Soft, pillowy cinnamon roll dough is filled with brown sugar & apple cider, rolled up baked and doused in an apple cider caramel. Think of the most perfect cinnamon roll and add the tart flavor of cider and some deep caramel.
If there is any time of year to make a cinnamon roll even more indulgent, the holiday season is it. This recipe uses my latest dough recipe which uses both sour cream and the tangzhong method for the SOFTEST smooshiest rolls ever, has a brown butter apple cider filling (an ode to these bb cinnamon rolls) and is topped with apple cider caramel. You can make it either as a large cinnamon roll (as big as ya head as this favorite local restaurant calls ‘em, the inspiration behind this giant roll) or muffin shaped. If you use the cast iron you get crunchier edges which is a nice contrast. The muffin shapes are pillowy soft all around. Shape is your choice!
What is an apple cider reduction?
I’ve talked about this a lot here; basically it’s reduced fresh cider. Well what is cider? Fresh cider is unfiltered apple juice, available in the US during the fall. Don’t confuse it with apple cider vinegar or apple juice.
To get a ‘reduction’ or syrup as I like to call it, you simply boil down fresh cider to remove a lot of the water and concentrate the sugar. I started doing this when I couldn’t reliably find ‘boiled cider’. I like to add mulling spices as I boil it down because it flavors it so nicely but it’s up to you.
You can store it in a mason jar in the fridge and it’ll keep for weeks!
A water, milk and flour paste that’s made by cooking the three together until they become a paste. This is a chinese bread making method that has become widely used and is behind the famous Japanese milk bread. Making this roux or paste (or tangzhong) gelatinizes some of the flour starches which leads to a fluffier, softer bread.
How to make Apple Cider Caramel
There are two different ways to make caramel; dry or wet. Wet is when you cook it with water, it takes a little longer but is a little more foolproof because you have more time to take care of any crystallization that is happening.
I use the dry method to make caramel, so without water which allows me to control the liquid (to have more heavy cream and butter, rather than water for a rich caramel). And I do something a little unorthodox, I add a squeeze of lemon to the sugar. The acid protects it from crystalizing. Once I feel the sugar is covered with the lemon I turn on the heat and let it cook, stirring often to get an even caramelization. Then I’ll add the heavy cream and butter (carefully) and any other additions. Vanilla goes in after the caramel is off the heat.
Tips to make perfect caramel
- Use a deep pot (4 quart) as it will boil up when you add the heavy cream
- Use a wooden spoon to stir it (the back of it will help you press out any lumps of sugar)
- Stay close, the sugar will take a few minutes to begin melting and caramelizing but as soon as it does you want to be closeby to stir it often
- Yes you’re going to stir it! The no stirring method is for a wet caramel.
- Warm the heavy cream and butter so they don’t shock the sugar too much
- Don’t turn the heat down when you add the heavy cream or the caramel may split
Two shapes, and more for apple cider caramel rolls
- Giant Roll: with this one you roll out the dough and spread the filling as you would for cinnamon rolls but instead of making a log you’ll slice strips. The first you’ll roll up into a coil and set in the center. The rest of the strips you’ll build around the center roll. Leave enough room for the dough to rise a second time and bake.
- Muffin: for this it’s just like making cinnamon rolls except you’ll set the rolls in a muffin tin to bake.
Ingredients for Apple Cider Caramel Rolls
Apple Cider: Fresh cider, not apple juice and not apple cider vinegar.
Butter: For the caramel and for the filling. No substitutions recommended.
Heavy cream: For the caramel, no substitutions.
Lemon: You only need a bit and it helps protect the sugar from crystalizing as it’s caramelizing. Can sub with apple cider vinegar (like half a tsp).
Bread flour: You may use a high protein all purpose flour instead if you cannot find bread.
Milk: We only need a bit of this to make the tangzhong.
Sour cream: This makes the dough eggless and absolutely fluffy. I can’t suggest any substitutions for it but if you absolutely cannot find it you may use this dough instead to make these rolls.
How to make Apple Cider Caramel Rolls
- Boil down the cider to remove water.
