Chai Spice Apple Cinnamon Rolls & the Essence of Aloha

There is nothing quite like a trip home to rejuvenate the senses and recharge the soul. This is particularly true when home is a tiny tropical island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. My days on Maui were full of perfect moments swimming beneath waterfalls, surfing in the turquoise ocean, watching the sun paint the sky each evening, and drinking chai in cafes.

One might not think of spending time in coffee shops when they think of a trip to Maui, but for me everyday begins with an hour or two of sitting in an outdoor cafe with my Dad; coffee for him, chai for me. It’s usually rainy in the mornings in my hometown of Haiku, yet we sit outside and listen to the beautiful cacophony of raindrops falling upon the tin roof sheltering us. It is my favorite sound in the entire world.


We sit and talk about nothing particularly important and are happy to be interrupted every few moments by friends and neighbors stopping by. It is not strange to us that no one else seems to be at work at 10:00 on a Tuesday morning. The kind surfboard shaper who has a shop next door joins us for a few minutes, my Dad jumps up to buy a pastry for my brother’s kindergarten teacher when he sees her walk in, I say hi to a professional surfer trailed by a film crew (he also just so happened to be my first crush in 5th grade), my aunty greets me with a big hug. This is home for me.


It was during one of these delightfully slow mornings that my Dad encouraged me to try a bite of his cinnamon roll. It was a bit dry and not entirely exciting, so I dipped it into my chai and wow! Flavor town! Suddenly this subpar pastry was drenched in just the right amount of sweet and spicy perfection. I knew I had to recreate those flavors when I got back to my kitchen.



When I’m in Maui my body craves tropical fruits and raw salads, however now that I’m back in cold rainy Seattle all I want are nourishing soups and warm gooey baked goods. Give me all the baked goods. I amped up the classic cinnamon roll with chai spices as well as incorporating whole grains and bits of apple so that you can enjoy these without a mega sugar crash. 

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Chai Spice Cinnamon Rolls


  • 2 1/2 – 3 cups All Purpose flour
  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 3 tsp granulated sugar
  • 3 tsp yeast
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 large egg (lightly beaten)


  • 6 tbsp softened butter
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp cinnamon (to taste)
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • ½ tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 of an apple thinly sliced


  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tbsp heavy whipping cream
  • 2 – 3 maple syrup



  1. Mix both oat and all purpose flour, sugar, salt, and yeast until well combined. Set aside.
  2. In a saucepan over the stove heat milk, and butter to lukewarm about 115 degrees.
  3. Add yeast to milk mixture and let sit for 10 minutes to allow it to proof.
  4. Add milk/yeast mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer. Using a dough hook , mix on a low setting for five minutes. Or combine in a large mixing bowl and knead by hand on a flat surface for 8 minutes.
  5. Allow dough to rest for 3-5 minutes.
  6. Next, use a rolling pin to roll into a rectangular shape roughly 8′ by 16′ the dough should be about 1/2 an inch to 1 inch thick.
  7. Spread the softened butter onto the of dough.
  8. Sprinkle evenly with cinnamon, spices, and brown sugar.
  9. Arrange apple slices a few inches apart across the dough.
  10. Beginning with the long side of the rectangle, tightly roll the dough, so the cinnamon and sugar are on the inside, you might need to break the apple pieces in half to get it to roll evenly.
  11. Cut the rolled dough into 5 or 6 even pieces.
  12. Place the cut dough into a greased pie pan.
  13. Place rolls in a warm, draft-free place and allow to rise until doubled in size.
  14. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  15. Place rolls in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown, check them after 15 minutes don’t let them burn!.
  16. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before icing.
  17. Whisk together maple syrup, confectioners’ sugar, and cream.
  18. Pour over cinnamon rolls.
  19. Enjoy!


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