There will be pie

Two culture-war posts in a row, so perhaps it’s time for a nice refuge thread for those fleeing more contentious conversations. Let us therefore discuss pie.

David R. Swartz’s Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism is receiving widespread acclaim for his revealing and insightful look at the progressive evangelical movement of the 1970s and 1980s. I tend to think of it as That New Book About Everyone I Used to Work For. Here’s Molly Worthen’s review in The New York Times. And here’s the first part of Scot McKnight’s review at Jesus Creed.

So with Swartz’s history of that movement in mind, I thought perhaps a pie from Doris Janzen Longacre’s classic More-with-Less Cookbook — the book that fed the evangelical left.

Here is a recipe for Shoofly pie, contributed by Elta Miller of Lititz, Pa.

Shoofly Pie

Serves 6, 375°, 35 min.

Preheat oven to 375°
Prepare 1 unbaked 9″ pie shell
Cut together with pastry blender:

1 c. flour
½ c. brown sugar
2 T. shortening or margarine

Reserve ½ c. crumbs for topping.
Combine in mixing bowl:

1 c. molasses
1 egg, slightly beaten
¾ c. cold water
1 t. soda in
¼ c. hot water

Add crumb mixture and beat together.
Pour into unbaked pie shell. Sprinkle reserved ½ c. crumbs on top. Bake 35 minutes.



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  • Katie

    Pie!  I’ve not yet had a shoo-fly pie, but this recipe looks good, I may have to try it.  In exchange, I’d like to offer, not a recipe, but a pie-making tip.  When making an apple pie, the secret to perfect flavor and texture is to buy one or two (or three or four, depending on how many pies) of every variety of apple at the store or market.  Some will be sweet and some will be tart, some will cook down and some will hold their shape, but the flavors and textures will meld together, and form a sort of ideal of apple-ness.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I have had shoofly pie, and the problem with shoofly pie, like with pecan pie, is that it isn’t shoofly-or-pecan pie without so much sugar in that I simply cannot eat more than a sliver at a time without going into sugar overload.

    Oooh, that sounds like a thing I want to try. I wonder if [local orchard] still has apples. Should, it’s not that far into November…

  • Zeborah

     Yes, I was looking at that recipe thinking, “Hm, maybe if I add in some sultanas(1) or sliced apple(2) or something…”

    (1) Possibly thinking of what we called “squashed fly biscuits” when we were kids, a sweet sultana-y mash between two cracker-like biscuits.

    (2) Not sure if this was before or after reading Katie’s excellent suggestion about apples above.

  • Jamoche

    My feeling on traditional pecan pie is it should be called a sugar pie with a few pecans. Here’s a version that’s not pure sugar rush:

    1/2 cup butter, melted
    1 cup light corn syrup
    1 cup sugar
    1/4 cup cocoa
    4 eggs
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    1/4 tsp salt
    1 cup chopped pecans, plus 1/4 cup unchopped halves
    1/2 cup coconut
    1 9-inch pie shell

    Combine first 4 ingredients in a heavy saucepan, cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves. Let cool slightly.
    Add eggs, vanilla, and salt, stirring well. Stir in chopped pecans and coconut, pour into pie shell, and top with remaining pecans. Bake at 325 for 55 minutes.

  • otming

    Another improvement on pecan pie is what an Amish bakery here does: substitute apple schnitz (dried apples) for about half the pecans. It is really good.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Mmmm, that does sound tasty – and the schnitz should cut the sweetness a bit, which is a good thing.

  • P J Evans

     I always thought that a sliver was all you were supposed to eat, with those pies. I’m now wondering if making them as small tarts would work well.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Pecan tartlets are marvelous things. Never thought about shoofly tartlets, though.

  • Ursula L

    Every variety of apple in the market?  How many varieties do the markets near you carry?  

    Because it is apple season here, and there are probably a dozen varieties right now. I 

  • Katie

     Yes, exactly.  The idea is to use as many varieties of apples as possible.   When I was at the store today, there were at least six kinds, although I didn’t really count.

  • EllieMurasaki

    If I recall correctly, the local orchard has more than thirty varieties. Thirty apples seems a bit many for a single pie.

  • Katie

     Quite possibly, yes.    When I make apple pie, its usually more than one pie.

  • LE

    The last time I made an apple pie it took more than 10 apples (largish Granny Smiths), so one each of a dozen varieties would work out just about perfect.

  • PepperjackCandy

    My great-aunt had a famous-in-our-family not-quite apple pie recipe (it was made in a jelly roll pan instead of a pie tin, and she put a glaze on top when it was done).  I just looked up the recipe and she recommended using yellow delicious.

  • EllieMurasaki

    You mean Yellow Delicious apples have a purpose other than being perishable paperweights?

