Nordic Bakery Cinnamon Buns

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When I think of London, the first thing that comes to mind is the sweet scent of cinnamon buns. 

I visited many touristy places in London, in awe of the grandness of places so steeped in history. But, as I wandered around my neighborhood, I stumbled across new restaurants, bakeries, street markets, and coffeeshops. I saw my neighborhood slowly come to life each morning, and I felt equally amazed by the liveliness of London. This is what made me love London so easily and so quickly.

I gradually got to know my neighborhood, but it was still full of surprises. One afternoon, I discovered a food festival, with a wide variety of cuisines, that only happens once a year. Another night, I had one of my favorite meals at a restaurant just around the corner from my dorm.

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My favorite memories are those where I explored my neighborhood and realized that somehow in the course of as short a time as six weeks, it came to feel like home. In some moments, it still doesn't feel real that I was able to call London home – walking by the theaters each day on my way to dinner and finding the sweet spots in my neighborhood. 

I enjoyed being abroad because for the first time while traveling, I was in a place long enough to get to know my neighborhood and feel at home at the end of each day. I miss exploring London constantly and coming back to favorites. I miss turning the corner, seeing the glass storefront promising cinnamon buns, and smelling the sweet scent of cinnamon before even entering the bakery. 

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After being home for a few weeks now, I always smile when I see things that remind me of my time in London, whether it be recognizing a location in Sherlock (I just started watching it this summer, and it's incredible!) or visiting a vibrant farmers' market. 

Nordic Bakery's cinnamon buns were one of my favorite foods I ate in London. They're a bit different from cinnamon buns here. They're slightly more bread-like, less sweet, and more spiced because of the cardamom. I baked these after coming back home, and as soon as I took a bite, I felt like I was back in London. 


NORDIC BAKERY CINNAMON BUNS // makes 12 buns
from Nordic Bakery

Dough
570 ml lukewarm milk
150 g superfine sugar
45 g active dry yeast
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle
180 g (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 egg, at room temperature
1 kg all-purpose flour

Filling
100 g (6 ½ tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
200 g packed dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Glaze
85 g superfine sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
100 ml water

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the milk, sugar, yeast, cardamom, melted butter, and egg. With the mixer running, gradually add the flour, and mix until the dough has come together. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about one hour. 

Punch down the dough, and transfer to a lightly floured surface. With a rolling pin, roll the dough out until it is about 12 inches x 31 inches and ¼ inch thick. Spread the softened butter evenly over the dough. Combine the dark brown sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle it over the dough. 

Roll the dough up from a long edge. Cut into 2 ½ inch rolls at an angle – make the first cut diagonally, then the second diagonally in the opposite direction. Transfer the buns to the prepared pans with the longest edge sitting on the sheet. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap, and let prove in a warm place for 30-60 minutes, until nearly doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 400°F. 

Bake the buns for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Meanwhile, make the glaze. Add the sugar, lemon juice, and water to a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, until slightly thickened.

Remove the buns from the oven, transfer to a wire rack, and brush the glaze over the tops. Serve warm.


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When in London

It's easy to get caught up in the bustle of London, but today, after class, I headed out to explore Bankside, a part of London I had not visited yet. While I love living in a city, discovering and wandering through quieter pockets of London always leaves me feeling refreshed. 

I've been writing about my experiences in London for my school's study abroad office here!

White chocolate macadamia cookies

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Warm chocolate chip cookies are always comforting, especially on quiet, rainy days. I loved being back home for a quick visit a couple weekends ago. So much has changed over the past year, but being home always feels familiar and comforting.

I've been wanting to try this recipe for a while and think it'll be my go-to cookie dough from now on. The cream cheese gives the cookies incredible texture, and the brown butter adds a bit of nuttiness. They’re crispy on the edges and chewy in the center when they’re warm, but I like them even more the next day when they become more like soft-baked cookies. I love the classic combination of white chocolate and macadamia nuts but can also see this recipe as a great base for other combinations.


WHITE CHOCOLATE MACADAMIA COOKIES
makes 4 dozen cookies // adapted from Joy the Baker

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup instant milk powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, browned and cooled slightly
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups coarsely chopped macadamia nuts, toasted
2 cups coarsely chopped white chocolate

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, milk powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese and room temperature butter and beat until creamy. Add the browned butter and sugars, then beat until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix on medium-low speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Fold in the chopped nuts and white chocolate. 

Cover the mixing bowl, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight. (I like to portion out all of the dough after 1 hour, so that it’s easy to bake them off later.)

When ready to bake, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350°F. Scoop dough into portions of about 2 tablespoons each, then place them onto the prepared pan, leaving a couple inches between each cookie. Bake until golden around the edges, 11-12 minutes. Cool for one minute on the pan, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. 


Notes from Seattle

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I always come back to this image. It's blurry and imperfect, but it's this photo out of the three rolls I shot in Seattle that brings me back to the rainy weekend I spent there last year. I still remember the exact moment I took it. One day, after dinner, we walked around Green Lake. I took this photo on the ride back to hotel, wanting to hold onto the fleeting glow of sunset and remember the bridge we had crossed numerous times during our trip. 

It was March, and we had flown to Seattle on the first day of spring. I remember feeling like there was something special about the trip. I had gone to visit a college, and so, there was a newness to it, furthered by the fact that spring had just begun. 

