December 21, 2011

from Nishta: Lauren is a sweet friend of mine from graduate school and I was thrilled when she offered to guest-post here on the blog.  Her recipe for the traditional shoo-fly pie yields a really ugly but very tasty dessert!  We enjoyed it with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream, to balance out the strong molasses flavor.  

I grew up on the border of Amish country. In the summers, we ate fresh peaches from their roadside stands and braved the rickety roller coasters at Dutch Wonderland ( in Lancaster. In the winters, we bought quilts and antiques at Zern’s flea market; or rather, our parents did, while we dragged our little kid feet and whined. We skipped school on some mornings for breakfast at Shady Maple smorgasbord.

I bought my first racing bike from an Amish man who ran a bike shop in the middle of the hilly corn fields, where his barefoot straw-hatted sons helped him fix Schwinns. Our Wal-Mart had hitching posts for horse-and-buggies. Many a summer fair and restaurant offered traditional Pennsylvania Dutch food like scrapple and funnel cake. But the best treat of them all was shoo-fly pie.

Shoo-fly pie is one of those dishes that was invented by immigrants who needed to be industrious with the few ingredients they could keep. Molasses kept well during lean Pennsylvania winters. Add some butter, eggs, and flour, and you’ve got yourself a pie. The dessert supposedly got its name because as the pie cooled on the windowsill, you’d have to shoo away the flies.

Shoo-fly pie became one of my yearly holiday traditions when I started grad school in Tucson. The Sonoran Desert couldn’t be farther from Amish country in culture or landscape, but the rich gingerbread aromas wafting from the oven would always make my little Tucson abode smell like Christmas at home. I’ve baked the pie for West Coast friends every year since, once even employing it to win a man. For real!

I brought the pie to a long-time crush’s birthday party, hoping to charm his heart with brown sugar and cloves. I got all Babette’s Feast on that party’s ass, and it worked. I watched with pride as he and the other guests inhaled my creation in minutes. He was incredulous that I hadn’t put any alcohol in the recipe. Like Water for Shoo-Fly Pie. . .?

This recipe is from an Amish cookbook. Try it out at your next holiday party. And why not pair it with some warm cider?


Preheat oven to 375°
Prepare 1 pie crust (unbaked) in a 9” pie pan

for the crumb topping:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons shortening or butter

Cut together with a pastry cutter, a fork, or with quick pulses in a food processor.  Set ½ cup of the crumbs aside for topping.

for the filling:

1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup molasses
3/4 cup cold water
1 teaspoon baking soda in 1/4 cup hot water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine the above ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Stir in all but the reserved ½ cup of the crumb mixture and pour the filling into the unbaked shell.  Sprinkle the reserved crumbs on top of the pie and bake for 35 minutes.  Cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature.

Lauren Eggert-Crowe is a poet and freelance writer living in Los Angeles. She has written for The Murky FringeThe Rumpus, and She’s the managing editor of Ask A Socialist! and the author of The Exhibit, a poetry chapbook forthcoming from Hyacinth Girl Press in 2012. She recently interviewed Nishta for her ‘zine Galatea’s Pants. Follow her on Twitter @LaurEggertCrowe

1 Comment »

  1. Grew up in PA too, now in Ohio. No one out here knows what a shoo fly pie is and my husband hates it. Says its too sweet! I wish I had a good reason to make one soon!

    Comment by Nichole — January 29, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

Leave a comment