After years of trial and error succeeding, failing, succeeding just a bit more, and then thinking that I had attained the most flawless recipe for an unforgettable cinnamon roll dough, I’ve finally landed on the the one. Greg, my husband, as well as my two and five-year old daughters, proclaimed in a heartbeat that this is perhaps the best cinnamon roll they’ve ever had. To be fair though, the three of them enjoyed the cream cheese glaze much more—a copycat of Cinnabon’s highly acclaimed icing—over the toasted meringue.
My family has always had a penchant for the nostalgic chain’s version because after all, let’s face it, they are America’s pioneer for this age-old treat. I, on the other hand, love to venture out from classic recipes every now and then because of my curious palate. Some may say that a good classic needs to be left untouched, unscathed. And while I do concur for many recipes, in this case, I think the addition of apples makes this glutinous treat that much better.
I will be sharing the recipe for both the toasted meringue as well as the cream cheese glaze. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to photography the cream cheese version for you. But trust me when I say that the latter rendition is every bit as good as Cinnabon’s quintessential glaze.
Fluffy Apple Cinnamon Rolls with Toasted Meringue
Makes about 10-12 cinnamon rolls
Ingredients for dough
3 3/4 cups bread flour
3 tsp active dry yeast+1/3 cup warm water+1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup salted butter, melted
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 large egg+1 egg white
1/2 cup warm milk
chopped pecans for topping
Ingredients for filling
1/4 cup salted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
1 large apple, chopped in small pieces
Mix yeast, water, tsp of sugar and let it sit for 5-10 minutes until it foams up.
With a dough hook and stand mixer, mix flour, dissolved yeast, 1/4 cup sugar, butter, cinnamon, milk, and eggs on medium speed. Then gradually increase to high speed. Continue kneading for about 6-8 minutes off and on, scraping the side if needed, until dough is really glutinous and elastic.
Form into a ball and leave it in the bowl. Cover with a damp towel and let it rise at room temperature for 1 hour.
Come back to it and tear off equal pieces. Knead it again with the dough hook attachment for another 3-5 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees.
Lightly flour a flat, cold surface and roll out the dough into a rectangle of about 1/8 inch in thickness. Make sure the dough’s longer sides are perpendicular to you when you roll it. This will make it easier to roll and cut later on. You may cut out any little corners that are uneven, if needed.
Brush with the softened butter all over. Sprinkle liberally with sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and chopped apple.
Roll the dough slowly towards yourself, making sure to tighten the dough and filling, little by little, so it stays compact. Cut into about 10-12 rolls. Place them on a lined baking pan or cast iron skillet at barely 1/4 inch apart and let them rise for about 15 minutes. Keeping them close together will ensure you can tear them apart later on and it will keep the bread moist.
Bake for approximately 20 minutes IF YOU’RE MAKING THE TOASTED MERINGUE (***See notes below***). IF YOU’RE SIMPLY GOING TO USE THE CREAM CHEESE GLAZE, THEN YOU NEED TO BAKE THEM FOR 30 MINUTES prior to glazing them!
If you so desire, sprinkle with chopped pecans after you’ve piped the meringue or glazed the cinnamon rolls.
Ingredients for toasted meringue
3 large egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/8 tsp vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cardamom (optional but recommended)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Make sure to use a mixing bowl that is completely clean! Wash every bit of oil or fatty substance and dry before using the bowl.
With a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foam starts to build. Gradually add the sugar and start increasing the speed to a high gradually until a loose meringue starts to form.
Add the vinegar or lemon, followed by cardamom and vanilla. Keep mixing until stiff peaks form. The acid in the meringue will stabilize and strengthen the meringue as it holds its shape. You will know it’s done when you lift the whisk and a bird’s beak-like shape forms just slightly.
***If you’re using the meringue instead of the cream cheese glaze, then MAKE SURE TO BAKE THE ROLLS ONLY FOR 20 MINUTES. Immediately take them out of the oven, pipe the meringue on top, and bake at 350 F degrees for an extra 10 minutes.
***If you’re using the glaze instead, then bake the entirety of 30 minutes and then glaze them once they’ve cooled down just a bit.
Ingredients for cream cheese glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups confectioner sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (also really good with coffee extract!)
1 tbsp milk
Simply beat all the ingredients until smooth and silky.