“Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy? Can she bake a cherry pie, Charming Billy?”
Traditional American Folk Song
I do not have the Pie Gift, which is daunting since I married into a family with generations of excellent pie makers. The Pie Gift, as I see it, is having a knack with pie crust. Fillings are easy to concoct, but what’s a pie without a crust? When you have a husband who loves pie but you lack the Pie Gift, you have a problem. My solution for over ten years has been to run to Der Dutchman in Plain City or even to buy a grocery store pie baby that serves one, because guess what? I don’t really like pie.
Enter Sherry Gore and her delightfully titled Me, Myself, and Pie. Sherry, who says she “eats well with others,” is a resident of Pinecraft, the Florida Amish vacation hotspot that I blogged about last month. Yes, Sherry knows her way around a pie, all right, but could she help a hopeless case like me?
I am an economical cook, so I flipped to recipes with ingredients I already had on hand. Imagine my delight to find that Shoo Fly Pie’s invention may have derived from thrifty Pennsylvania Dutch farm wives having only flour, lard, and molasses on hand by late winter. I had molasses and the other ingredients (shortening, not lard!) in my kitchen.
As it turns out, assembling the crust wasn’t difficult at all. When the dough ball went into the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes, I hadn’t cracked a sweat. I tackled the filling with aplomb, musing about the weird name. Truth is, no one really knows how Shoo Fly originated.
When I tried to roll the crust up on the rolling pin and transfer it to the pie plate, it stuck to the counter. I pried it up, rerolled briefly—stuck again. I finally picked up the dough fragments and patted them to the plate with my fingertips. It looked fine, but sweat was pouring down my back at this point. If you’re crust-impaired like me, my advice is to buy a prepared pie crust for your first try. Sherry’s book is wonderful and funny and I plan to practice until I get the crust right.
- 1 9-inch unbaked pastry pie crust (set aside)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ⅔ cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ cup hot water (I heated water and let it cool a bit before measuring)
- 1 cup molasses
- 1 large egg
- Whipped cream for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- In a bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, and butter with a fork until crumbly.
- Measure out half this crumb mixture and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, dissolve baking soda in hot water.
- Add molasses and egg, then stir in half the crumbs.
- Pour mixture into unbaked pie crust.
- Top with remaining crumbs, sprinkled evenly.
- (NOTE FROM STEF: Bake your pie on a cookie sheet or a pizza pan, like in the photo. My filling runneth’ed over, but the pizza pan saved me from a gooey mess).
- Bake at 400 for 10 minutes.
- Reduce heat to 325 degrees and continue baking for an additional 30 minutes.
- Serve with whipped cream, if desired (and you do).
Did my husband like this pie? No, but he did like the crust, and remember those other two crusts the recipe made? I made apple dumplings with them. Sort of. I was unable to wrap the apples up in the dough, so I laid three small crusts on the bottom, spooned in apples and syrup, and laid three small crusts on the top. Delicious! My husband’s eyes nearly rolled back in his head for pure joy. What’s with men and crust?
Shoo Fly pie is an acquired taste, but it’s the number one Amish pie and I have now acquired the taste. If you love gingerbread, you will love Shoo Fly pie. Happy Valentine’s Day baking!
Stephanie Reed lives on the outskirts of Plain City, Ohio, site of a once-thriving Amish community. She gleans ideas for her novels The Bargain, Across the Wide River, and The Light Across the River from signs glimpsed along the byways of Ohio.
Her latest release is The Bachelor.
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