“Shoo fly” Pie

Did you get a chance to try the imitation Rex Jelly recipe? I plan to as soon as I have a longer weekend! For me the article has resulted in many discussions and trips down memory lane. I thought readers might enjoy and share some of these other earlier memories.

How many of you have ever eaten “Shoo fly” pie? I have to admit I’d thought the gross-sounding, but delicious, concoction called shoo fly pie was a raisin pie. Not so! Shoo fly pie is made from molasses, brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, milk and butter and is described as “what a pie should be – sweet and spicy and not for those who prefer just a nip of sweetness.” 

Shoo fly pie was first credited to the Pennsylvania Dutch (Germanic people) who settled in the areas of southeastern Pennsylvania around Lancaster. The first group of these Mennonite and Amish sects arrived in America around 1730. They brought the staples of their diet—long-lasting nonperishables that could withstand a long sea voyage. Those staples were flour, brown sugar, molasses, lard, salt, and spices. 

Whether the recipe came, or was developed, in America isn’t known, but it is an old recipe and still a favorite in Pennsylvania Dutch country today. I am told they are great pie makers and eaters and shoo fly pie is one of many dessert pies readily found in area homes and restaurants. I also read that it makes a great ‘breakfast pie” when served with hot coffee. 

The origin of the name is debated, but generally folks think it is related to the fact that molasses sometimes seeped up to “pool” on the surface of a cooling pie inevitably attracting flies that had to be “shooed” away. 

So how does a girl from southeast Arkansas who’s never been to Amish country know about shoo fly pie? Dinah Shore! She had a big hit with a catchy little tune called “Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy” that I’d hear on KVSA (radio) near McGehee when I was very little girl. I thought the song was just hilarious and I’ve never forgotten it! 

You can still hear the song occasionally on one of the AETN fundraisers or catch it on YouTube. Give a listen sometime. The lyrics I recall said; “Shoo fly pie and apple pandowdy make your eyes light up and your stomach say “Howdy”. Shoo fly pie and apple pandowdy! I never get enough of that wonderful stuff!”

So, how do you make Shoofly pie?  In case you are curious, here’s a recipe.

First, heat your oven to 325 degrees.


1 cup molasses

1 cup boiling water

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 egg beaten

1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust

Spoon mixture into pie crust.  Now mix;

1 cup flour

½ cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1/3 cup butter

This will be crumbly. Spoon crumb mixture over top of pie. Bake in oven for about 40 minutes until pie is medium-set and dark brown. Serve warm or chilled. Shoo fly pie is said to resemble pecan pie without the pecans. Are you ready to try it? Go for it if you have a sweet tooth! 

The song also referred to apple pan dowdy. So, what was apple pan dowdy? This delicious treat has also been called apple cobbler, apple duff and apple grunt. The dessert can be made using any fruit, but apples are the most popular, probably due to the recipe’s Pennsylvania Dutch roots too. A pan dowdy, duff, cobbler or grunt is a fruit dessert that is baked in an iron skillet, or Dutch oven, and has a “sweet biscuit” crust. It is often called a pan dowdy because it is baked in a “pan” and looks “dowdy” or messy. This look is achieved when the crust is “cut” and “rumpled or stirred around”, leaving a dowdy or messy appearance. It resembles the buffet cobblers today after one or two have “rumpled” or dug into the crust to get to the fruit.  Here is a classic Apple Pan Dowdy recipe. Try it this fall when the apples ripen!

Combine 2 ½ cups flour, 3 tsp. baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt. Set aside.

Butter a 9” square pan. Place 4 cups peeled, sliced apples in pan and sprinkle with a mixture of 1/3 cup brown sugar, 2 tsps. cinnamon and ½ tsp. nutmeg.   

In a separate bowl, cream 1 ¼ cup butter and 2/3 cup sugar. Mix in 1 egg. Add flour mixture and 1 cup milk. Spread over apples already in pan.                  

Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes or until golden brown. Serve from pan or invert in plate. 

Now you have recipes for two historic “Pennsylvania Dutch” dishes that will make your “eyes light up and your stomach say howdy”. You’ll be hard pressed to get enough of that wonderful stuff, especially with whipped or ice cream!

The Advance-Monticellonian

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Monticello, AR 71657

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Monticello, AR 71655

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