These Apple Cinnamon Buns are the perfect Rosh Hashanah dessert (or breakfast). Don’t let the long recipe daunt you– they’re quite simple to make. And totally worth it!
Several of you may skip straight to the recipe, and I anticipate that you’ll have a bone to pick with me. So let me do it first. No– this is not a healthy version. Yes– I did make it (and eat it). And no– the sky did not fall down.
I just got a really serious craving for cinnamon buns. Rosh Hashanah seemed like the perfect time to get going. A year ago I baked this Apple Honey Cake for a sweet start to the Jewish New Year. Fast forward to today and I’m baking with the apples coming into season, thinking about the difference between then and now.
Way back then I was still 21-years old. I waxed poetic about “forging a new path myself” because I felt sure that regardless what life threw my way, I’d be ready. Putting my “best foot forward,” beginning with the food I chose to eat as a reflection of the “real” person I wanted to be.
Despite my belief that I was finally being real, I wasn’t. Not completely. Because the honest-to-God truth is that a year ago I never would have touched something as sugary as these Apple Cinnamon Buns. White flour and butter wouldn’t earn a spot on my grocery receipt. I looked down on those ingredients, sure that they had nothing to offer me. And yet here I am, wholeheartedly admitting I was wrong.
Flour + butter + sugar = a licked-my-sticky-fingers-clean smile and a soul-deep sense of contentment.
I tried this recipe 3 times before getting it right. Know what changed? My attitude. The spelt flour I bought originally was because I thought it would more people would want a healthier version. If you’ve clicked around then you know I’m all about that. Most of the time. Therein lies the mental shift. I wanted genuine cinnamon buns, which meant overriding my deeply ingrained notions about what it means to be “healthy.”
For a long time I approached sweets the way I thought about non-kosher food. Simply not a food that I could eat. And if I did, then I was sure to feel the guilt that comes with breaking a law.
As I finished college, I thought a lot about the choices I made that enabled me to maintain my religion. While a few related to kosher food, that was far from my biggest struggle at the time. Last week all of that changed. I watched while Tyler Florence cooked paella, a Spanish dish that I tasted in Barcelona. I watched, spellbound, as he combined olive oil, rice, tomatoes, and onions in a pan bigger than my entire stove. The scents of citrusy lemon and fresh saffron mingled with that of chicken, shrimp, chorizo, clams, and lobster.
I couldn’t keep my mouth from watering, especially when I turned down a steaming bowl of it because “I actually keep kosher.” The apologetic glance I got in response was a shock.
There is nothing pitiful about my religious choices. Far from it. What I do and do not do has meaning behind it, forming the bedrock of my life. Sometimes it gets shaky, but it’s never collapsed. Acknowledging something I craved but having the self-awareness to know that I didn’t truly want it? THAT is me being “real.”
And in the spirit of the moment, it’s time to be a little bit more real. I don’t like equating dessert with non-kosher. My first love in the kitchen was baking, the kind that social media often makes us think we’re bad people for enjoying. Every bite of Apple Cinnamon Bun that I ate fresh from the oven made me happy. And so did each bite of the one I warmed up for breakfast two days later.
Appreciating food for the joy it brings, not only the sustenance, strikes me as one of the most “kosher” perspectives we could have toward our food. Thank God I’m finally coming to realize that.
- 1 cup milk
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- 1 packet instant yeast
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2¼- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- ⅓ cup dark brown
- 2 tbsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 1 cup chopped & peeled apple
- Melt the ¼ cup of butter with the milk in a small pot over low flame. DO NOT BOIL.
- Once fully melted, remove from the heat into a mixing bowl and add the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Let it cool until warm to the touch, then sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside for about 10 minutes to allow the yeast to proof. It should foam and double in size. If it does not, then you may have killed the yeast by adding it to a too hot mixture or it was dead already, and you need to start over again.
- In the meantime, whisk 2¼ cups of the flour and the salt in a separate mixing bowl.
- Stir in the yeast mixture and egg to the flour until a loose dough forms. Continue mixing it gently, adding flour 1 tablespoon at a time as needed. THE DOUGH WILL BE STICKY.
- When the dough pulls away easily from the bowl, knead it for about 2 minutes on a lightly floured surface.
- Rinse out the bowl and coat it with oil. Return the ball of dough to the oiled bowl, making sure to get all of it oiled lightly. Then cover it with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot for 1 - 1½ hours.
- When the dough is just about doubled in size, prepare a 10-inch cast iron skillet or 9x13 baking dish with butter or oil and set aside.
- Punch down the dough and turn onto a lightly floured surface. Gently roll it out into a ¼-inch thick rectangle.
- Brush with the melted butter, going all the way to the edges.
- Mix together the dark brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg for the filling. Distribute it evenly over the dough, then spread out the chopped apple pieces on top.
- Beginning at one of the short edges, carefully roll the dough into a tight jelly roll. I found using the heels of my palms to be best.
- Cut with a serrated knife into 10 rolls and place into the prepared dish. Don't worry about the spaces, they'll fill in. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes.
- In the last 10 minutes, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden at the edges.
- Best served immediately, but can be stored in a container in the fridge for 5 days and reheated.