

Over the weekend, I had my first attempt at dairy-free anpan (a Japanese bun filled with red-bean). It wasn’t great, so I’m going to attempt to do better.

But we need to go back to go forward. I thought I had posted this earlier, but I guess I hadn’t. It all started because I was reading a reddit thread where people were talking about how amazing Cinnabon is. Suddenly, I had a huge craving for cinnamon, and nothing goes with cinnamon like apple does.

Here’s the recipe I started with:

The first time I made it, I found the bread a bit bready. Which isn’t a bad thing, but what I was fantasising about was warm, soft, sticky buns, straight out of the oven. Key component being soft buns. What I had was about the softness of sliced bread – which is still soft, but not as soft as I was after! The benefits of making your own bread is that you can modify the recipe however you like! A bit of Googling and I discovered the tangzhong method, a technique used in Asian cooking for making soft, fluffy bread. It involves taking some of the flour for the bread, and making a roux with it, before mixing it in.


1 package active dry yeast (I think mine has 7g of yeast in it, I don’t know if that’s what they all have)
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup apple juice or apple cider
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg (I used one egg worth of no-egg egg replacement powder)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature (I used Nuttelex buttery instead, so I assume any kind of margarine can substitute)
3 – 3.5 cups all-purpose flour (measured correctly)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature (again, Nuttelex / margarine can be used here)
2 medium sized apples, peeled, cored, & thinly sliced (about 1.5 cups)
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar (the original recipe has 1 cup, but I think that’s a bit much)
2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
The original author also added a caramel sauce on top, but I think it’s sweet enough without.


1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Important: The post says 105-115F degrees. Hot-to-the-touch / boiling water is bad. You will kill your yeast – which is what I did the first time because I thought it was 100 degrees Celcius! I tend to consider warm as water where you touch it and think it’s slightly above not-warm. That sound stupid. I don’t know how to describe it.

2. While the yeast is warming up, in a small saucepan, mix 1/4 cup of the flour with 1 1/4 cups of water. Heat over low heat, whisking, until it becomes a paste – running your whisk in the mixture should leave lines. Allow to cool to room temp. This is the tangzhong.

3. In a large bowl, mix the apple juice, sugar, salt, egg, vanilla, margarine, 1.5 cups of the flour, and the yeasty water. You can use an electric mixer, but I don’t think it’s required, and I’m all for washing less stuff at the end. Mix until well combined. Add the tangzhong.

4. Slowly add the remaining flour, starting with half a cup at a time, and adding less each time, until you get dough that’s not sticky and springs back when you poke it. Knead for 5-6 minutes. Cover it and let it sit in a warm place for about 1.5 hours. I like to turn my oven on to 200 degrees Celcius for a couple of minutes, then turn it off and leave the dough in there.

6. While the dough is proofing, melt the 2 tablespoons of margarine in a saucepan. Add the apples and cook over a medium heat until the apples get really soft. Drain the liquid and allow to cool in the fridge (you want it to dry a bit).

7. Grease your baking pan / line with baking paper. I used a roasting pan, but the original recipe says a 9 x 13 inch pan.

8. Once the dough has doubled in size, lightly flour a pastry mat / other clean, flat surface and roll the dough out into a rectangle. The original recipe suggests a 15 x 9 rectangle, but I roll until I get it about 1.5cm thick.

9. Mix the cinnamon and brown sugar in a bowl. Sprinkle half the cinnasugar mix on to the rectangle. Then make a layer with the apples. Then cover with the rest of the cinnasugar mix. Roll it up, starting from the long end. Cut into as many rolls as you’d like. I did 15 in the photo below.

10. Place the rolls into your baking pan. Allow to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes to an hour.

11. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celcius. Cover the tray with aluminium foil and bake for 25-30 minutes. It should be golden brown (this photo was taken from a different batch – that’s why the number of rolls is different. They do not magically multiply while in the oven!).

12. Allow to cool in the pan for a couple of minutes while you gently cut them. This isn’t in the original recipe, but I do this because this gives it time to absorb some of that yummy apple, cinnamon, sugar liquid that’ll be on the bottom of the pan. Remove them from the pan and cool on a cooling rack. Flip them upside down, so the side that’s the top in the pan is now the bottom. They will have a nice sugary glaze on top (that’s why I don’t think the caramel sauce is necessary, but I’ll leave that up to you).

Om nom nom. Best eaten when warm – but don’t burn yourself eating one straight out of the oven! And because of the tangzhong, it doesn’t go stale as quickly, so you can enjoy them over a few days.

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