Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pennsylvania Dutch Shoo-Fly Pie

If you have not already picked up the lessons of this little excursion through American cooking and American identity, let me spell it out: our cooking, like our nation, is a mix of deep-held family traditions, often stretching back to the "old country," and eclectic innovation, usually involving taking other people's best ideas and then tinkering with them.  The results can be confusing and incoherent, but also quirky and delightful.

This final recipe neatly embodies that lesson.  I was once invited an an Oslava, thrown by some Slovak-Americans.  They asked everyone to bring an item of food made from an old family recipe.  So I sent my grandmother a note and asked her if she had a recipe that would fit the bill.  In response, she sent me a recipe for Shoo-Fly Pie, and reminded me that my great-grandfather (and countless generations before him) had been Pennsylvania Dutch, a people who enjoy shoo-fly.  This all made good sense to me, since I knew about our family's roots in Pennsylvania, and I had first seen shoo-fly pie in Lancaster County, PA.

Having made the recipe a time or two, I sent my grandmother a note, thanking her for this family recipe.  I do not recall the precise words of her reply, but she as much as said that she simply found the recipe in a cook book.  At this point, the story breaks down.  I am not sure if this was a family cookbook, and so the recipe had come from Great-Great Aunt Mathilda or some such, or if Grandma was simply trying to guess what our family might have baked a few generations before, and then found any old shoo-fly recipe.  (My father says his mother never made it when he was a child.)

In spite of this historical confusion, several facts remain: (1) My family were Pennsylvania Dutch for about two centuries, (2) this recipe comes from my grandmother, and (3) I have become quite a fan of shoo-fly pie, and make it any chance I get.

Alas, this pie is not for everyone.  It is pretty hearty, filling stuff.  I don't know if those old Pennsylvania farmers actually ate it, but I can certainly imagine they did.

Pennsylvania Dutch Shoo-Fly Pie

1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. plus 1 Tbsp molasses
1 egg
1/2 c. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1/2 c. hot coffee
3/4 c. flour (I usually use a combination of white and whole wheat)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

2/3 c. flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. butter (unmelted)

Mix first three ingredients, then add all the rest from the filling list. Pour into 9" pie crust. Cut the butter into flour and sugar for the crumb topping, and sprinkle on top. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes or until set.  Consider serving with whipped cream.

Today's image comes from Kitchen Kettle Village.
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