Thursday, May 5, 2016

Traditional Shoo-fly Pie!

If you are not familiar with Pennsylvania Dutch, Amish, or Mennonite culture and cooking, even the term "shoo fly pie" may sound downright unappetizing! But think of it: a pie soooo wonderfully ooey-gooey but also crispy-crumbly on top, sitting on a flakey buttery crust...those ol' salivary glands start doing their work!

Sweet sorghum growing
Originally, shoo-fly pie was made with sorghum syrup because it was a very common product made from the juice of sorghum plants. Sorghum is a favorite of pigs, making it a prevalent crop among farmers who usually raised hogs as a staple meat. When molasses, produced during the processing of sugar cane, became more commonly available at lower prices, it began to replace sorghum syrup in many of these recipes and remains the more usual ingredient to his day.

If you peruse the internet for shoo-fly pie recipes, you will likely encounter the descriptions of "wet bottom" or "soggy bottom" versus "dry bottom" versions. The recipe consists of three parts: the crust, bottom or body of the pie, and the crumble topping. The recipe here would be considered a dry bottom pie because the gooey molasses part is layered with the dry  crumbles, which produces a more solid, firm pie overall. Keeping these two elements separate by pouring the molasses portion all in first and using all of the crumble on the top surface produces a wetter body under the crisp topping...hence, a wet bottomed pie. The difference is achieved solely by varying the method used in building the pie, so the ingredients are the same regardless.

Now on to the recipe!


One nine inch pie crust  (You may use a pre-made crust from the supermarket if you are not comfortable with making your own, but I highly recommend learning to do it yourself. Once you get the hang of it, the fresh, homemade version is so much better!)

1 cup molasses
3/4 cup very hot water
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg

1 1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cold butter
3/4 cup brown sugar

See? It looks super simple already! Here is how to put it all together:
  1. First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees with the rack in the center.
  2. Put your crust in a pie pan, crimping the edges a little extra high. This will give your pie a slightly higher edge to prevent the molassss mixture from spilling over during baking.
  3. Mix together the flour, butter, and brown sugar with your fingers until it resembles somewhat even crumbs. Set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the hot water. Add the molasses. Quickly whisk in the egg, whipping well to thoroughly mix.
  5. Pour about 1/3 of your molasses mixture into the pie crust, then sprinkle some of the crumbled mixture over it. Repeat this twice with the remaining ingredients, making sure to leave enough crumbles for the thickest layer on the very top of your pie.
Bake your pie at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for another 30 minutes until the pie is firm. Cool for 30 minutes or so before slicing. 

Shoo-fly pie is really at its yummiest when served warm, but don't be tempted to re-heat it in a microwave! Microwave ovens tend to "melt" the pie so it becomes overly soft, bordering on runny. Enjoy a slice all on its own, or topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. 

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