Adventures in Ethics and Science

In the ScienceBlogs Pi Day bake-off, it would seem that Pastry Chef Free-Ride has a posse.

Reader Jake emailed me to share a pie recipe for me to prepare with the sprogs. Writes Jake, “This is one member of the extended family of molasses crumb pies and a cousin to the Pennsylvania Dutch Shoo-fly Pie. This recipe comes from my Pennsylvania Dutch grandmother, and when it comes out right (tends to vary a bit with relative humidity and barometric pressure) it is nowhere near as gooey or sickly sweet as most shoo-fly pies I’ve had. A cooled slice can be picked up with the fingers and eaten out of hand with no mess other than a crumb or two.”

As someone who spent half a dozen summers of my life in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I’m happy to make the acquaintance of a less gooey, less sickly sweet pie from the shoo-fly lineage. As a bonus (yeah, I’m talking to you, jc), the recipe doesn’t call for any ingredient more exotic than molasses.

Here’s the recipe, with our commentary on the preparation:

Schnockaschtettle (pronounced as it looks, known at home as just “schnock”)

Preheat oven to 425 oF.

Line pie pans with unbaked crust (no top crust needed).

For each pie:
- In a mixing bowl make coarse streusel-type crumbs of 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup butter. The preferred implement for this in our family has always been a three-tined cooking fork (aka a “threek”*). We’ve always used regular sugar, but I don’t see why you couldn’t use brown sugar.

We went with white sugar. The younger Free-Ride offspring did the mashing of the cold butter into the flour and sugar. We used a fork … but in the house I grew up in, the forks we ate with: (1) had only three tines, and (2) were called “threeks”.

- In a two-cup Pyrex measuring cup, mix 1/3 cup molasses (unsulphured) with 1/3 cup boiling water. The quickly stir in 1 tsp. baking soda (You know what’s going to happen, but the sprogs can learn some chemistry.)

When told that something interesting was going to happen at this stage of the recipe, the sprogs said, “So molasses is acidic?”

It wasn’t quite a science fair volcano, but there was some nice enthusiastic bubbling along with a noticeable lightening of the color.

i-6b361e7ec5c92ae3d8c9d2bf17158f52-Schnock1.jpg

then quickly pour bubbling mixture into pie shell, spread crumbs evenly over liquid, and pop into the hot oven while still bubbly.

Bake at 425 oF for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 oF for an additional 15 minutes. Pie should still have patches of lightly browned bare crumbs, with bigger areas that have been colored by the molasses. Remove from oven and allow to cool down on a wire rack. Serve.

In my family, we have always made two pies at once — one to be served still warm (with vanilla ice cream) for dessert, the other to be served cool the next morning with breakfast, like a coffee cake.

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This pie was a definite improvement on the standard shoo-fly. And, in terms of deliciousness per unit effort, I think it beats the violet custard pie (which I love) pretty handily.

Comments

  1. #1 Comrade PhysioProf
    March 8, 2009

    Looks yummy!

    I DEMAND that you take pictures of the cross-sections of these pies after slicing and post them on your blog, NOW!!!!

  2. #2 jc
    March 8, 2009

    HAHA! I’m from PA too – I LOVEEEE shoo fly. This pie is marked on the calendar for April. Thanks Jake.
    I forgot ice cream for tonight’s pie – it’s too lovely a day to go without ice cream.

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