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Baking My First Shoo Fly Pie

October 23, 2015
Reblogged and adapted from Mennonite Community Cookbook blog where it was first published.

Mennonite Community Cookbook’s Vanilla Pie (Better than Shoo Fly?)

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I recently made my very first shoo fly pie. The recipe is actually called Vanilla Pie, because it makes a milder version than the traditional, robust, molasses-based pie. (If you’re wondering where molasses come from, Wikipedia definitely had stuff I didn’t know!)

That shoo fly pie is associated with Mennonites, Amish, and in general plain people, is undeniable. What’s not so clear is how widespread is the love? (No pun intended.)

Pennsylvanians from Mennonite, Amish and other backgrounds from Anabaptist-related groups are frequent fans. But growing up in Indiana in a Mennonite home and church, I never tasted shoo fly pie until I went into Mennonite Voluntary Service with three Pennsylvanians in my unit/housing. Then I became a fan of the milder versions of shoo fly pie.

As I looked for a recipe I might like, a Facebook fan for Mennonite Community Cookbook Facebook’s page mentioned Mennonite Community Cookbook’s recipe for vanilla pie. Vanilla pie? I had heard of wet bottomed shoo fly and dry bottomed shoo fly, but vanilla pie? What was that?

Eureka. There on page 382 of most editions is a recipe for this pie. I’ll also include my tweaks and additional directions in italics, because these older cookbooks–even as good as Mennonite Community Cookbook is, are kind of lacking in the “extra” comments and directions that some of us love and need.

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I think the only reason this is called Vanilla Pie and not Shoo Fly is because this uses vanilla! Otherwise, they are very similar.* There is also flour, egg, and brown sugar in the gooey part for this recipe, which softens the strong taste of the pure molasses, sorghum, or dark Karo or (or whatever you use). Someone also suggested King Syrup is less bold and more agreeable for newbies. (I also suggest reading the whole recipe plus directions before beginning.)

SHOO FLY/VANILLA PIE

Bottom part:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses (I used 1/4 cup molasses and 1/4 cup light corn syrup)
1 tablespoon flour
1 egg
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla

Top part:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup shortening (butter)
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Pastry for 1 (9 inch) crust

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Thickening the gooey part.

Combine ingredients for bottom part and cook until thickened. [The thickening took awhile! Stir almost constantly. Also, a blog post at Our Heritage of Health recommends making your crumbs first–see directions below–so that the molasses part doesn’t lose frothiness while you mess with the crumbs.)

Pour into unbaked pie shell.

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Pastry cutter to make crumb topping.

Top with crumbs made by combining sugar, flour, soda, baking powder, and melted shortening. (I did not melt the shortening. That didn’t sound right. I cut it in with a pastry cutter–or use two knives–to make a traditional crumb type topping.)

Bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes.  (I wish I had taken mine out at no more than 40 minutes, it looked a little brown, but it depends on your oven.)

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Makes 1 (9 inch) pie.

From: Mrs. Amos Leis, Wellesley, Ontario, Mrs. Noah Hunsberger, St Jacobs, Ontario, Mrs. M. C. Showalter, Broadway, Va. [no doubt a relative of Mary Emma’s. Can anyone confirm?]

I shared with our office staff who seemed to enjoy it–especially those who were accustomed to the strong taste of molasses. One said, “I don’t usually like shoo fly pie, but this is good.”

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That’s good enough for me. I did not have one crumb to take home.

Back in the day, this was also considered a poor man’s pie. It didn’t require any fruit, no pecans, no fancy ingredients (other than the corn syrup or molasses which would have been a staple longer ago).

One more thing: I love it served with vanilla ice cream. Some folks pour milk over their shoo fly. I have a feeling if you threw pecans in it, it would also make a fine pecan pie. Hmmm. But now I’m getting fancy.

***

Do you like Shoo Fly Pie, or are you a Shoo Fly virgin? If you make Shoo Fly, what recipe do you follow?

***

Shame on me for not remembering a whole blog built around Katie Boyt’s “The Shoofly Project,” in honor of her great grandmother, Keturah (the blog is no longer active, but check it out here!)

***

*If you have an older version of Mennonite Community Cookbook, I noticed the ingredient list for Shoo Fly Pie changed fairly significantly somewhere between 1950 (my copy) and 2015, the current edition. Does anyone know when??

mennonite community cookbook

To buy a copy of Mennonite Community Cookbook 65th Anniversary Edition, check here. It includes a fascinating 12-page historical section.

 

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9 Comments
  1. I’m making one this very morning! My son requested it in place of cake for his 16th birthday. (And I didn’t even know he LIKED shoofly pie!)

  2. I will be anxious and excited to see yours (on your blog, I assume)! I wonder where he tasted it–church?? Great timing. We actually messed with several recipes for a project Herald Press is working on which has yet to be, er, revealed. 🙂

  3. Elaine permalink

    Shoofly pie is one of my favorites although I don’t make it very often. My son looks forward to it when his family comes to visit. It’s one of those desserts that you either love it or you don’t. My DIL is from Iowa and she doesn’t care for it.

    My recipe calls for 2 T. oil in place of the shortening, and it is still really moist without the extra calories.

  4. No dry pie for me. I like the gooey-ness of shoo-fly pie and the molasses after-taste. Whenever I get back to PA and go to Root’s Country Market, I see shoofly pies galore.

    Your post today reminds me of a book about pie I finished just last week; perhaps you heard of it: Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Pie by author Beth Howard, who once lived in the iconic American Gothic House.

  5. I knew you as a Lancaster Co woman would be tempted here. Thanks for weighing in with your pie of choice and where to find it. I have not heard of Beth Howard’s book, thanks for the tip. I also need to find Sherry Gore’s book on pies (wait, I think a publisher is sending it.) I hope!

  6. Melodie, I stared covetously at your PERFECT-slice-of-pie photo–distinct crumb layer, gooey bottom–and set about making a pie using my usual recipe, but this time bringing the syrup to a boil instead of dumping it cold into the crust. Happy results! Abundant crumbs, not over absorbed! Many thanks!

    An issue I’ve had with shoofly pie: leaking crusts. You might be interested in this 13-comment exchange I had with blogger Katie Boyt about that problem: http://theshooflyproject.blogspot.com/2011/12/uncle-virgs-custom-roasting-sticks.html#comment-form

  7. Shirley, thanks for the covet. 🙂 I scanned your 13-comment exchange and kicked myself for forgetting about Katie Boyt’s Shoofly Project blog that I had heard her talk about at one time (at the EMU Menno Writer’s Conference, I think). Nice to hear that perhaps bringing the syrup to a boil helps it not leak. Makes sense to me. I was sorry when that blog kind of quit going (but that happens!) I will add a link to that project, none the less. Thanks!

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