Studying other peoples' food cultures gave me a renewed appreciation for my own. So today I went to my grandmother's house to learn how to bake Shoofly pie, a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch pie. The pie is mostly sugar (both molasses and cane) along with some flour and butter, all baked in a pie shell. We made a wet-bottom Shoofly, which means there is a bottom layer of thick molasses goo. In terms of shoofly wet bottom is really the only way to go if you ask me or my grandparents who are both 100% Pennsylvania Dutch. None of us are sure why anyone bothers with a dry-bottom.
A Shoofly is made with two separate batters, the crumbs and the syrup. The recipe Grammy uses says to layer half the syrup, half the crumbs, and then repeat. She never does it this way though, she simply put all the liquid topped with all the crumbs. We did an experiment and did one pie according to the recipe and one her way. To the right is a comparison of the two methods. The left is Grammy's method and the right is the layering method. I didn't tell her this, but I think layered method is preferable because the pie rises a little more, is more airy and not quite so dense. Also the slight curve of the layered one is more pleasing visually.
The best part, though was baking with my grandma. She's 80 now, as she reminded me several times, and so she mostly sat and supervised me. Well, actually, she sat, got up to clean, talked about how she needed to sit down, sat down, got up again to do something else, complained about needing to sit down, sat down, and well, you get the picture. One thing she insisted on standing for was the addition of the "slop." This is her word for molasses. Grammy doesn't like baking Shooflies because of the slop, it's the hardest part she says. So difficult she wouldn't let me do it, I could only watch. Actually, she didn't want me to do it because molasses, in all its thick, sticky glory makes a mess, and she hates messes. Now, there's a Pennsylvania Dutch woman for you.
But also thanks to her "Dutchness" she has numerous old cookbooks in immaculate condition, so I'm sure I'll be writing about more recipes soon. In the meantime, here's a picture of Grammy's deliberate "slop" measuring.