Apple Raisin Filled Cinnamon Buns

Snowmageddon 2010 marked a very important event in my life: the first attempt at cinnamon buns. Work was shut down for an entire week and I was running rampant in mom's kitchen. There was a can of pumpkin in the cupboard and dash of creativity in my head. Held my breath and let Recipe Girl pop my cinnamon bun cherry with Amish Pumpkin Cinnamon Buns. No, they didn't come out perfect, but it was absolutely inspiring. 

Since then, I've made quite a few cinnamon buns. They're just so magical and warm. I love trying all the different variations- it is a never ending quest to find the perfect batch. Each attempt is a lesson learned.

This round, I put a spin on Smitten's classic version of cinnamon buns by incorporating fall flavors. I don't mean to hold onto her skirt- but her recipes are fail proof. I don't know how she does it. The only thing I added to the dough itself was cinnamon. 

The real ramp up was the filling. Chopped up apples and raisins with spice oozing out the edges. Seriously, there was no way in hell this could have gone wrong. Serve with vanilla ice cream if you're really going for the gusto!

The bread is super soft and lightly spiced. Wrapped in filling, it was delightful to pull apart this labyrinth of flavor. It was gooey and each ingredient complemented the other. You don't even need a glaze!  However, if you insist, I recommend a cream cheese with cinnamon, maple glaze, or a nice caramel coat.

Note, the rising time of these rolls is double most recipes I have used. I think this is because the yeast is mixed into the dry ingredients rather than settling in the warm milk and butter. They are messy to make and you have to roll slowly. Brace yourself for a well worth wait!

Apple Raisin Filled Cinnamon Buns

1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups (or more) unbleached all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 large egg
2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rise or instant yeast (from 1 envelope yeast)
1 teaspoon salt
Nonstick vegetable oil spray

5-6 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 -1 cup raisins

3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Pinch of salt

Combine milk and butter in glass measuring cup. Microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is just warmed to 120°F to 130°F, about 30 to 45 seconds. Pour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add 1 cup flour, cinnamon, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Beat on low speed 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add additional 2 1/2 cups flour. Beat on low until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky, scraping down sides of bowl. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes. (You may also use a KitchenAid’s dough hook for this process.) Form into ball.

Lightly oil large bowl with nonstick spray. Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

While waiting- bake the apples. Heat oven to 350. For the apples, mix the ingredients together in a small bowl. Lightly grease a baking tin and add apples. Bake for 15 minutes.  

For the filling, use a mixer to blend the ingredients together. It will be fluffy- you're going to use it as a paste to make rolling the cinnamon buns easier.

Press down dough. Transfer to floured work surface. Roll out to 15×11-inch rectangle. Spread filling over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle apples over dough. Starting at the longer side, roll dough into log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. With seam side down, trim ends straight if they are uneven (we baked them in a ramekin, incapable of discarding such deliciousness) cut remaining dough crosswise with thin sharp knife (a good serrated worked well here) into 18 equal slices (each about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide).

Spray two 9-inch square glass baking dishes (an 8-inch square metal pan worked just fine, too) with nonstick spray. Divide rolls between baking dishes, arranging cut side up (there will be almost no space between rolls). Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40 to 45 minutes, though yours, like mine, may take longer. Don’t skimp on the double-rising time.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and invert immediately onto rack. Cool 10 minutes. Turn rolls right side up.