Sunday, November 9, 2008

Vintage Eats: Shoo-fly Pie

This entry is from BeanPlate contributor Nora Bee, our resident maven of authentic Great-Depression-era recipes. From homemade bread to pie to scrapple(!), Nora will deliver the old-timey baked goods in style. She also writes at her blog, Whopping Cornbread, lives in Seattle, and takes good care of one adorable, pie-scented baby boy.

Shoo-fly pie is a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch pie/coffee cake/breakfast/dessert thing. Growing up in rural eastern PA, our neighbor and grandma-equivalent was Mrs Nicholas. She was a real life farm wife, and made shoo-fly pie every week for her man to have for his breakfast. I've never had anything else like it anywhere: the molasses-i-ness, the cakiness, the wet bottom (oh! the wet bottom!). If you can get it to make a wet bottom of gooey molasses yum, that is--it can be sort of elusive.

There are as many shoo-fly pie recipes as there are cooks, I think, but this is Mrs Nicholas's recipe:

Start with an uncooked pie shell of some sort. I made my own crust here, because I was trying TO IMPRESS YOU, and it was fine, but I'm not convinced it was better than a frozen crust from the store. Some people can make great pie crust, not me. Also, this recipe is for a smaller pie, like the pre-made pie crusts in the foil tins (8 inches, I think). I have messed this pie up several times trying to use a bigger more "modern" deep dish pie pan and adjusting the ingredients.

OK, got your pie shell? Cool. Let's go then.

You have The Goo and The Crumbs. Both are easy and cheap. Once you have both, you pour The Goo into the pie shell, and sprinkle the crumbs on top, and right into the oven it goes. It's magic.

The Goo:

1 cup hot water
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 tablespoon baking soda

Mix above together until molasses is dissolved. I usually do it on the stovetop, but I don't think you have to as long as the water is hot enough to mix with the molasses. That's it! No, seriously, that's it. There's hardly time to stare at your sleeping baby or ponder the state of your laundry, which is how I often spend my cooking wait times.

It also makes a really stupid photo.

Now, The Crumbs:

1 cup flour
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar

Mix together with your hands until the texture of sand. That's it!

Extra cute if toddler in red PJs can help, but not necessary.

Now pour The Goo into the pie shell...

...and then sprinkle The Crumbs on top of The Goo. Do not mix! Just sprinkle. You want to avoid a mountain of crumbs in the center of The Goo. Nice, even sprinkling. (Apparently this crumb-sprinkling is what makes the gooey bottom layer at the end).

Now--be careful transporting to oven because The Goo is watery--bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. That's it! Done! Best served at room temperature, but if you are impatient to dig in, as we usually are, give it 15 minutes or so at least.



  1. You gals have now filled me in on two different foods that I had heard of but couldn't actually say what they were, being from the wrong part of the world. Thanks Nora! This seems very easy and very yummy.

  2. Okay! This is a pie I make at least once a year. My husband loves shoo-fly pie and he and 2 buddies split one every December. It is coffee and pie for the guys. They are all from an area where this was a staple pie and while others here don't get it they will fight you over the last piece.
    I am always amazed it makes a pie- every time I do the molasses, baking soda and hot water- I think, you must be kidding- this will not work.
    It always does and we love it.

  3. ahhhh, you've gone and reminded me of my mother...this was something she grew up on living in Lancaster, PA as a girl!

  4. Hmmm....gotta try this - sounds like a good way to use up some of the molasses I buy to make Gingerbread at Christmas!

  5. Nary an egg in sight! You're right: cheap and easy. I'm so glad you are posting here.


  6. I am totally a fan of this new blog. I make every meal for my family at home from scratch (b/c of food allergies I have to) and I am a sucker for frugal and tradish ways in the kitchen. Keep it coming, ladies!

  7. That's a fine recipe. Good job Nora.

  8. Yumola! You and Melanie in one spot? Heaven on a platter.

  9. Am super excited about this. No eggs! Cheap! Yippee!

    Angie (from over at

  10. I have always wondered what shoo-fly pie was--I'll let you know how it turns out when I try it.

  11. I am dying to try this. It's one of the things I used to order in restaurants as we drove through PA on our way to points south, but beyond that, I never got much chance to enjoy this pie. How easy! Thanks for sharing.

  12. I'm such a fan of Shoo Fly Pie...tasty without breaking the bank for the ingredients. Bravo, Nora Bee :)

  13. I've never heard of this but it sounds tasty. I'm going to make this and share it with my horse, she's a molasses addict!

    One question though - should I use black strap or fancy molasses?

  14. Leah--the cheap-o molasses works great. Let us know how your horse likes it! Send pics!

  15. Ok, once again something I've heard of, but have never experienced or known what the heck is in it. It looks scrumptious. I love gooey, sugary, crumbly desserts. Gotta try this one. We've got a jar of Louisiana pure cane molasses around here somewhere.

  16. I love this blog and I love this recipe -- went to Lancaster and very much enjoyed this pie but had no idea how to make it. Thing is, I just tried your recipe but all my crumbs sunk to the bottom and didn't sit nicely on top. It is still tasty, but a bit funky. Do you think a little baking beforehand would do the trick, and then sprinkling?

  17. Any ingredient called The Goo is alright with me.

  18. mseryca00--

    This has happened to me too. I don't know what it is. For me, the choice of pan seems to have something to do with it. Mine come out better with foil or glass dishes than with ceramic, and an 8-inch pie is best. I think the crumbs are supposed to sink, but there should be enough leftover for some to be visible on top.

    The texture is certainly the "holy grail" of shoo fly pie baking, and after trying many recipes this is the one that works best for me. It's kind of weird magic stuff as far as I'm concerned. Let me know if you figure out a consistent way to do it!

  19. I am so excited that you posted this recipe! We travel through PA every year and grab as many pies as will fit in our camper freezers. They never make it home though, everyone gobbles them up. Thanks so much for sharing. I can't wait to try this and surprise my husband.

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  22. I just made this pie and I think it's supposed to be 1/3 tsp of baking soda rather than 1/3 tbsp. Something wasn't right.

  23. 1/3 Tablespoon of baking soda is equal to 1 teaspoon. :) :)

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