My husband AJ had never had Shoofly Pie before, which makes sense, as he was born and raised in the Midwest before moving to California. Shoofly pie is mostly a Pennsylvania Dutch dessert, one that is less common outside of Central Pennsylvania and the surrounding area.
But after I asked if he wanted a bite of my slice, he proceeded to eat the entire piece, which was not part of my initial offering! Thankfully, I had more pie left. I took a sip of coffee, cut myself another slice, and made sure not to offer him anymore bites off of my plate.
WHAT IS SHOOFLY PIE?
This uniquely-named pie is sometimes lumped together with other “desperation pies” like chess pie, vinegar pie, and sugar pies. You can find references to it all over the web with the spelling as Shoofly, Shoo Fly or Shoo-fly Pie.
Regardless of how you spell it, the pie ingredients are pretty much the same. Shoofly Pie is made with simple pantry staples, the sort you always have around the house, which means you can have dessert practically any time.
Unlike most “desperation pies” associated with the South, according to Anne Byrn, author of the book American Cake, Shoofly pie is part of the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition that dates back to 1876. Shoofly pie was actually a Centennial cake, made in celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The cake later morphed into a pie, with a crust, which allowed it to be eaten without a plate or fork and with a strong cup of coffee for breakfast.
WHAT DOES SHOOFLY PIE TASTE LIKE?
The dominant flavor of Shoofly Pie is molasses. It’s a strong flavor, but it’s tempered with the buttery spiced flour topping on the pie.
It’s no wonder the pie is often served with a strong cup of coffee, as the dark, bitter hot beverage elevates the sweetness of the molasses while cutting the richness of the pie.
WET BOTTOM VS DRY BOTTOM PIE
Shoofly Pie comes in two different versions: wet bottom or dry bottom. Wet bottom pie has the filling in the pie baked until it is just set, with an oozy custard texture.
For my recipe, I opted for the wet bottom version. The dry bottom pie is baked longer with more flour and, occasionally, an egg added to the filling, leading to a drier, cake-like center.
WHAT IS THE BEST MOLASSES FOR THIS PIE?
Molasses comes in different flavors and varieties, and it can get confusing, especially when some brands have different labeling categories.
I recommend opting for light molasses, which has the mildest flavor. If you really like the flavor of molasses, you can opt for regular/medium flavored molasses or dark/robust molasses, both of which are more assertive in flavor.
However, avoid blackstrap molasses. It’s extremely dark and has a bitter, burnt flavor, which can be overwhelming in this pie.
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR MAKING A SUCCESSFUL SHOOFLY PIE
- Make the pie crust in advance: I recommend making the pie crust ahead of time and letting it chill in the fridge for an hour or longer. If you have the forethought, make the pie crust the night before and let it chill overnight. The gluten in the crust will relax, and the water will fully hydrate the flour, making the crust easier to roll out.
- Chill the crust after you roll it out: Once you’ve rolled out the crust, place it back in the fridge for 30 minutes. This does two things. It relaxes the gluten, so the dough won’t shrink or slump when baked, and it chills the butter, which will lead to a flakier crust.
- For crispier crust, blind bake or pre-bake the crust. There are instructions for how to do that at the bottom of our perfect pie crust recipe.
- Mix a little bit of the crumb into the filling: This gives the filling a little bit of body and form so it’s not so liquid-y. If you prefer a firmer filling, double the crumb topping and mix half of it into the filling, reserving the other half for the top of the pie.
- Chill the pie before slicing: Warm pie will mean the filling will be a little oozy. If you want a nice even cut, try chilling the pie in the fridge for 30 minutes. A cooler pie will firm up the molasses and result in cleaner slices.
CAN YOU MAKE SHOOFLY PIE AHEAD OF TIME?
You can make this pie ahead of time, but keep in mind the crumb topping won’t be as fresh. Shoofly Pie, because it’s mostly made of molasses, keeps fairly well.
Store it at room temperature for three days or in the fridge for up to five days. Just keep it covered with plastic wrap or under a cake dome to keep the flies away!
CAN YOU FREEZE SHOOFLY PIE?
Yes! Shoofly Pie freezes well. Again, just keep in mind the crumb topping will thaw out and be less crisp.
Once the pie has been baked and cooled completely, cover it in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and slip the whole pie into a large heavy-duty resealable freezer bag.
You can freeze the pie whole as stated above or cut the pie into individual slices and freeze them in a container, allowing you to thaw out one slice at a time on the countertop.
MORE GREAT PIE RECIPES
Shoofly Pie Recipe
For the crust:
- 1 1/4 cup (175 g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
- 1/2 cup (115 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 3 to 4 tablespoons water
For the crumb topping:
- 1 1/2 cups (210 g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (110 g) packed dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (115 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
For the filling:
- 3/4 cup (230 g) molasses, light or regular strength
- 3/4 cup (160 g) hot water (from the tap is fine)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 Make the crust: Into the bowl of a food processor add the flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse a couple of times to blend. Add the butter cubes and pulse 5 or 6 times, until the butter has been broken down into pea-sized pieces.
Drizzle 3 tablespoons of water over the ingredients, then pulse again until the mixture starts to look like small pebbles roughly the shape of peas.
When pressed with your fingers, the dough should stick together. If the mixture is too dry, add the additional 1 tablespoon of water.
2 Chill the dough: Dump the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, then form it into a round disk, about 1-inch thick. Wrap tightly with the plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour or overnight.
3 Roll out the dough and chill the crust again: Once the dough has chilled, remove it from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and roll it out on a floured surface to a 12-inch disk, and fit it into a pie pan. Trim the edges of the pie crust.
Decoratively crimp the edges, pressing down onto the pan to make sure the crust is anchored to the pan. Place it back in the fridge for 30 minutes.
4 Preheat the oven: While the crust is chilling, preheat the oven to 450°F.
5 Make the crumb topping: In a large bowl, place the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk the ingredients until they are evenly distributed and uniform in color.
Sprinkle the butter cubes over the dry ingredients. Using your fingers, break the butter apart and smoosh the cubes into flat, small pieces. Set aside.
6 Make the filling: In a large bowl, combine the molasses and hot water. Stir in the baking soda, then stir in about 1/3 of the crumb topping (about 3/4 cup).
Pour the filling into the chilled pie crust. Then sprinkle the remaining crumb topping over the pie filling.
7 Bake the pie: Place the pie in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for an additional 25 minutes.
8 Cool and serve: Let the pie cool to room temperature on a wire cooling rack before slicing into it. Serve pie with a piping-hot cup of coffee.
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