Granny Smith Apple, Mission Figs, English Walnuts, Cardamom, and Cinnamon Baked into a Gooey Roll

I have no idea what to name these. 

Clearly, they are delicious. But, really! What do I name them? The figs and cardamom are a little bit Middle Eastern…

Hmm… Maybe I should name them after my best friend, Fatima, since they remind me of her. She’s a queen by birth. ;) Or at least she acts like one – telling everyone what to do. Being beautiful on the inside and out. Waving goodbye perfectly. That pretty much qualifies anyone as a Queen in my book.

Perhaps they should be called, “Queen of the Middle East Cinnamon Rolls!”

I like that.

“Queen of the Middle East Cinnamon Rolls”

I really did not anticipate blogging these. I told my mom that during the making process and she asked me why? Three reasons:

  1. I don’t want you guys to think this is the kind of stuff I eat on a regular basis
  2. I wasn’t sure how they’d turn out – I was adapting an all new recipe…
  3. This recipe is not easy. It’s incredibly labor intensive. Total time for me to make these was approximately 5 hours.  This is not a cinnamon roll for the common person. They are only fit for a Queen.

My mom said, “You don’t want to pretend to be something you’re not. So, what? You make cinnamon rolls. At least you’re not going and buying them from the store!”

She is right about one thing. I always tell my diabetic patients, if you’re going to have a dessert, then you better make sure it’s worth it. That dessert better be amazing.

Dessert is not about filling up your belly. Dessert is about enjoying an unbelievable experience.

One nice thing about having such high standards for dessert is that in order to meet this standard, I usually have to make it myself.

I’m not trying to toot my own horn by saying that. I’m just trying to make a point: these amazing desserts are usually pretty labor intensive – which keeps me from eating that way very often.

I’m busy. I don’t have time. Trust me, if you’ve got a life at all – the sheer thought of devoting 5 hours to one recipe should be enough to ward you cinnamon roll lovers off for most of the year. Consider the five hours a HURDLE for you to get over. It’s there to keep you respectable. You want to eat dessert? Fine! But, it’s going to cost you – an entire night of free time.

Enough, enough! You want the action!

This dough was tricky and like I said before, I really didn’t anticipate blogging about it, so I didn’t take any pictures of this part.

After mastering the dough (as well as I possibly could without a KitchenAid Mixer), I moved on to the filling while I let the dough rise. The filling was meant to be similar to one of my favorite desserts in Columbia, called the Apple Date Bar. If anyone want’s to try it, you can find it at Main Squeeze downtown.

I had some old figs in my fridge that – if I’m being honest – were from last year sometime. Fortunatly, dried fruit does not go “bad,” persay. It just starts looking a little crusty. In order to liven the dates back up, I put them in a saucepan of water and boiled them for 5 minutes or so. After that, they were looking much happier (a.k.a. plump round little things with smiles on their faces)… so I cut their stems off and quartered them! Haha! Take that happy little fig!

In the meantime, I also had a bag of sliced granny smith apples in the fridge that was about to go bad if I didn’t use them. Use them, I shall!

They needed to be partially cooked, so I popped them in the boiling water for 1-2 minutes and then sliced them even thinner than they were before. These have to roll up into the cinnamon roll and if they’re too stiff or too thick, it won’t work because it will tear the dough.

Then I put the dates/figs into a blender (because I don’t own a food processor – problem solving – get creative, guys) and made a fig paste. After my figs were blended, I added chopped walnuts and blended a little further. Looking back I think it would have been nice if I had partially toasted these before adding them. I didn’t toast them this time and they were still delicious, nonetheless.

After adding your walnuts, you want to add your spices. In this case it was cinnamon, fresh ground nutmeg, and cardamom. Cardamom is the spice in Chai tea. If you like Chai tea, you’ll probably like these rolls.

Mixing all of this together, you’ll have something that resembles a fig and walnut paste. Set aside. After the dough has doubled in size, you’ll want to roll it out into a thin rectangle on your countertop. Spread the fig mixture onto the surface. Sprinkle a LITTLE bit of brown sugar on top. Then lay out the granny apple slices so that they’re evenly distributed.

