Biographer Donald Bogle joined me to celebrate the centennial of this trailblazing talent!
Dorothy Dandridge was born on November 9, 1922. She began her career as a child performing on the stage and would eventually play the Cotton Club, the Apollo Theatre and the Mocombo. In 1954 she starred in the musical "Carmen Jones" and made history as the first African-American to receive a Best Actress Academy Award nomination. Due racism, there were limited opportunities and her screen career was short lived. In spite of this, she remains an inspiration and a trailblazer. Halle Berry portrayed her in the HBO film "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" in 1999 and won a Best Actress Emmy award. She also thanked Dorothy immediately upon her history making Best Actress Oscar win in 2002 for "Monsters Ball".
This recipe was attributed to Dorothy Dandridge in Ebony Magazine. Thank you to my friend Christina Rice for the Los Angeles Public Library for locating it.
This is the original recipe.
Coffee Bread or Quick Cinnamon Rolls
Make a rich biscuit dough using:
4 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
½ cup shortening
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup milk
1 egg slightly beaten
Knead lightly. Roll one half very thin. Spread soft butter and sprinkle with cinnamon. This recipe is ideal for afternoon teas.
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup raisins and spread over dough liberally
Roll into dough with rolling pin
Roll up carefully like a jelly roll. Cut in ½ inch slices with sharp knife. Bake in greased pan in 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
Here are my notes. Much like Dorothy's character "Carmen Jones", this recipe was far more complicated than I realized. Fortunately Krista had the same experience. I cut the recipe in half, since I'm always cooking for one. I originally made the recipe exactly as Dorothy's recipe suggested. It was fine, but the cinnamon roles had NO rise or fluffiness to them. I decided to go down a recipe rabbit hole and read more about how to get nice, fluffy cinnamon rolls. The key was adding yeast, but each recipe I came across seemed to have different ideas about how long it needed to rise and even what temperature to bake. Krista and I both wound up calling our Moms for consultation.
Ultimately, I added a full packet of yeast to the dough. I let the ball of dough rise for 10 minutes. I heated the oven up to 200 degrees and then turned it off. I rolled up the dough and cut it into 1/2 inch slices in a square baking pan. I turned off the oven and put the pan in there for 60 minutes to allow the dough to rise. Krista let her dough rise overnight. There are SO MANY ways to do this. I even saw some recipes that suggested adding buttermilk as well.
I baked my cinnamon rolls at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes. I should have taken them out a tad bit earlier. I added the raisins, but honestly it doesn't add to the flavor and I would recommend skipping that part.
There was no icing recipe listed in the Ebony Magazine article. I tried making a basic icing recipe involving powdered sugar, milk, butter and vanilla extract. Unfortunately the powdered sugar remained in little clumps and I couldn't get them out. The icing was a bit watery.
I decided to go with a cream cheese frosting for the second time around. Here's the recipe I used:
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup milk of choice (more if necessary)
My friend and frequent Hollywood Kitchen collaborator Danny Miller said that he uses this cinnamon roll recipe.
Donald Bogle is an American film historian and author of six books concerning black history in film and on television including the definitive biography of Dorothy Dandridge. He is an instructor at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and at the University of Pennsylvania. He will be honored with the Robert Osborne Award at the 2023 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival.
Krista Lawler is from Logansport, Indiana. She loves classic Hollywood and her favorite actresses include Norma Shearer, Dorothy Dandridge, Lana Turner, and Fredi Washington. Her favorite actors are Robert Montgomery, Franchot Tone, and Sidney Poitier. She is the founder of the Facebook group Norma Shearer Devotees – a group of likeminded Norma Shearer fans who gather in remembrance of Norma Shearer. Krista is also the founder of the Facebook group Robert Montgomery – Actor on Facebook as well.
After I added yeast, the cinnamon rolls turned out fluffy and delicious. These can be stored at room temperature for 2 days and then refrigerated for one week. You can also put them in an air tight container or wrap them tightly in plastic to freeze them.
There are Dorothy Dandridge films available on DVD, Streaming and Turner Classic Movies.
Collage artwork by Cherie Savoie Tintary
Take a look at Janet Jackson's tribute to Dorothy Dandridge on TCM!
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