Spiced Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls

spicedcaramelapplecinnamonroll-10coverI don’t remember when I started to use checklists. This weekend, I fished out the pocket moleskins journal I brought with me to Greece and placed it on the ever growing stack of moleskins I’d already used up. I randomly picked one and flipped through, expecting sketches but finding words.  I found minute checklists, reminding me to learn AutoCad, to sign up for this club, to walk over to the DUC and grab a sandwich for later… meaning I had a long night ahead of me. This must be from freshman year. I grabbed another journal, this one larger with one of those elastic straps. I found a recipe for scallion pancakes. The next page was filled with scribbled notes on the decor and service of a restaurant. This must be when I eagerly strove to be a Yelp reviewer. This time, I reached far and swept out a tiny pocket notebook, purple in color, with lines, similar to the one I brought to Greece. I found sketches of layouts, probably for a portfolio, and more checklists. Go to printing studio. Call for pricing. Finish plans and sections. Buy dowels. Flipping through the notebook, I found checklists of all varieties: scribbles, one-liners, ineligible ones that seemed to have been scratched out in anger.

Everyone says photos are a great way to bring back memories. But checklists, they give you a different kind of recall.

Checklists can be a window to everyday life. They are everyday life. I can flip back and see the mundane. I can see what classes I took, what clubs I joined. I love sketches, and it gives me a great sense of happiness when I flip through all my sketches of famous (and ordinary) buildings in Italy. They’re a thorough study of my travels. But it’s when I look at the checklists that I remember the reality.

Atul Gawande said, during his TED talk in 2012, that “An aviation checklist…. isn’t a recipe for how to fly a plane, it’s a reminder of the key things that get forgotten or missed if they’re not checked.” Checklists are not fancy. You can’t dress up a checklist and brag about it to your friends. They’re practical, efficient, and the hidden tool that can make a day productive.

Today, I start my day off with checklists. It’s a habit that stuck with me, even outside of school. When I get to work, I have a simple routine: tea, breakfast, and a list of tasks I need to do today. As I finish task by task, even mundane ones such as “prepare out of office email”, I put away my weak ball point pen and take out a black-ink flowing pen, and I find immense satisfaction in crossing one of my tasks off. When I refer back to this list, I’ll see a ladder of lines grow and build, reminding me not only of what I have yet to do, but of what I’ve already accomplished today.

And today, I can cross off “publish blog post!”



spicedcaramelapplecinnamonroll-14The star of this recipe is, of course, the caramel apple filling.

spicedcaramelapplecinnamonroll-1Before baking (my handiwork is obviously not the smoothest, but you know what? I live for imperfections):
spicedcaramelapplecinnamonroll-3and After!



This spiced caramel apple cinnamon roll is soft, fluffy, and tastes like apple pie! Without the delicious crust, of course. I think cinnamon rolls must be one of my favorite desserts. They’re pillow soft, and I always serve them warm. They’re the perfect fall treat. Eat it with a strong cup of coffee, and there you have the perfect morning.




RECIPE: Spiced Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls
Inspired by the recipe from Sallys Baking Addiction! 

Cinnamon Roll Dough:
4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup + 2 tbs warm water
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tbs honey
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (or one pack)
2 tbs melted butter

1| Mix warm water, yeast, and honey. Let rest for 5 minutes, until bubbly / foamy – this lets you know if the yeast is active!
2| Mix together egg, milk, vanilla, water/yeast mixture, butter, salt. Add in 1.5 cup flour until incorporated.
3| Add in 2-2.5 cups flour and knead for 3-5 minutes, until the dough is not as sticky and springs back with a poke of the finger.
4| Place in an oil covered bowl, and let rise for 1 to 1.5 hours.

Spiced Caramel Apple filling:
2 tart apples (Granny Smiths or Honeycrisp or Pink Lady work well!), diced finely
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp sea salt

Simple Glaze: 
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch salt

1| Sautee apples on medium heat for 2-4 minutes, until brown. Set aside.
2| In the same skillet, melt butter and brown sugar until dissolved. Stir and pour in cream. Be careful on this part – the cold heavy cream added to the hot butter/sugar mixture may splatter a bit. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, until thick.
3| Turn down to low heat, and add the apples back in. Add in cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Simmer for 1 minute.
4| Remove from heat, and stir in 1/2 tsp sea salt.
5| Make glaze: whisk ingredients together until thick.

1| Place dough on a floured surface. With a rolling pin, roll dough out to a large rectangle. Mine covered my entire cutting board. Try to make it as rectangular as possible so that you don’t have to waste the ends!
2| Spread apple filling across surface evenly. I like to sprinkle some brown sugar + cinnamon on it as well, but I have a sweet tooth…. which may not be a good thing.
3| Starting from the bottom at the long edge, roll tightly.
4| Cut 1″ pieces and place onto a baking pan. You can either space them out and let them rise horizontally, or you can place them right up against each other and force them to puff up. I did the latter.
5| Let rise for another 30 – 45 minutes.
6| Preheat oven to 350F. Bake for 20 -25 minutes, until light golden brown. Remove from oven, and let it cool slightly.
7| Drizzle glaze over cinnamon rolls when they are warm.

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  • These look delicious! I may have to try it out with all the apples I still have from apple picking!ReplyCancel

    • Betty

      Yes!!!! And let me know how it goes :). Which apples did you pick?ReplyCancel

  • Hi there! These look simply wonderful. I just went apple picking, but since I live in a dorm I don’t have a way to bake! So sad :(ReplyCancel

    • Betty

      Oh dear I remember those days!!!! The countless hours shuffling pans downstairs to the communal kitchen then back upstairs… not to mention when I wanted to bake and then lugged my ingredients down to find that it’s already occupied! Girl, I feel you <3.ReplyCancel

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