Perhaps no other single dessert is so
identified with Amish Country as is the shoofly pie. First-time visitors
always want to know what it is.
We might say it is more like a coffee
cake, with a gooey molasses bottom. This bottom can be thick or barely
visible, hence we refer to pies as wet-bottom or dry-bottom. Some cooks
put chocolate icing on top for a chocolate shoofly pie. Some use spices;
some don't. There does seem to be agreement that they are best slightly
warmed with a major dab of whipped cream on top. There are even recipes
for shoofly cake.
Shoofly pies can be tasted in most of the
area restaurants, where you can usually buy one to take home as well. Most
people find them very sweet, what with all that molasses and brown sugar.
If you like sweet desserts, you'll probably love shoofly pie.
But how did these pies get their name? The
most logical explanation seems to be that the sweet ingredients attracted
flies when the pies were cooling. The cooks had to "shoo" the
flies away, hence the name shoofly pie.
Another story claims that this is really a
French recipe, and that the crumb topping of the pie resembled the surface
of the cauliflower, which is "cheux-fleur" in French. This was
eventually pronounced as shoofly. Locals have a little problem with that
explanation, and most of us have never seen this pie served up in the fine
restaurants of Paris.
No less an authority on things
Pennsylvania Dutch than John Joseph Stoudt states clearly that shoofly
pies "are soundly Pennsylvanian, made in the earlier days with
sorghum, later with molasses, and with brown rather than granulated
sugar." Phyllis Pellman Good, in her book Amish Cooking, feels
that these pies may have been common because "this hybrid cake within
a pie shell" faired better in the old style bake ovens after the
bread had been baked. With modern kitchen stoves, temperatures could be
controlled and the more standard, lighter pies developed.
Who cares? The important thing is to try
some. Here is a "classic" recipe, which uses New Orleans
molasses (French after all?). Be sure to use a good, thick molasses….
Mix for crumbs: (reserving ½ cup for
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon solid shortening
1 cup flour
1 cup molasses (good and thick)
¾ cup boiling water
1 egg beaten
1 Teaspoon baking soda
Combine soda with boiling water, then add
egg and syrup. Add crumb mixture (this will be lumpy). Pour into unbaked
pie crust and cover with reserved crumbs. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit
for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for an
additional 35-45 minutes (until firm). When cut into, the bottom may be
"wet." This is okay, and is called a "wet bottom shoo fly