Shoofly Pie is an open-faced pie made by particularly by Amish people of German heritage in Pennsylvania (known misleadingly as the Pennsylvania “Dutch.”)
A take on treacle tart, it is like Molasses Pie, but with crumbs in it.
It is one of the simplest pies around in terms of its filling, which is molasses, boiling water, an egg or two, and baking soda.
You line a pie tin with a pie crust. You mix boiling water with baking soda, stir in the beaten egg and molasses, and pour this mixture into the pie tin, then sprinkle a crumble on top, and bake.
The crumble mixture is generally sugar, flour and a bit of fat such as butter or shortening to bind it as a crumble.
In some recipes, most of the crumble is stirred right in, with only some reserved for a top layer of crumbs. In other recipes, the crumble is used in between layers of the molasses filling.
Putting the crumble into the pie makes it like a rich cake filling.
When the crumbs are mixed in, it’s a “dry-bottom” pie; when they are sprinkled on top, it’s a “wet-bottom” (aka “damp bottom”) pie.
Fancier versions have you flavour the crumble with small amounts of ground spices.
Best served slightly warmed, with whipped cream or ice cream.
Recipes for Molasses Pie appeared in the first half of the 1800s. You mixed brown sugar, nutmeg, butter, molasses and beaten egg white, andbaked them in a pie shell.
Early versions of recipes were as likely to use sorghum molasses as cane molasses, and brown sugar rather than the more expensive white sugar.
Shoo-Fly may have been a term applied by people outside the Amish area, as there doesn’t seem to be any credible German equivalent that it could be an alliteration of. In fact, “Shoo Fly Pie” seems to have only first appeared in print in 1926 (as per John Mariani, The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink, p 293.)
The name is popularly attributed to having to “shoo flies away” from the sweetness of the pie. In fact, though, compared to desserts invited since then laden with white sugar, it isn’t that sweet.