10.27.2010

Wet Bottom or Dry Bottom?...

That is the question.  No, Hamlet wasn't Pennsylvania Dutch.  But if he had been, that is the question he would have been asking.

Today's posting is devoted to the two distinct styles of Shoofly Pie.

Mark and I have been enjoying a wonderful weekend hosting friends - really, they are more like family - from San Francisco, Philadelphia and Atlanta.  They are here in Tucson for the Great Pumpkin Race - a 5K run/walk through pumpkin fields and a corn maze (a maize maze???) in the middle of nowhere an hour southwest of the city.  Each year, they choose a "destination" race and use it as an excuse to get together, eat, drink, shop and play.   And yes, they run the race.

Michael, from San Francisco, insisted I make two things while they are here: Shoofly Pie and a Sephardic dish of eggs poached in tomato sauce.  Nan (Michael's mother), Claudia and Joy didn't protest, although there is some skepticism about the eggs and tomatoes...


Most of what we know about Shoofly Pie is anecdotal.  It has been made famous by the Amish - or Pennsylvania Dutch - and it may be called so because it was so sweet that it attracted flies and they, of course, would need to be shooed!  But there are other versions of how it got its name, one of which is that it is a transliteration of a German word into English.  I have seen this referenced several times but not one of the sources can cite the German word.

I suppose, in the end, it doesn't matter.  What does matter, though are two things when considering the pie.  First, which is the title of this posting, is whether you prefer the wet bottom or dry bottom (recipes for both follow...) and, second, when do you choose to eat your Shoofly Pie?  And perhaps those to issues depend upon one another.

I grew up liking the wet bottom pie and that is probably because I love gooey desserts.  Michael and Nan also like the wet bottom version.  And, the three of us grew up eating it as a dessert.  But the Pennsylvania Dutch never intended it to be eaten as a dessert.  Only the "English" (the Amish word for Gringo) would eat it after a meal.  For the Amish it as a breakfast cake, something to revive and re-energize them after a long and early morning in the fields.

In truth, it is more of a coffee cake than a dessert and, with that in mind, the dry bottom version makes sense.  But, this weekend in our house, it was breakfast and dessert... and mid-morning snack... and afternoon pick-me-up.  But now, more than anything, it is Monday morning and "the pie is all." (That's Pennsylvania Dutch for "There is no more pie.")

- David

Shoofly Pie (Wet Bottom)
From Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
(All photos are of the wet bottom pie)

2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup molasses
1 pastry crust, rolled and crimped in a pie plate

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  

In the bowl of a food processor, blend the flour, brown sugar and salt until evenly distributed.  Add butter in 8 pieces and pulse 15-20 times until crumbly - you should still  be able to see small pieces of butter.  Set aside.  (This can also be done with a pastry cutter in a large bowl: whisk together the flour, brown sugar and sat.  Then cut in the butter until crumbly as described above.)

In a medium bowl, pour boiling water over baking soda and watch it fizz.  Add the molasses and stir well to blend.  

Pour the molasses mixture in the unbaked pie crust and then cover evenly with the crumb mixture.  Bake for 35-40 minutes until nicely browned. 

Makes one 8 or 9-inch pie.  Recipe can be doubled if Michael is coming to visit....

Shoofly Pie (Dry Bottom)
Lehigh County, Pennsylvania

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup boiling water
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup molasses
1 pastry crust, rolled and crimped in a pie plate

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.  

In the bowl of a food processor, blend the flour, brown sugar and salt until evenly distributed.  Add butter in 4 pieces and pulse 15-20 times until crumbly - you should still  be able to see small pieces of butter.  Set aside.  (This can also be done with a pastry cutter in a large bowl: whisk together the flour, brown sugar and sat.  Then cut in the butter until crumbly as described above.)

In a medium bowl, pour boiling water over baking soda and watch it fizz.  Add the molasses and stir well to blend.  Add 2/3 of the crumb mixture and blend well.

Spread the molasses-crumb mixture in the unbaked pie crust and then cover evenly with the remaining crumb mixture.  Bake for 30 minutes until crumbs and crust are golden. 

Makes one 8 or 9-inch pie.

5 comments:

  1. What a charming story and both look delicious! xoxoJill

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  2. David, I never knew. Never knew about the different bottoms and never thought about eating it for breakfast...well, unless I found myself up early and snuck a sliver! Please tell us (or refresh my memory if you have already discussed this in an earlier posting) about the ceramic pie pan -- it seems larger than I would expect (and I want my crust to look JUST like yours!). Thanks for another terrfic edition! Susan

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  3. Thanks, Susan and Jill! The ceramic pie plate was made by a local Tucson artisan (Lila Warner) - and is honestly the best pie plate I have ever had. There is something in the glaze that really cooks the crust well so that it doesn't seem to get soggy! It is a bit deeper that usual, but is just a 9-inch pan. The crust recipe is 1 1/3 cups flour, pinch of salt, 1 stick chilled butter and 1/4 cup ice water. Process the flour and salt with 2 pulses in the food processor, add the butter in 16 pieces and pulse 12 times. Add water through the feed tube and process till it comes together in a ball. Easiest crust in the world. Happy cooking!

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  4. I've never heard of that pie before. I love that there are two versions of it. So versatile, and it looks amazing as well!
    I LOVE that teal ceramic bowl David!
    magda

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  5. If you do try the pie, Magda, I will be really interested to hear what you think! And I am not surprised that you haven't heard of it, as it is not well known in the U.S. outside that region of Pennsylvania. Yes, that bowl is a treasure - and the lip on the spout is so thin that it never drips when I pour... Wish I could go back and get 3 more of them!
    David

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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