Apple Pecan Cinnamon Buns
*Special equipment, instant read thermometer.
2 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 package any instant yeast (1 packet = 2 and 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup milk (I usually use whole)
2 and 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature)
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup Apple Butter (I bought from a local specialty market)
2 Apples, peeled and finely chopped (I like macon or pink lady)
1/4 cup chopped Pecans
1/3 cup chopped dried Dates
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract
2-3 Tablespoons milk/cream
For the dough: Toss 2 and 1/4 cups flour, (plus 1/2 cup of flour set aside for later) the sugar, salt, and yeast together until evenly mixed. Set aside. Heat the water, milk, and butter together in the microwave until the butter is melted and the mixture is hot to touch. About 115°F (46°C). Stir the butter mixture into the flour mixture. I use an instant read thermometer. Temperature is important when using yeast. Add the egg and only enough of the reserved flour to make a soft dough. You may not need the full 1/2 cup. Dough will be ready when it gently pulls away from the side of the bowl and has an elastic consistency. I put mine in a stand mixer with dough hook on low. Or, on a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about 3-4 minutes. Place in a lightly greased bowl (I used non-stick spray) and let rest for about 10 minutes.
Heat the oven to 200 degrees F.
Filling: Finely chop 2 peeled apples and set aside. After 10 minutes, roll the dough out in a 14x8 inch rectangle. Spread a thin layer of softened unsalted butter. Then evenly spread apple butter, and chopped apples, pecans and dates. Sprinkle with cinnamon and roll up the dough tightly. Cut into 11-12 even pieces and place in a lightly greased 9-inch round pan. I used a pie dish, lightly sprayed with nonstick spray. Turn off oven when it gets up to temperature. Loosely cover the rolls with aluminum foil and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 60-90 minutes. During the rise they may pop up in spots, just gently press down to even out height. After the rolls have doubled in size remove from oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned. Cover the rolls with aluminum foil after 15 minutes to avoid heavy browning.
Make the glaze: Right before serving, top your cinnamon rolls with glaze. Mix the confectioners' sugar, vanilla and 2 Tablespoons cream together until smooth and drizzle over rolls. If it seems too thick, add 1 more Tablespoon cream. Rolls are best enjoyed the same day, but swill stay fresh and soft in a covered container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 5 days. Glaze the rolls immediately before serving.
Time saver tip: This dough can be made the night before. Instead of placing in the warmed oven to rise, Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, remove from the refrigerator and allow to rise at room temperature, about 1 hour. Then preheat oven to 375, bake and enjoy!