Pipe Dream #302: To French Vanilla – Quick Apple Cinnamon Buns


These are nearly the same as the whole wheat cinnamon buns I tried once. They rely on a biscuit dough instead of a yeast dough as a base, so the prep time is drastically shorter. Granted, the end result is not a yeast bread like a traditional cinnamon roll, but that is hardly a concern if you’re pressed for time and craving butter and cinnamon rolled up in a little cakey bundle.

Since I opted to swap out the whole wheat flour for regular, I added apples, you know, for health reasons.


JK, guys, JK. Apples are just yummy. Apples and cinnamon are a match made in heaven, and, dare I say, a match promulgated by American society? No, that can’t be right. Apples and cinnamon have to be a timeless flavor combo that transcends society. But let me tell you. I recently research the origins of “French vanilla.” I was like, “K, what the heck is ‘French’ vanilla? It seems like a 90s flavor that is no longer in fashion like the 90s powdered coffee drinks that no one drinks anymore. People these days just say ‘Vanilla.'”

Or, if we’re indulging in a bit of baker nerdery–Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla or Tahitian Vanilla Bean, etc.


Anyway, the point is that French Vanilla really almost IS a flavor that was made popular in 90s marketing. According to wiseGeek:

“The term ‘French vanilla’ technically describes a particular type of custard base for vanilla ice cream. This base is associated with a strong vanilla flavor and odor, a rich golden color, and small flecks of vanilla beans. As a result, companies sometimes market things like candles and body lotions as having this scent, capitalizing on the exoticism of all things French and the association of luxury. While this usage is incorrect, it is extremely common.”


Look at the spillage happening here. A veritable gold mine of apple chunk.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this history lesson. If not, I have high hopes that you’ll enjoy these cinnamon buns along with your French Vanilla instant cappuccino.


Quick Apple Cinnamon Buns
Adapted from Here in America’s Test Kitchen

Melted butter is used in both the filling and the dough and to grease the pan. Melt the total amount (8 tablespoons) at once, and measure it out as you need it.

1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted, for pan

For the filling:
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

2 medium apples, chopped into small pieces (I ended up using about 1 1/2 of the apples)

For the biscuit dough:
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional flour for work surface
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the icing:
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup (4 oz) confectioners’ sugar

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Pour one tablespoon melted butter into 9-inch nonstick cake pan; brush to coat pan.

To make the filling, combine sugars, spices, and salt in small bowl. Add one tablespoon melted butter and stir with fork or fingers until mixture resembles wet sand; set filling mixture aside. Chop apples into small-ish chunks. I chose to leave the skin on, but you can peel them if you feel like it.

To make the biscuit dough, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Whisk buttermilk and 2 tablespoons melted butter in measuring cup or small bowl. Add liquid to dry ingredients and stir until liquid is absorbed (dough will look very shaggy), about 30 seconds. Transfer dough to a well-floured work surface and knead until just smooth and no longer shaggy.

Pat dough with hands into 12 by 9-inch rectangle. Brush dough with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle evenly with filling, leaving 1/2-inch border of plain dough around edges. Press filling firmly into dough. Using bench scraper or metal spatula, loosen dough from work surface. Starting at long side, roll dough, pressing lightly, to form tight log. Pinch seam to seal. Roll log seam-side down and cut evenly into eight pieces. With hand, slightly flatten each piece of dough to seal open edges and keep filling in place. Place one roll in center of prepared nonstick pan, then place remaining seven rolls around perimeter of pan. Brush with 2 tablespoons remaining melted butter.

Bake until edges are golden brown, 23 to 25 minutes. Use a spatula to loosen buns from pan. Invert buns onto a plate or wire rack. Cool about 5 minutes before icing.

Stir butter, powdered sugar milk in large nonreactive bowl until a smooth glaze forms, about 30 seconds. Spoon glaze evenly over buns; serve immediately. The buns are best eaten warm, but they hold up reasonably well for up to 2 hours.

2 Responses to “Pipe Dream #302: To French Vanilla – Quick Apple Cinnamon Buns”

  1. 1 rachelshane November 20, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    So funny, both at Caribou and Starbucks if you ask for a french vanilla latte, they give you half hazelnut and half vanilla flavoring. Which basically makes no sense with the origin. But this recipe looks yummy. :)

  2. 2 Lauren November 20, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    Weird. The hazelnut adds that je ne sais quoi, I suppose.

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