Cooking with the (Silent) Stars: Anna Q. Nilsson’s One Egg Muffins

Welcome back! I am cooking every recipe in the 1929 Photoplay Cookbook and you are invented to join me. This week’s recipe is from a star who is most remembered for a sound era cameo.

You can catch up on all my taste tests here.

Anna Q. Nilsson played one of the “waxworks” in Sunset Boulevard but I encourage everyone to check out her silent era work, she was easily one of the most talented actresses to ever grace to screen.

Arguably America’s first Swedish-born superstar, Nilsson was a subtle performer whose career spanned every genre imaginable. She was a socialite-turned-social-worker in the gangster film Regeneration, a fearless Union undercover agent in The Confederate Ironclad and an abandoned frontier wife in The Toll Gate.

We love Anna on the screen but what do we think of her baked goods? Let’s find out!

At this point in history, eggs were still something of a luxury. They weren’t out of the price range of most people but they did cost enough to make bakers pause at using too many. According to a U.S. government report from 1924  eggs are listed with an average price of $0.44 a dozen (over $6 in today’s money). So a one-egg muffin recipe would definitely have an appeal.

As I always do with vintage recipes, I used full-fat everything. I have found that older recipes rely on the fats in dairy to stay moist and substituting low-fat or skim can be disastrous. I also used European-style butter, which has a higher fat content.

I found the instructions for this recipe to be a bit confusing. This recipe calls for so little butter that I simply could not see it working to “cream” it into the flour. I did a little research and found that most one egg muffin recipes from the period call for mixing the melted butter, egg and milk into the dry ingredients and I followed this method.

Batter, dough, whatever…

The batter is really more the consistency of drop biscuit dough: wet but definitely too thick to pour. I was concerned about density and the middles not getting done so I opted for small muffins. I put about two teaspoons into each muffin liner and ended up with a dozen. (I used Wilton Elegance Cupcake Liners. Aren’t they cute?)

Ten minutes was about right for the muffins an a 400 degree oven but do keep an eye on them. Any quick bread recipe is prone to a burned bottom.

One…
Two…
Three!

Score: 3 out of 5. They’re cute little hybrids but not quite as tasty as buttermilk biscuits, scones or muffins. I think if the recipe went either a little sweeter (with some vanilla) or savory (with some cheese and chives) then it would be better. That being said, all my tasters wolfed these down, especially when I offered honey and apricot jam.

Here are some pictures. I have changed my setup for photgraphing finished recipes (the in-process photos are still snapped on my smartphone because I am not really set up to take proper photos and cook at the same time).

I molded my butter using mini silicone molds just to add an extra touch to my presentation. (I didn’t press firmly enough and thus had some air bubbles but I still think they look nice.)

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9 Replies to “Cooking with the (Silent) Stars: Anna Q. Nilsson’s One Egg Muffins”

  1. Nilsson’s muffins look to be a great vehicle for jam, honey, or butter but I agree, all by themselves they must taste pretty plain. Nothing a little almond/vanilla extract and cardamom/nutmeg wouldn’t cure, though 🙂

  2. Another great post! I love the recipes of the movie stars as well. Will have to try this one and tinker with it! There’s a great cookbook called “what actors eat when they eat” that has strange recipes of the time (late thirties) using aspic, calfs head (I think that was Lionel Atwill’s recipe). Those are fun to read and to try to determine if they are an actual recipe of the star or one invented by their press agent!

    1. Thank you! Yes, What Actors Eat When They Eat is great fun. I recall there are a few keepers in there (were there sweet potato pancakes somewhere?) and I’ll definitely be cooking something from it eventually.

  3. “…eggs were still something of a luxury. They weren’t out of the price range of most people but they did cost enough to make bakers pause at using too many.”
    UNLESS you grew up on a farm, in which case………almost every damn one but the grossly misshapen went into town for sale. Dang!

    Still have memories of trucking eggs (chicken and goose), along with our best produce, into town to get sold by the farm outlet. May the gods bless our current local markets for their abundance of chicken eggs, row upon row of ’em. Our Ralphs even carries some green and speckled locals! Random Thought: wonder if anyone but a farm family or co-op cook with goose or duck eggs these days (genuinely curious).

    1. Ooo, ooo, ooo! Me! I grew up on goose eggs. I prefer them, as a matter of fact, but they’re impossible for a civilian to buy so I guess the answer to your question (as far as I know) is a no. A shame, they’re delightful.

      Interestingly, my friend in El Centro tells me that Mexican shoppers come across the border to buy produce grown in Mexico. The best stuff does indeed leave the local area and so the locals go to the US to buy the foods that were grown in their neighborhood.

      P.S. Maybe an Asian market? I know duck and quail eggs can be had there.

      1. Thanks for the tip about checking a local Asian market for duck and quail eggs. Haven’t had quail eggs since moving out of the L.A. area, where they were readily available at my favorite Koreatown market.

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