I went to high school in a teeny-tiny mountaintop town in Tennessee. At the time it only had two options for fast food: Hardees and a rundown Dairy Queen (it later got a McDonald’s because even teeny-tiny towns on a mountain need a McDonald’s) I don’t even like Hardees, but when you’re in boarding school and the only other option is cafeteria food, you’ll eat pretty much anywhere else when you get the chance.
But there is one thing at Hardees that I always looked forward to eating: their Cinnamon ‘N’ Raisin biscuits. If you’ve never had one before, it tastes like a cinnamon roll but it’s a cinnamon biscuit covered in icing. So basically it’s like crack. I could eat those biscuits all day long. It seriously brightened my day when my friend would come into school carrying a carton of cinnamon biscuits just for me. I don’t eat much fast food anymore, especially not for breakfast so I’ve only had the biscuits a handful of times over the past 10 years. (It’s probably better that way!) But they’ll still pop into my head on a weekend morning every once in a while and I’ll wish I had gotten up earlier.
The past week was crazy busy with work and I barely had any time to cook much less photograph and post a new recipe. But I finally finished a big project, so on Sunday morning I was excited to get back into my kitchen. The cinnamon biscuits popped into my head again, but this time I thought, Well, why don’t you make them yourself? So I did!
I started with my favorite Southern biscuit recipe as the base. I’ve tried lots of biscuit recipes over the years and these are the best I’ve found. They’re moist and fluffy and have just the right amount of butter without ending up greasy. (The one part I’ve always disliked about those Hardees cinnamon biscuits is how greasy they are so these homemade biscuits are a much better alternative.) I recommend that you go over and read Virginia’s post for lots of great biscuit making tips before you make this recipe. For instance, did you that you should press your biscuit cutter straight down and never twist it? Twisting makes the biscuits rise unevenly. I’m a lifelong biscuit twister so sometimes I still do it without thinking but I’m trying to reform my bad ways.
Instead of using raisins like the Hardees biscuits I decided I wanted to use apples instead. I like apples a lot more than raisins, plus I had somehow accumulated over 5 lbs. of apples that needed to be used up! You can substitute raisins or even throw them in along with the apples if you want. I imagine pear would also work great in these biscuits.
And since I was using apples, I decided to make a caramel icing instead of the standard cinnamon roll icing. The thought of caramel put a little fear into my heart after my last attempt at caramel which took 4 tries, but there was nothing to worry about because this icing only takes about 3 minutes to make. I was really surprised how much it tastes like caramel even though it’s so simple. The sweet, buttery glaze turned out to be the perfect topping for the apple cinnamon biscuits. The glazed biscuits are soft and warm and gooey but you still get a tender crunch of apple in every bite.
The thing I love most about this recipe is that it has that feeling of treating yourself to something decadent like a cinnamon roll but without having to bother with waiting for things to rise or cook for a long time. The biscuits don’t have many ingredients and they’re best if the dough is handled lightly and quickly, so you only need to put the smallest amount of time and effort into kneading and rolling out the dough. And then they’re in and out of the oven in 10 minutes! It’s a perfect breakfast for a lazy weekend morning.
Caramel Apple Cinnamon Biscuits
Breakfast | Yield: about 12 biscuits
Prep time: 20 min | Cook time: 10 min | Total time: 30 min
- 1 cup all-purpose flour,* plus more for rolling out
- 1 cup cake flour*
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp. baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. cardamom (optional)
- 1 tsp. fine sea salt
- 4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits and chilled
- 3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 1/2 cups (about 1 large) diced tart or sweet-tart apples (I used a mix of Granny Smith and Honeycrisp)
*You can substitute 2 cups White Lily flour if you live in an area that has it. Using half AP and half cake flours approximates this true Southern flour which is essential for these biscuits.
You may want to double this if you like a lot of glaze on your biscuits!
- 4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 tsp. course or sea salt
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
- Preheat your oven to 500 degrees (F).
- In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, cinnamon, caradamom and salt.
- Use a pastry cutter or two knifes to cut the bits of butter into the flour until it resembles course meal.
- Mix in the diced apples and stir until they’re all covered with flour.
- Pour in 3/4 cup of buttermilk and mix gently with a wooden spoon until just combined. If the mixture is too dry, add more buttermilk, about a tablespoon at a time until it comes together.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Use the heel of your hand to lightly compress the dough and push it away from you. Fold the dough in half and then turn it 90 degrees. Repeat this only 8 more times; you don’t want to overwork the dough.
- Roll the dough out about 3/4 inch thick. Use a biscuit cutter or 2 1/4″ round cutter dipped in flour to cut out the biscuits; press the cutter straight down without twisting to cleanly cut through the diced apples and to ensure that the biscuits will rise evenly.
Place the biscuits about an inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet (if you prefer biscuits with crispier sides place them farther apart). Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly.
- While the biscuits are cooking, make the caramel glaze: place chunks of butter, brown sugar, cream and salt into a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for exactly 1 minute; remove the pan from heat. Cool for about 5 minutes and then whisk in 1/2 cup powdered sugar. The glaze should be thick but pourable, add more sugar to thicken it or a bit more cream if it’s too thick.
- Drizzle the glaze over the warm biscuits and serve immediately.
Leftover biscuits can be stored in an airtight container and reheated in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Store leftover glaze in a covered container in the fridge, reheat in 15 second bursts in the microwave or over low heat on the stove until pourable.