Next, you roll it up. Slice it into 1 inch rolls. Place it in your greased baking dish and wait for another hour for the second rise. After an hour, they bake at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes.

Pull them out of the oven after 25 minutes and let them cool…

Top with powdered sugar and milk frosting. Tada! You’re finished.

You can see how messy things get when I cook… ;)

To compensate for the lack of pictures at the beginning of the process. How about a small photo shoot for after the rolls were finished?

Nobody should be feeling deprived of pictures after all of that!

Recipe People! Here you go…

Recipe: Queen of the Middle East Cinnamon Rolls

Makes12 cinnamon rolls



    • 2 1/2 tsp dry yeast or one packet
    • 1/4 C + 1/2 tsp sugar, divided
    • 1/4 C warm water
    • 1/2 C milk, room temperature
    • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1 egg yolk
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp cardamom
    • 4 tsp unsalted butter, soft
    • 2 C Bread Flour
    • 1 C Wheat Flour


    • 2 C dried figs, rehydrated
    • 1 1/2 C english walnuts
    • 1 T cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp cardamom
    • 1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 3 C sliced green apples
    • 1 tsp fresh minced ginger (optional)
    • 4 T butter, melted
    • 1/4 C brown sugar, reserved


    • 2 C powdered sugar
    • 1/4 C milk


  1. TO MAKE DOUGH: Stir yeast, 1/2 tsp sugar, and water into a large mixing bowl. Let sit for ten minutes until it’s foamy and all the yeast is dissolved.
  2. Stir in milk, brown sugar, sugar, eggs, vanilla, cardamom, and salt. Once combined, add flour one cup at a time.
  3. Work the dough vigorously by hand for 4-5 minutes – or use a stand up mixer with a dough hook.
  4. Add softened butter and work vigorously again for another 4-5 minutes. Again, if you have a dough hook, I imagine this would be much easier. I did not have one. Therefore it was a little tricky getting the butter to incorporate into the already kneaded (tight) ball of dough I formed. I did the best I could and moved on. Turned out great anyways – so, don’t fret if this seems like you’re ruining it.
  5. Add dough to a clean bowl and let rise for two hours or until it doubles in size.
  6. MEANWHILE, TO MAKE FILLING: Prep figs by rehydrating them for 3-4 minutes in boiling water. Add sliced apples and fresh ginger to water for another 1-2 minutes. Remove apples and slice thin. Remove figs and quarter. Discard excess water.
  7. Add figs to blender and make into a paste. Add crushed nuts (you want these to end up pretty small pieces), butter, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. Stir well and set aside.
  8. TO MAKE ROLLS: Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Roll into a large rectangle. Spread fig filling over surface of the dough. Sprinkle 1/4 C brown sugar over the fig filling and top with sliced apples.
  9. Roll the dough tightly and cut into 12 even pieces (1.5 inches wide). Add rolls to lightly greased baking dish and let rise for one hour, covered.
  10. Bake rolls in a preheated 375 degree F oven for 25 minutes or until they are nicely brown around the edges.
  11. Let rolls cool for 30 minutes before icing.
  12. Best served warm. If serving the next day – heat them up.

Note to the Diabetics: I wouldn’t even think about eating these. Waaaaay too high in carbohydrates. I’m going to guess/pretty accurately estimate 75-80 grams for each cinnamon roll. Soooo…. if you really want to have them, you’re probably going to have to split it with somebody else. Sorry!

2 thoughts on “Granny Smith Apple, Mission Figs, English Walnuts, Cardamom, and Cinnamon Baked into a Gooey Roll

  1. Hahahaha Saraaaaaaah!!! I am so honored (minus the picture!) and my mouth and my mind are salivating as I look through the pictures. And you knew that I’m fasting today too….*sigh*…….I think I can actually smell the rolls as I read your descriptions. I think I will have to make these some day for family gathering Saturdays….maybe soon.

    • That picture is BEAUTIFUL. You’re just going to have to get over it. Sorry about naming a baked good after you on the first day of your fast… bad timing, huh? ;) But, you are a Queen… so, I’m sure you’re used to these things.

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