  • Jessica_R

    Again, if you wrote a villain like this, you’d get rightly taken to task for creating a strawmen, Jesus and Christ what a (dancing) horse’s ass.

  • Jessica_R

    And in contrast, Obama chokes up thanking his staffers. This one really got me.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I like apple pie. :)

  • Lori

    It recently occurred to me that I’m not crazy about it. I don’t think I’ve ever made one unless someone else requested it. I can’t remember ever ordering it at a restaurant or bakery. When I think about pie it’s always some other kind, never apple. I don’t dislike it and I’ll eat it and be fine with it if that’s what’s on offer, but there are any number of pies that I would far rather have. I feel like it’s a little late in my life for me to just now be noticing that I’m not that crazy about apple pie, but there it is.

    I am looking forward to my mom’s pumpkin pie. IIRC the recipe is nothing particular special, but it always turns out really, really tasty. Mom has the touch.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I don’t know why I like apple pie so much but it is astonishingly scrumptiously sweet. :)

  • Randy Owens

    “Nate Silver can recite pie.  Backwards.” #NateSilverFacts

    (OK, I may have added an ‘e’ somewhere in there.)

  • Kiba

    I’m not good at pie making, sadly, so this year for Thanksgiving I’m making a pumpkin “pie” cheesecake with ginger snap crust. 

  • mistformsquirrel

    That sounds amazing (O.O)

  • Kiba

    Yeah, it sounds great and I look forward to trying it out. I’ve never made that particular type of cheesecake before though so hopefully it will turn out OK. 

    My gram makes a killer Shepard’s pie but she uses stew meat or roast in hers. 

  • D9000

    You say pie to me and I think of pork pies. (No, I’ve never kept kosher, why do you ask?). Are pork pies a thing in USAia?

  • Jim Roberts

    They aren’t common enough, but there’s a few pubs around here that have them on the menu.

  • Becka Sutton

    None of the other previous threads have been suitable to drop this in, so dropping it here.

    People might be interested in this as a read 

    Plus ça change…

  • Carstonio

    Allow me to recommend another great thing from Lititz.

  • mistformsquirrel

    Mmm… pie… (^ _^)b

    My mom makes something called “Shepherd’s Pie” – it isn’t really a pie per se though.  It’s tasty stuff despite that however – hamburger, green beans, cream of mushroom soup, with tater tots or mashed potatoes on top.  (You can also use onion rings, but we rarely do that.)

    I’d have to ask her to get the actual recipe though.


  • D9000
  • mistformsquirrel

     Interesting, that’s a very different style shepherd’s pie than what my mom does (o.o) could be good though!

  • D9000

    I was always told lamb was the reason it was called ‘shepherd’s’ pie, but recently I learnt that traditionally beef was served at sheep-shearing parties. So I dunno, and being an urbanite Jew I’m probably not the best person to ask about English rural traditions :-)

  • Becka Sutton

    Yeah, you make it with beef and it’s a cottage pie instead.

  • D9000

    This is what I was told. I bet ‘cottage pie’ has got some whole other meaning, these days.

  • Lonespark

    I was wondering if Fred had heard about the Strike Debt and the Rolling Jubilee project.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    And let me just put in a Pennsylvania Dutch pie baker’s tip – the shoofly pie recipe as Fred gives it sounds like a good “dry-bottom” pie, with a cakey filling and a scatter of crumbs on top. But for the full shoofly experience, you could try a “wet-bottom” pie: don’t bother mixing the crumbs and the liquids. Just pour the molasses mixture into the crust and scatter handfuls of crumbs on top. As the pie bakes, some of the crumbs and liquid will amalgamate into a layer of cake, with a few crumbs on the top and a molasses-ey layer of liquid on the bottom.

    (Not diet food, obviously. Probably best eaten after a day of plowing several fields with a team of horses, Amish-style.)

  • disqus_bR7Sp5fvq8

    — Lived on that cookbook for quite a while.  And yes, the evangelical left (or Mennonites and their fellow travelers) was the community for that book (and the Moosewood cookbook)

    By the way, I seem to have inadvertantly registered for Disqus and now can’t post as anything but this strange identifier (how do I change it, or get out of being Disqus and back to being a “guest”?)  

    signed — poster formerly known as Walden

  • EllieMurasaki

    There should be a way to change your login name. Hold up, lemme experiment…

  • EllieMurasaki

    Okay. I should now be commenting under the name EllieTesting. If it comes through as EllieTesting, you click your avatar, you click the Disqus logo, you click Dashboard, you click Account, you put in the name you want, you save changes, you come back here and refresh. Dunno if it’ll affect previous comments, though.

  • walden

     thank you.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     It doesn’t seem to have worked for me – all your posts are from “EllieMurasaki”.

  • EllieMurasaki

    They were all from EllieTesting and then I changed back.

  • EllieMurasaki

     It worked! *changes back*

  • Renee

    Is this shoofly pie stuff actually good?

