23 July 2010

Summer rerun: From the land of the shoo-fly

This post ran originally on 29 November 2008.

I was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania; and no, I'm not Amish. I've been away from those gently rolling hills for a long time but Thanksgiving makes me nostalgic. I may not be Amish, but it doesn't take an Amishman to appreciate pretty countryside and an urge to make things by hand.

Arguably, Lancaster County's signature dish is a little something called shoo-fly pie. Shoo-fly pie is one of those things that everybody's heard of but never encountered first hand. Shoo-fly pie is one of my favorite things to bake and it can't be the holidays in my house without it.

The first time I ever made one for a party, everyone thought it was so exotic and cosmopolitan. That is funny on so many levels at one time I can't stand it. Anyhow, here's my recipe for cosmopolitan and exotic shoo-fly pie.

Pie dough for a nine-inch pie
1 cup of all-purpose flour
2/3 cup of firmly packed, dark brown sugar
5 tablespoons of unsalted butter (softened)
1 cup light molasses
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup boiling water

Roll out pie dough and turn into a nine-inch pie plate. Trim and flute the edges. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, brown sugar and softened butter. Mash with a fork until it reaches a consistent, crumbly consistency. In a separate bowl, beat together the molasses, egg and baking soda with a large spoon until blended. Stir in the boiling water and mix thoroughly (this will begin to foam). Stir half the crumb mixture into the molasses mixture and pour into the crust. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture evenly over the top. Bake a 400 degrees, on the center rack, for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake until the pie filling has puffed around the sides and is firm in the center, about 20 to 30 minutes more. Cool on a rack.


  1. Do you make pot pie too? I never liked shoo-fly pie, but I have to fess up to loving pot pie with saffron and vinegar. I made it for friends when we lived in Japan and they loved it.

  2. I had no idea what a shoo-fly pie actually was - a distant cousin to a sugar cream. YUM!

    Bookmarking this page.

    Thanks, Paul!

  3. Melody: I can't get enough of the shoo-fly. Pot Pie is also a wonder but it has been ages since I made it. Maybe it's time to trot it out again. Maybe we should explain tot he non-Pennsylvanians out there that real pot pie has nothing to do with the frozen pies most people think of when they hear the term pot pie.

    Raina: Shoo-fly practically makes itself it's so easy and people really do go bonkers over the stuff. I think molasses is an unusual flavor in these modern times and shoo-fly is an unabashed embrace of molasses.

  4. That's the odd thing - I love molasses and use it frequently in cooking but for some reason I could never get into shoo-fly pie. I haven't had it in probably 25 years so maybe it's time to give it another go.
    For those non-Lancastrians reading this, pot pie in this area is not actually a pie, but more of a thick chicken stew. Cook a chicken and remove from broth. Make 3x3 inch square shaped noodles from egg and flour and put into broth along with diced potatoes. Pick chicken off carcass and add to broth with a pinch of saffron. My mom adds a can of cream of chicken soup but that's not the norm. Cook until noodles are done and serve drizzled with apple cider vinegar and salt.

  5. It's the combination of saffron and apple cider vinegar that Yonifies it. I read somewhere that the recipe from real Amish pot pie comes from the 17th century and what are now noodles were a substitute for hard-tack, the flour biscuits that sustained seafarers and people on the frontier for hundreds of years.

  6. Yonifies!! That's hysterical.
    A testament to the longevity of hardtack; there is some in the museum at Gettysburg that actually survived from the civil war!


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