Here is a recipe for sweet rolls with a name I do not understand, from a 1930s Ri-Temp cookbook. Ri-Temp was a special kind of oven control made by the English Electric Company Ltd in Preston, Lancashire. They wanted nothing more than to make your life easier with the “English Electric” cooker, which the lady in the picture is gazing at. Doesn’t the door handle she is holding seem a little high? As does the window. Perhaps they have got the cooker in the basement. We had a basement apartment long ago that looked a bit like that room. Minus the cooker, of course (we had a gas stove from the 1970s, as I recall, that did nothing to alleviate my life).
The introduction to the book says that “in these days of rush and bustle and servant problems, it is essential that all household duties should be completed quickly and with the least possible expenditure of energy.” Ah yes, the days of rush and bustle and servant problems. My main servant problem of course is that I don’t want to do housework, I would rather be writing or going for a long walk or researching something. The servant is too busy rushing and bustling around in the library or at the computer, you see!
So what I really need is an “English Electric” cooker, so that I will have “every advantage required to produce well-cooked, well-balanced meals with very little effort on her part to obtain perfect results.” Oh, I like the sound of that! But…I still have to cook, right? I do have to make a “very little effort.” OK, I can do that. I guess.
You see, I adore old cookbooks but except for the odd mood (usually around Christmas, but not always even then) I do not really like spending hours in a kitchen doing things to and with food. I like quick, mostly vegetarian, very simple meals. And boy do I like the weekly takeout! I will gladly eat any tofu teriyaki that is sent in, but it never works out when I make it. I am not sure that the Ri-Temp cooker could really cope with tofu though.
My favorite kind of cooking is baking. I enjoy it when I do it, but it doesn’t always work into the old health regime. So I cope by reading recipes and making them in my head, except at Christmas or birthdays. Or I make low fat muffins, they’re pretty good. You just replace the butter with applesauce, and freeze them if you think you will eat them all at once (ahem).
Anyway – on with the Desdemona Buns, whoever they were named after – the lady in the picture? Othello’s wife? Did she even have time to make buns, though? Not to mention not having an English Electric cooker with Ri-Temp control.
4 oz. flour
3 oz. butter
3 oz. sugar
1 tsp baking powder
Filling:1/2 lb. icing sugar
2 oz. melted butter
1 Tb milk
Cream the butter and sugar together; add the eggs and flour, and place in greased tins. Set the oven dial to 450 F (oven will be ready in 25 minutes), and bake at this temperature for 10 minutes. When cool, cut off the tops of the buns, scoop out a little of the sponge and fill with cream filling; replace tops, sprinkle with icing sugar and decorate with cherries.