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