- Make the caramel: cook sugar until it caramelizes then add remaining ingredients.
- Make the dough, let rise.
- Make the filling.
- Shape the rolls, let rise.
- Top with caramel.
Other apple cider recipes:
- Apple Cider Cheesecake
- Apple Cider Caramel Ice Cream
- Apple Cider Meringue
- Apple Cider Muffins
- Apple Cider Banana Bread
Other roll recipes you might enjoy:
Recipe for Apple Cider Caramel Rolls
Apple Cider Caramel Rolls
- stand mixer to knead the dough
- muffin tin
For the apple cider caramel
- 200 g granulated sugar 1 cup
- Squeeze of lemon
- 85 g butter 6 tablespoons
- 80 g heavy cream ⅓ cup
- 40 g reduced apple cider 2 tablespoons
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the apple cider brown butter filling
- 113 g unsalted butter
- 200 g dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons reduced apple cider
- Pinch sea salt
- Dash pure vanilla extract
- Cinnamon if desired I’d do at least 2 teaspoons
Sour Cream Dough
- ⅓ cup bread flour
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup warm milk
- ½ cup warm water
- 2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
- ½ cup full fat sour cream 125g
- 4 cups bread flour 500g
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ cup canola oil 55g
- ½ cup granulated sugar 100g
Make the caramel:
- Warm the heavy cream and butter in a heatproof bowl in the microwave. Add the apple cider and salt to the bowl. No need to stir it.
- In a 4 quart pot add the sugar and a squeeze of lemon (no more than a teaspoon). Stir the sugar so that the lemon coats the sugar. Turn the heat on medium and cook the sugar. It will melt on the bottom at first and start to caramelize, stir it often as it caramelizes. Use a wooden spoon to press out any lumps of sugar. Once all the sugar is melted it’ll begin caramelizing, once it’s a dark amber add the heavy cream – slowly and stirring as you add it so the caramel doesn’t separate. Take care of your hands and use oven mitts, it will spit and sputter and can burn. Once the butter is all melted, cook for another minute then turn off the heat. Add the vanilla and stir. Set aside. If making ahead of time, store in an airtight container (it will last a couple of weeks, sealed).
Make the dough:
- First, we’ll make the tangzhong roux by cooking the four, water and milk together in a small pot over medium heat until it becomes a thick paste.
- Proof the yeast by mixing it with the warm water and a bit of sugar. Set aside for a couple of minutes to foam.
- Add the remaining dough ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer along with the yeast and roux. Knead the dough on low, then work it up to medium for about 10 minutes. Transfer to an oiled bowl and let rise either overnight in the fridge or at room temperature for about 2 hours (less if your kitchen is particularly warm). When it’s doubled in size it’s ready to be shaped (if you had it in the fridge overnight, it might need to be at room temperature for a while in order to double in size).
Make the filling:
- Brown the butter: in a shallow pan, set the butter over medium heat. Cook until it melts, then sputters and foams. When you can see little brown bits and it goes almost silent, pour it into a heatproof bowl. Add the sugar, cider salt and vanilla. Set in the fridge to cool.
Shape the rolls:
- Roll the dough out into a half sized cookie sheet (so 18×13”). Spread the filling over the dough with an offset spatula.
- If you are making muffin-style rolls:
- Roll the dough up into a log and use wax-free dental floss to slice the dough into 1 inch rounds. Set them in a muffin lined muffin pan.
- If you are making a large cinnamon roll:
- Slice the dough in half and then each half into 2 inch long strips. Roll the first strip into a coil and place in the center of the pan (cast iron or lined cake pan with parchment paper), it’ll look like a single cinnamon roll. Use the remaining strips to wrap them around the first roll and proceed until you have about 2 inches left on the pan (leaving space for the bread to expand). Set roll(s) in a warm spot to rise for about an hour, it is ready when you press it and your finger leaves a slight indentation.
- Bake at 350 F for about 20-30 minutes, until the bread is golden brown. Let cool. If the caramel is cold, heat it up to make it pourable. Pour the caramel over the rolls and serve.