Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Our first pie comes from Sallie.
Sallie was one of our few non-bloggers entries. So unfortunately I don't have a blog to link to for more of Sallie's recipes. However, after reading the fantastic email she sent me... she should really consider giving it a go.
Anyone who writes well and makes their family endure countless iterations of a single dish to perfect a recipe, is a born food-blogger.
Let's get to the pie...
Long before the internet put information at our fingertips, I baked my first Shoo Fly Pie because of a quirky old gentleman from Pennsylvania who knew my father-in-law. Harold Jamieson missed his Shoo Fly Pie. His mother had made it. His ex-wife had made it. His sister made it. However, they had either passed on or still lived in Pennsylvania. So armed with Harold’s mother’s recipe, his daughter-in-law’s recipe, an antique booklet from the Dutch Pantry in Selinsgrove, PA and a version of the pie from the Farm Journal Pie Cookbook, I baked and tweaked for weeks. By the time I had Shoo Fly Pie the way I liked it, my family was Shoo Fly Pied out. But I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the syrup and molasses based breakfast pie. Yes, you read that correctly, it’s a breakfast pie so guilt no more about eating “dessert” first. I love the Pennsylvania Dutch’s addiction to pies for every meal. It made perfect sense when you consider the convenience of anything in a crust. Actually, those hardy colonists drawn by William Penn’s promise of religious tolerance weren’t Dutch at all, but were from Germany (Deutsch) and Switzerland. The pie, too, had its roots in Europe, a relative to treacle (syrup) tart.
The Shoo Fly Pie was created when colonists in the early 18th century found their baking supplies running low late in the winter. The ingredients left in the pantry were usually flour, lard and molasses or refiner’s syrup. Many have presumed that the unusual name of the pie was due to it attracting flies as it cooled near an open window. However, the name “Shoo Fly Pie” did not appear in print until 1926. I agree with John Ayto in his An A-Z of Food and Drink when he states . . . “the fact that it originated as a Pennsylvania Dutch specialty suggests the possibility that shoofly is an alteration of an unidentified German word.” I totally agree with this conclusion because one of those antique recipe pamphlets that Harold Jamieson loaned to me mentioned that the pie had been associated with the name “Schuuflei Boi”.
One thing is clear, however, when baking Shoo Fly Pie--the syrup makes the pie. An all molasses pie has a very strong flavor and it is critical to me to use a molasses with as little bitterness as possible. In Shoo Fly Pie country, cooks use King Syrup or Golden Barrel Table Syrup sometimes blended with molasses. I prefer the Pennsylvania Dutch table syrups, but I usually have to order them online since I am stuck in The Middle Of Nowhere, WA. Some of the table syrups have some molasses in them; others do not. Some recipes call for both corn syrup and molasses. In lieu of golden table syrup, I have used combinations of corn syrup, light molasses and very light honey*. Even in its birthplace, the pie has a split personality. Berks County, PA is known for the “dry” Shoo Fly Pie while neighboring Lancaster County prefers the “wet bottom” pie. This is all a matter of how deep of a gooey moist zone develops underneath the cakelike layer. While browsing the internet, I found a few recipes similar to mine, but I prefer the one I developed using the four recipes given to me by quirky old Harold. So, in memoriam to Mr. Jamieson I give you the following recipe:
“Here's to you, Harold Jamieson" Shoo Fly Pie
Crumbs & Crust:
1 c. flour
½ c. brown sugar
2 T. shortening (or butter)
½ t. cinnamon
1/8 t. nutmeg
1/8 t. ginger
1/8 t. cloves
1 8"-9" pie crust
Preheat oven to 400°. Line an 8” or 9” pie plate with pastry and flute edges. Whisk together all of the above dry ingredients then cut in shortening or butter with pastry blender until it has appearance of crumbs.
¾ c. King Syrup or Golden Barrel Table Syrup
¾ c. hot water
1 well beaten egg
1 t. vanilla
1 t. baking soda
Combine the syrup and hot water then stir in the baking soda, vanilla and egg. Place a third of the crumbs in a layer on the bottom of the pie shell. Pour about half the syrup over the crumbs. Layer in another third of the crumbs followed by the remaining syrup. Scatter the remaining crumbs over the entire top. Bake at 400° for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350° and bake for 20-25 more minutes. Remove pie from oven and let cool on rack.
Conventional wisdom prescribes letting the pie cool, but I am of the persuasion that this is best eaten while still warm. In fact, when having gone without Shoo Fly Pie for any extensive length of time, I take it out of the oven, pretend to wait a couple of minutes and cut into it while piping hot. It is possible to burn your tongue if you don’t wait, but that has only happened to me once and it was worth the momentary pain.
One account reports that the use of whipped cream to top the pie is how it is served to tourists. In contrast to that belief, I have discovered recipes online that advocate whipped cream or ice cream or clotted cream. Personally, I eat my Shoo Fly naked---or rather the pie is naked, no dressing it up in the whipped cream. I do like to sip an accompanying café mocha or latte, however. But if the topping appeals to you, go for it.
*Notes on substitutions for King or Golden Barrel Table syrup using cornsyrup, light molasses and honey:
'As for the combination of syrups, it's like adding salt and pepper--you discover what personally suits you and it depends on each component. I don't particularly like Karo syrup; it has salt in it, but sometimes there is no alternative. The lighter the honey the better is the general rule; ditto for the molasses although a few cooks use a touch of blackstrap molasses. I started by using a third of each and then taste the syrup and make adjustments. There is room for great creativity and scores of combinations. One recipe added instant espresso to the filling. I didn't go there, just didn't seem right. Eventually, I used 1/2 corn syrup, 1/4 light molasses, 1/4 light honey."