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David Walbert's "Damp Bottom Shoofly Pie" Recipe

"There are two types of shoofly pie, wet bottom and dry or damp bottom. Both feature a molasses custard with a crumb topping; the only difference is the consistency of the molasses filling. The drier versions can be eaten by hand and (as was once common, for breakfast) dunked in coffee. The wetter versions require a fork.

"The origins of this pie are a mystery, though it seems to have been common at least as early as the late 1800s. The Dutch Haven (2857A Lincoln Hwy. E. on US Rte. 30; tel. 717/687-0111), a Lancaster restaurant and gift shop, made shoofly pie a symbol of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country when it began serving pies to tourists and shipping them by mail order in the 1950s. The Dutch Haven's shoofly pie is distinctly gooey, and (unfortunately, I think) that is the version that has since become most popular. Even less traditional is their practice of topping it with whipped cream. While I don't make a habit of standing on tradition, sweeter and heavier are not always better.

"This recipe makes a 'damp bottom' pie. It is good for dessert, of course, and also try dunking a leftover piece in coffee the next morning for breakfast."

Crumbs:

3/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tablespoons shortening

Liquid:

1/2 tsp. baking soda

3/4 boiling water

1/2 cup molasses (not blackstrap)

1 egg

Other:

Dough for a single pie crust

9-inch pie plate

3 mixing bowls

1. Heat the oven to 400°F. In a mixing bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water. Stir in the molasses and let cool to room temperature while you mix the dry ingredients.

2. In a second bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, brown sugar, and salt. Add the shortening and combine with your fingertips to make crumbs.

3. Beat the egg in a third bowl. Pour in the molasses mixture and combine well. Pour the mixture into a prepared 9-inch pie shell. Scatter the crumbs evenly on top.

4. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the crust just begins to brown. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and bake until firm (another 30 min. or so).

-David Walbert, Pennsylvania Dutch by birth, is a writer and historian living in Durham, North Carolina. He publishes The New Agrarian at www.newagrarian.com.

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