In many ways, this photo truly embodies the trip itself—it was short and spontaneous—but in a way, just what I needed. It was here that the realization of how much would change in the coming year really sunk in. As I looked out the window at takeoff, I realized that at that time next year, for the first time, I might not be in San Francisco. 

It was a blur of a trip, spent dashing between the rain to as many places as we could. As I often do, I tried to fit as much as possible into the weekend we spent there, but it's these unplanned moments that I remember most vividly. That's the thing about photography and what makes me love it so much—it makes me appreciate the small moments.  

This was just one year ago, but so much has changed since then. I visited one college while in Seattle, thinking I'd go to school there, but as it happens, things change in an instant. 

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I discovered this shop through Kickstarter quite a few years ago and loved the premise of made-to-order molten chocolate cakes and a bakery centered around molten chocolate cakes at that. I was so happy to finally get a chance to visit it. I wish I had taken photos of the store because it was super charming as well. Next time! {I've included the address below}

I discovered this shop through Kickstarter quite a few years ago and loved the premise of made-to-order molten chocolate cakes and a bakery centered around molten chocolate cakes at that. I was so happy to finally get a chance to visit it. I wish I had taken photos of the store because it was super charming as well. Next time! {I've included the address below}

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Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery
5427 Ballard Ave NW
Seattle, WA 98107     

At Ocean Beach

Since moving away for college, I always make sure to revisit some of my favorite places when I come back home. Two of my favorites lately have been the Ocean Beach and Sutro Baths area and the Wood Line. I went home for a weekend last month and decided to catch sunrise at the beach before flying back to LA. Ocean Beach is often cold and windy, but when I shot these photos, it was bright, blue, and just the tiniest bit foggy. 

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Where it began

When I first started shooting film, now over a year ago (!), I loved exploring and discovering nature-y pockets of the city. I remember first visiting the Wood Line with my sister on one of my first film photo walks. We both loved walking along the Wood Line, and it continues to be one of my favorite places to visit in San Francisco. I finished my last roll of 2015 here, where it began. 

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One rainy day

It rained a bit here recently, reminding me of home. I love the way light streams across the dark pavement and the droplets of rain that appear on the window, each a magnified globe of the outside. A bit of nostalgia for now—

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Lemon swirl cheesecake squares

From my desk at work, I watch the light fade slowly into orange and pink pastels, then into deep dark blues, with car headlights sparkling from the freeway in the distance. A chill has set in suddenly, and it's begun to get dark by 6 p.m. It finally feels like fall, and I couldn't be more excited for the approaching holiday season. 

I'll be heading home for Thanksgiving in just under two weeks and can't wait to be back in the kitchen. These lemon cheesecake squares are always a favorite of mine. This recipe makes for a cheesecake lemony enough for those who love lemon yet not overly so for those who aren’t as big fans. The shortbread crust is one of my favorite parts because it's different from the traditional graham cracker crust yet pairs so well.  

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LEMON SWIRL CHEESECAKE BARS // makes 16 bars
from Food & Wine

Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled

Filling
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water
2 large egg yolks
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided use
1/4 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 1/4 pounds cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325°F and position a rack in the center. Line with parchment paper and butter a 9-inch square pan. 

In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, sugar, lemon zest, and salt, then pulse until combined. Add the butter and pulse until a soft, crumbly dough forms. Press the dough evenly into the bottom and a 1/2 inch up the sides of the pan. Bake the crust for 20 minutes, or until golden and firm.

In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the water. In a medium saucepan, whisk the egg yolks with 3/4 cup of the sugar and the lemon juice. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture, then cook over medium heat, whisking until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is hot, about 4 minutes. Boil over medium-high heat for 1 minute, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thick and glossy. Strain the mixture into a heatproof bowl. Stir in the lemon zest and let cool. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese with the remaining 1 cup of sugar until smooth. Add the flour, and mix until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions. Add the sour cream and the vanilla and beat until the batter is smooth. Pour the cream cheese batter over the crust and smooth the surface with a spatula. Dollop the lemon mixture on the cheesecake batter and swirl it into the batter.

Bake the cheesecake for 40 minutes, or until golden around the edges and just set. Let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour, then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Cut into 16 bars and serve. 


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The camellias bloomed in the spring

It’s strange—the parallels between moving out now and the feelings while moving in nearly six years ago. I remember the moment of settling into this room—empty but so full of opportunity. So much has changed—I’ve graduated from high school and am entering a new chapter of my life in a new city—but so much has stayed the same as well. This home has been my constant through those years.

We moved around over the years, but this home has felt like the place where I grew up. It’s where so many of my favorite memories were made—starting a vegetable garden with my family, numerous barbecues despite the city’s moody weather, and going on spontaneous photowalks in the park.

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It’s hard to leave behind a place that holds so many memories—Thanksgiving dinners for as long as I can remember and the glittering Christmas lights, but in these last days, I’ve come to appreciate the details: the way evening light streams through the kitchen window, the familiar path home past the green of the park, and the colorful rows of houses all around.

I’ll certainly remember the camellias. They always bloomed in the spring.

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{I've since begun to get used to the new normal but am just getting around to sharing this story. Moving has helped me realize that home isn't so much where I am as it is who's surrounding me.}