Monday, November 30, 2009

Shoofly pie--why?

"Hey, Maria, it's the Sunday after Thanksgiving. You've just had 3 straight days of cooking and eating. You're leaving for a 7-month stay in France in two weeks: you have closets to clean and piles of laundry waiting for you. What are you going to do today?"
"Why, bake pie, of course. What a silly question!"
Yes, this is how my mind works. In my defense, I packed a couple of boxes and got all the laundry done today, but I just couldn't let the day go by without baking. Fortunately for my waistline, the process was much better than the product.
Sometimes I have the feeling that Maida puts in recipes just as Americana: "Look, some people actually baked and ate this stuff! So here's a recipe for it so that you can see what some people used to eat!" To me, Shoofly Pie falls into that category. So do the chocolate vegetable cakes and, to a certain extent, the Indian Pudding. I suppose you need recipes like this in an American dessert book, but they're a chore to actually consume and all.

So here are the components of the pie: a lovely flakey pie shell, completely wasted because of the gooey molasses filling, topped off with a streusel-like crumb crust. Note all the dirty dishes involved.

Here's the pie before it baked. Doesn't that look yummy?

If you bake this, remember to put it on a baking sheet. I'm glad I did!
So, soggy crust, pudding-like molasses goo, crunchy streusel. Let me quote Sami on this: "If I got this at a restaurant, I'd send it back. It's got that generic flavorless taste and odd texture...but once you overcome the gag reflex, it's actually edible." He ate the whole piece. I'm not sure why. I ate my whole piece as well, trying to find something redeeming about the pie. Here it is: I got to spend some quality time in my kitchen puttering around, but I'm in no danger of actually eating any more of what I baked.
Redeeming quality for Alicia: no raisins. And since I hated it, she'll probably love it. We'll see...

Here's the recipe, if you're a glutton for punishment:

Shoofly Pie

1-1/3 c. (5.2 oz.) sifted flour
1/2 t. salt
1 T. sugar
4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small dice and chilled
1 t. lemon juice or cider vinegar
3-4 T. ice water

Put the flour, salt, and sugar in a medium mixing bowl; mix and then cut in the butter with a pastry blender. Sprinkle on the lemon/vinegar, and then add 3 T. water. Mix with a fork until it holds together, adding additional water if necessary. Press into a ball and refrigerate for at least an hour. (Don't bother washing the bowl you just used; you can use it for the filling) When it's chilled enough, roll out to fit a deep 9-inch pie pan (Maida says 10-inch, but who has a 10-inch pie plate??). Freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Now make the filling:
1 c. (5 oz.) unsifted flour
2/3 c. (4 oz.) brown sugar
2 oz. (1/2 stick) butter
1 egg
1 c. (11.5 oz.) molasses or cane syrup
(optional but recommended: 1 t. vanilla and/or 2 T. rum or brandy)
3/4 c. very hot water
1 t. baking soda

Heat the oven to 450; get out a baking sheet and possibly line it with foil. You'll also need two mixing bowls (one of them could be your pie crust mixing bowl) and a 1-cup glass measuring cup. Put the flour and brown sugar (and maybe a pinch of salt) in the mixing bowl you used for the pie crust; mix that together and cut in the butter. This will be a powdery, crumbly mixture. Set that aside. Now, in another bowl, whisk the egg until blended and then add the molasses and beat for a bit. I recommend adding a bit of vanilla and a bit of bourbon or rum or something--I used some quite awful Uzbeck brandy that a friend gave us. In the glass measuring cup, pour in the hot water (you could microwave it in the cup) and add the baking soda, which will fizz most satisfyingly. Now add the hot water to the molasses mixture, and then add half of the crumb mixture. Pour that into your crust. Then top it with the rest of the crumb mixture. Put the pie on the baking sheet and put all that in the oven. Turn the oven down to 350 and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the filling is set and doesn't quiver when you give the baking sheet a shake. Mine took about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. Maida suggests serving this at room temp with whipped cream. Good luck with that. I'm just glad that butter is $1.50 a pound at Wal-Mart...

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