Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy belated Pi day! Whole grain shoofly pie

I'm always surprised at how many people have never had shoofly pie.  Some people haven't even heard of it.  Which is too bad because the confection of my Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors is delicious.  In taste and texture, it's almost more of a coffee cake than a pie.  It's not overly sweet, and it's a great treat to have with tea in the middle of the day, and for that reason I decided to make it (very slightly) healthier by incorporating whole grain flours. 
Yep, that's the middle digits of pi on my pie plate.

First, a quick description of how it's made for uninitiated.  You start with a traditional pie crust (unbaked).  Next, you pour in a molasses-egg yolk-baking soda-hot water mixture.  And last, you pour a good amount of spiced crumb topping that is a little like a streusel topping but with a greater flour:butter ratio.  The crumbs sink into the molasses mixture, and as it bakes, it develops a gradient from nearly 100% molasses-y custard on to bottom to nearly 100% dry sugary crumbs on top.  This picture, taken a few days after baking, kind of shows the gradient, but it was hard to capture.

My recipe originated in one of my Mom's old cookbooks called the Pennsylvania Dutch Cookbook.  I transcribed the recipe into my little recipe book years ago.  The few changes I've made: spelt flour instead of white flour,  the fillings are multiplied by 1.5 because my pi plate is pretty deep, and I use butter instead of shortening in the crumbs.  I was also pretty generous in rounding up the spices cause I like spices a lot.  The crust I used was not from the original recipe, but one I made and froze at Thanksgiving from Cook's Illustrated - side note: I actually froze this pie crust cause I wasn't convinced it was going to be any good!  It was too wet!  But it was wet because the crew at America's Test Kitchen used vodka instead of some of the water, which doesn't develop the gluten like water does, but makes the dough easier to work with.  I just couldn't believe it when the dough was so tacky, but it's an amazing innovation.  Last note, there are plenty of recipes out there for whole grain pie crusts, I'm sure they would work great in this application.  Onto my version of shoofly pie...

1 unbaked pie crust

2 egg yolks
0.75 c. molasses
10 fluid ozs. boiling water
1.5 t. baking soda

1.5 c. spelt flour
0.75 t. cinnamon
0.25 t. freshly grated nutmeg
0.25 t. ground ginger
0.25 t. ground cloves
0.75 c. brown sugar
3 T. butter, cold, cut into 0.25 inch chunks   

3.  Preheat oven to 400.  Roll out pie shell, form in pi(e) plate, and refrigerate until it's ready to fill.
1.  Beat egg yolks, then blend in the molasses.
4.  Dissolve baking soda in boiling water.  Slowly, while whisking, incorporate the water-soda into the egg-molasses mixture.  Set aside.
1.  Combine the remaining dry ingredients, including brown sugar.
5.  Add butter and work into crumbs with your fingers.  Crumbs will be very dry.
9.  Pour liquid into pie shell and top with crumbs.
2.  Bake at 400 for 10 min.
6.  Reduce to 325 and bake for another 35-40 min.

Anyone catch the secret code in the recipe?  Happy π day!