Shoofly Pie

What with this past week being Christmas and all, I was thinking of trying to make a tortiere, which is a Canadian meat pie traditionally served at the holidays. I’ve only ever tasted a tortiere once, and that was many, many, years ago, and it seemed like a good fit for my second week pie.

But then fate intervened.

I have a cousin Emma, and she has an aunt who is an artist. When Emma was a little girl — maybe around 10? — she served as the model for the pictures her aunt drew for a children’s book, called Selina and the Bear Paw Quilt:

Selina and the Bear Paw Quilt

Why, there’s Emma right there on the cover!

A year or so later, there was a sequel, Selina and the Shoo-fly Pie:

Selena and the Shoo-fly Pie

Emma again!

When my grandmother passed away this past summer, she had a copy of both books in her closet. My mom gave them to me to share with my kids. About a week or so ago, Gal Smiley was leafing through the second book when a recipe for Shoofly Pie fell out of it. My Nana must have tucked it inside the book at some point.

So you must admit, it seemed fated. Here it is:

Shoofly Pie

I made this pie last Wednesday morning, just hours before I fell ill with the stomach flu. It was supposed to be for Christmas Eve dinner, but by then I was so sick I couldn’t even look at crackers, let alone pie. In the end, only FameThrowa was up to having a piece. I eventually tried a couple of bites on Sunday, the 27th, before pitching the whole thing due to nausea. I was too sick to leave the house to give it away, and I didn’t want to invite any tasters over to our din of germs.

So that was that. Not exactly the result I was hoping for.

How was the pie? Shoofly pie is a very, very heavy pie. It’s made with molasses — a LOT of molasses — with a butter/flour/sugar crumble added in layers. The overall result is a delicious, sweet pie that is awesome for about three bites. Anything more than that, and your entire stomach is completely bloated. No room for anything else. Although it is a sweet pie, it’s really meant to be a meal, not a dessert. I might make it again for a brunch or a fancy breakfast or an afternoon tea, or something like that, but not as an after-dinner item.

Also, the molasses bubbled over all over the oven, so beware shoofly pie makers — cookie sheet, oven fan, and smoke alarm dectector deactivation required.

As for the pastry, it went both better and worse this time around. I kept everything cold cold cold and the mixing part went fabulously well. I created a ball of pastry with minimal touching and popped it in the fridge and I was feeling really good about it.

Then the rolling part was a disaster — it totally stuck to the counter, so I had to pry it up with a fork after it was rolled out, and it broke into a thousand pieces. In the end I had to kind of piece it together in the pie plate (because I thought re-rolling it would be bad, although in retrospect, it is probably what I should have done). It barely stuck together and chunks kept falling off the side and it was so very, very frustrating to work with.

Then, because the molasses goes in as a liquid, the pastry sucked it all up. In the end you can hardly tell there is a pie crust there at all — it’s saturated with molasses. It’s good, but not very pastry-like. The only place you can taste the pastry alone is around the edge, where it was so fragile and already so piecemeal that most of it crumbled away as I lifted it out of the oven. The bits that were left were really good, though. Is it possible for pastry to be too flaky?

Anyway, all in all, a frustrating pie-making experience, and an even more frustrating pie non-eating experience. Bleh.

This week I’m skipping the pie because we are supposedly travelling to Toronto, although Little Miss Sunshine is STILL sick (bleh bleh bleh) so heaven only knows what the heck we are actually going to do. If we’re not travelling, though, I’m probably busy washing barf-covered sheets, so I’m still thinking that pie-making can wait until next week, don’t you think?

Next week, I think I’ll try something easier and lighter.

5 thoughts on “Shoofly Pie

  1. Hey Lynn. I think the crust problem was too much liquid. It takes a while to start to know how the pastry should feel. I had several crusts that had too much moisture and ended up sticking like crazy. Also, I do knead my crust (gasp) for about 15 seconds otherwise it is too hard to work with.

    As an aside, I went to university with Barbara Smucker’s grand-niece. I became very aware of her books and live them all. Of course it doesn’t hurt to be Mennonite! Have you read Underground to Canada?

  2. Crust is something I have yet to dabble in. If I need one I usually go with frozen or as my sister to make do.

    My grandmother used to make tortiere. In fact, she’d make like 10 pies and then leave them at my mom’s house. Usually we’d end up eating them all winter. (Magic ingredient salt.) Saslove (the butcher) has a tortiere that actually comes pretty close to her recipe. (Tasty too.)

    I got (myself) Pushing Daisies for Christmas, and I have been pondering pies ever since. Like a nice cherry number… or blueberry. Oh I love blueberry pie (wrong season for it.)

  3. Ya, that was ambitious – shoofly pie. Maybe just stick to perfecting the pastry with a series of apple pies (usually the easiest); then branch out. Sorry to hear you had to be sick over Christmas. That sucks Big Big time.

  4. oh lynn. i’ve just caught up on the blog. how terrible that the lot of you got the a stomach flu over christmas. that really sucks. glad to hear that you are all coming out the other side.

    tortiere is a family staple for us. i’ve never made it and had full intentions of trying this year. though like nat, i’m a store bought pastry kind of gal. i can get you the family recipe for the filling if you like. oh, and karen over at virtually there, makes an awesome one with apple in it.

    here’s to a healthy 2010 for you and the fam!

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