Friday, August 8, 2014

Historical Food Fornightly

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #5


The Challenge: Pies

I knew exactly what I wanted to make for this challenge. I had two options and one I chose for this fortnight and the other I saved for the next fortnight. 

The Recipe: Great-Grandmother Anna's Shoo-Fly Pie
Shoo-Fly Pie is a molasses pie that is traditional among the Pennsylvania Dutch, German speaking immigrants from southern Germany to Southeastern and South Central Pennsylvania. (The name also refers to their descendants, such as my grandfather).  The pie gets its name from the sweet molasses that attracts flies that must be "shooed" away.  This recipe was passed down from my great-grandmother Anna (an American-born Russian Jew who married a Pennsylvania Dutch boy in 1922) to her daughter-in-law, my grandmother.  This pie is one of my favorites. My grandmother used to make it just for me whenever we visited and I always ate it for breakfast.

Pie crust recipe from my paternal grandmother with help from The Lily Wallace New American Cookbook c. 1947:

3 heaping cups full of flour
1 handful equal to one stick shortening
1 pinch salt
3/4 c. ice water

Mix flour, salt and shortening by hand. Slowly add ice water and combine by hand. Press into a ball and divide into two parts. Chill and roll out until 1/8" thick. Flour rolling pin and roll dough back onto rolling pin and into pie tin. Gently press dough into pie tin and prick all around with a fork. 

Great-Grandmother Anna's Shoo-Fly Pie

2 small pie pans line with aluminum foil
2 bottom pie crusts

 1 1/2 c. flour
1 c. dark brown sugar
1/4 c.  shortening (originally lard)

Combine in a bowl and cut with a knife until crumbly.


1 c. molasses
1 c. hot water 
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Add 1/2 tsp. of baking soda to water and stir until foams. Measure one cup liquid to each pan. Pour topping in each pan and gently mix it into the liquid to keep it from being too soupy on bottom. Bake at 350 degrees for half an hour.

I also found a traditional recipe that reads nearly the same (we omit the vinegar) in Mary at the Farm (p. 377)

The Date/Year and Region: Pennsylvania, 1915/1920s (dating back to the 1700s and forward to present day, the recipe hasn't changed much)
How Did You Make It: 
I followed the directions. I trust my grandmothers!

Time to Complete:  It took about an hour for the dough because I chilled it before rolling. Mixing the pie takes 10 minutes or less and baking took a good half hour or more.

Total Cost:
I had all the ingredients on hand at the time. This is a traditional Amish recipe and they live very simply so it can't be very expensive. 
Current prices:
molasses $3.99
butter $2.89/lb.
dark brown sugar $.99/oz/ 
flour $3.99
baking soda $1.19
shortening $.21/oz

How Successful Was It?: 
Moderately. For my first time making pie crust, my crust was a great success. I couldn't get two even balls of dough or even one big one. I ended up with two uneven balls and used the smaller ones for Shoo-Fly Pie. My pies were very full and took a long time to bake. One pie cooked too much and the other not enough. My crumb topping got absorbed into the liquid too much.

They taste good but I'm used to half molasses and half corn syrup so it doesn't taste quite the same as it does when my grandmother makes it. It's still tasty though.

How Accurate Is It?: The original recipes call for lard but I substituted shortening for lard. My grandmother adapted the recipe further and uses half dark corn syrup but I chose to use all molasses.

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