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~ My PA Dutch Favorite: Shoo-Fly Pie (Give it a try!)~

IMG_4102I don't know how many slices of shoo-fly pie I've eaten in my lifetime.  I grew up in Eastern, PA, more specifically, near the Lehigh Valley, which has a large population of Pennsylvania Dutch. Every bakery and market sells shoe-fly pie, and in every household, someone has a great recipe for it.  When I graduated from high school, my fiance's grandmother, who lived in South Tamqua, more specifically Mantzville, made a great shoo-fly pie.  Nana and her husband Pappy were both what we affectionately refer to here in Pennsylvania as:  Pennsylvania Dutch!

IMG_4012You say Pennsylvania Dutch, We say Pennsylvania Deutsch!

I'm here to make it clear that Pennsylvania Dutch cookery does not belong solely to PA and it is not Dutch either.  The term "Dutch" was the early English settlers slang for the German word "Deutsch".  So:  When most people incorrectly say "Pennsylvania Dutch", they should be saying "Pennsylvania Deutsch", crediting the Germanic or German-speaking immigrants from Germany and Switzerland for this cuisine.  The majority of these people were either Amish, Mennonite or Brethern, all of which were considered "Anabaptist".  They were fleeing the mountains of Switzerland and southern Germany to avoid religious persecution and established several communities in the Lehigh Valley.  Pennsylvania in general was a haven for them:

Pennsylvania - America's first "melting pot"! 

William penn2William Penn (the man our state is named after), a Quaker, believed that everyone had the right to seek God in his or her own way, calling it "liberty of conscience".  He and other free thinkers of the time felt it would create a stronger government and a wealthier society.  Imagine that.  While all of the other colonies had established an official church, Mr. Penn did not do this with his. Instead, he extended an open invitation to any and all religious groups suffering in Europe. When they arrived, he gave everyone land, and, while only Christians could hold political office, any person (from any ethnic, racial or economic background) could take part in all the social activites and economic benifits PA offered. Pennsylvania became known for being America's diverse colony.

IMG_4003The first groups to arrive were German Quakers and Mennonites. They arrived in 1693 and named their settlement Germantown. Lutherans, Schwenkfelders, Dutch Reformed, Moravians and Swiss Amish soon followed.  By 1730, a large populous had established communities in Lancaster County. All of these people fall into the category of PA Dutch because they were Deutsch or German speaking. They brought with them staples of their heritage that would survive the long voyage:  flour, brown sugar, molasses, lard, salt and spices. Upon their arrival, especially if it was in the Fall, they had to make due with what they had in the larder until the next growing season.  This pie was a resourceful concoction!

"Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me (and stay away from my pie)!"

IMG_4036While shoo-fly pie has nothing to do with the lyrics to this song, it did get its name because of flies.  Before air-conditioning, doors and windows were kept open to help cool the stifling hot kitchen.  It is said that because of the high molasses content and its fragrance, flies were particulary drawn to this pie.  While the pie was cooling, whoever was in the kitchen was required to "shoo the flies", to keep them from landing on the top!

This is one of those pies that people avoid making because the recipes, while all similar, are all just different enough that if it's not the way "your people like it", the pie is deemed "not right" or "a failure".  There is an important control factor that manages the crumb topping from being crumby or crunchy, as well as, the desired wetness or cake-like texture of the bottom!  Read on:

31ZnVgjoIlL._AA160_Because it contains egg, shoo-fly pie is classified as a custard pie, similar to pecan pie only without the nuts -- often having a jamlike consistency. The pie filling thickens as it bakes from a portion of the crumb topping that gets incorporated into it.  Some people, like me, like their shoo-fly pie with a loose, "wet bottom", so less of the crumb topping is added to the filling. Others prefer it "cake-like", so they add more. Some pie toppings are crumby, others are crunchy -- the amount of butter added controls that texture.  Some people like to add fragrant spices, others do not: 

I am here to tell you, if you've ever tasted a Moravian spice cookie (a molasses-based wafer containing cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg), you'll want to add the spices!

  IMG_4499There's no right or wrong:  it is all about how YOU like this pie! 

6a0120a8551282970b01538fb36192970b-800wi1  unbaked 9" pie pastry

IMG_3941For the crumb topping:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2  cup dark brown sugar

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8  teaspoon ground cloves

1/2  teaspoon ground ginger

1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4  teaspoon salt

8  tablespoons butter, cold 

For the pie filling:

1  extra-large egg 


1  teaspoon vanilla extract

1  cup full-flavor molasses

3/4  teaspoon baking soda

1/2  cup hot tap water

1/2  cup crumb topping mixture, reserved from above recipe

Note: As mentioned above, add more or less of the crumb topping to the filling, depending upon how wet you want your pie bottom to be!

IMG_3928 IMG_3929~ Step 1. You'll need a 9" pie pastry.  You can find my recipe for ~ Making Pate Brisee: Basic Pie or Quiche Pastry ~ in Categories 6, 15 & 22.  Roll it, trim it, and pat and press it into a 9" pie dish, and, form a decorative border as directed.  Place the pie crust in the refrigerator to chill at least 30 minutes.  In the meantime, prepare the crumb topping and pie filling as follows:

IMG_3954 IMG_3947~ Step 2.  To prepare the crumb topping, place all ingredients in a medium bowl.  Using a pastry cutter and a paring knife, blend until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  

Remove 1/2 cup of crumb topping from the bowl and set it aside.  This will get stirred into the filling.

IMG_3978 IMG_3966~ Step 3.  To prepare the pie filling, in a medium bowl, using a fork, whisk together the egg and vanilla extract. Add the molasses and stir.  

~ Step 4.  Add the baking soda and hot water.  Using a large rubber spatula combine thoroughly.  Note: Be sure to use a medium mixing bowl, because once the water gets added, the baking soda foams up.

IMG_3985 IMG_3983~ Step 5. Stir in the reserved crumb topping.  

IMG_3991~ Step 6. Transfer the mixture into chilled pie pastry and sprinkle the remaining crumb topping evenly over the top.

IMG_4000~  Step 7.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven 45 minutes, or until puffed through to the center and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer to a rack and cool about 3-4 hours prior to slicing and serving slightly warm or at room temperature.  Note:  As the pie cools it will firm up and the top will sink to form a somewhat uneven landscape!

Slightly warm:  Oh my ooey-gooey goodness!!!

IMG_4047Room temperature:  My kinda shoo-fly pie!!! 

IMG_4133Like your shoo-fly pie slightly firmer in the center and crumbier on top?  As mentioned above, decrease the amount of butter in your crumb topping (4 tablespoons used here) and increase the amount of crumb topping you stir into your pie filling (3/4 cup used here)!!!

IMG_4511My PA Dutch Favorite:  Shoo-Fly Pie (Give it a try!):  Recipe yields 1, 9" pie, or, 8-10 servings.

Special Equipment List:  9" pie dish, preferably glass; pastry blender; paring knife; large rubber spatula; cake tester or toothpick

PICT1106Cooks Note:  If you like moist flavorful spice cake, for another one of Nana's Pennsylvania Dutch desserts, you'll want to try my recipe for ~ Nana's Applesauce-Oatmeal-Raisin-Walnut Cake ~.  You can find it in Categories 6 & 19!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013) 


You make me smile Marilyn!!!


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