    A pie made of … molasses? That sounds terrible.

  • esmerelda_ogg

     Well, it may be one of those things you have to grow up with! It’s very sweet – maybe a little like gingerbread without the spices.

  • Nick

    Maybe it’s just because I’ve never actually encountered it real life, much less eaten it, but whenever I read the words “shoofly pie” written without the hyphen (as opposed to “shoo-fly”) I can’t help but read it as pronounced like “shoof-ly”. With the “-ly” as a suffix like in the word “softly”, or “quickly”. “Shoofly”.

  • rizzo

    Awww yea my favorite pie!

  • JustoneK

    this whole thread makes me want to have a pieluck tasting party.

  • redsixwing

    It is a long way from Pi Day (3.14, so halfway through March) but oh my, do I love some pie.

    Cottage pie is made with beef in this neck of the woods, I always thought shoofly rhymed with “soothly,”  and an apple pie made of all the different kinds sounds lovely.

    Can I throw in with plum pie? To do it right requires a particular kind of little, sour jam plum whose name I don’t know, but the big sweet ones are workable too, it’ll just be a sweeter pie.

    Make two crusts by whatever method you prefer and don’t bake the bottom one. Pit the little jam plums, cut them into halves, and arrange them face-up in the bottom crust. You’ll probably have room for two layers (like I said, these are little plums).  Put the first layer in and hold the second one.

    Cream together about half a cup of butter, a quarter cup of sugar, and as much cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and nutmeg as you want. I use a LOT and I don’t bother with spoons. A dash of black pepper can go very well in here too – it brings up the sweet-tart plums without being overwhelming.

    Dollop the butter in and around the plums, sprinkle them with flour, put in your second layer if you’re doing one, and put the rest of the butter mixture on top.

    Sprinkle with flour again, put the top crust on, and bake it.

    What you end up with is baked sweet-tart plums in a fairly runny (hence, more flour) sweet-spicy gravy, in a crust. It’s not something you can pack in a lunchbox. It is something very, very good.

    I adapted this recipe from an 1800s cookbook, and it too is probably best in small pieces. 

  • Jessica_R

    If you’re ever in the Baltimore are, hie thee to Dangerously Delicious pies, their pecan pie is apparently made by a host of Seraphim. Amazing. 

  • Lliira

    That looks really really really sweet. Kind of like pecan pie, sweet potatoes in syrup with marshmallows on top, and every other traditional Southern sweet dish I can think of. Just thinking about eating even one spoonful of it — eurgh. Blech. 

    I prefer a tart apple pie, lemon meringue (keep it lemony please!), strawberry rhubarb, or dark chocolate silk. Mmm pie.

  • storiteller

    I just saw that book at Ten Thousand Villages today!  I would have bought it except that we have a serious excess of cookbooks at our house already.  I do enjoy the Anabaptist approach to food and consumption though.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I would have bought it except that we have a serious excess of cookbooks at our house already.

    Can’t be. You might not have enough places to put cookbooks, but you can’t possibly have too many cookbooks.

  • Chloe P. H. Lewis

    I prefer pecan pie made with sugar syrup instead of corn syrup. Still very, very sweet, though. The easiest sugar syrup to find is Lyle’s Golden Syrup, with the Bible-goth image of the bees in the lion.

    The plum pie recipe looks fine (sp: fiiiiiine).

  • Carolyn

    I’ve been experimenting with pie recipes lately, and had an idea for a pie I’m planning for Thanksgiving, but I’m not sure if it’ll work. What I want is to make a cherry pie that has a chocolate layer, or maybe just chocolate in with the cherries. Is this a thing that exists, or should I just make something up? Any suggestions would be welcome.

  • Loquat

    I don’t generally make pies myself, but this recipe may be useful to you.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Can’t talk about pie without a meat pie!

    (I, too, find the idea of shoofly pie sickeningly sweet. For dessert pies, my favourite is lemon meringue).

  • Randy Owens

    Does anyone else call the meat (or other non-sweet) ones “savoury pies”?  I think that might be something I picked up just from one NZ person, and have no idea how widespread it is.

  • J_

    *I thought perhaps a pie from Doris Janzen Longacre’s classic More-with-Less Cookbook — the book that fed the evangelical left.*

    Mmm, that explains a lot. More-With-Less is a cookbook written by people who may once have heard of the idea of a good meal but certainly never had one themselves. Mostly starch piled on top of other starch with a side of starch on the side. Also makes the mistake of assuming that spice and fat are co-equal in generating flavor. (Don’t see the issue with that? Try replacing butter with cumin and let me know how it works out for you.)

    The same criticism that applies to, say, “The Moosewood Cookbook” fully works on More-With-Less:

    -Take ANY recipe from the book
    -Add 3 strips of crumbled bacon
    -Noticed marked improvement