Some vacation time last week found me in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. While I grew up in Connecticut, both my mother and father were raised in Bethlehem, and we spent a lot of time there when I was a kid. So much so, no map was necessary for this trip; I navigated our journey across four states, through city streets, along back roads and well-worn shortcuts—familiar to me “like the back of my hand.”
Traveling back to the area brought to mind a great many memories from when I was little—most notably, the food.
Granted, Bethlehem has changed a lot since I was young. IT is younger now—more hip, with its bistros and brewpubs, sidewalk cafés and artisan bakeries. I imagine, soon, the new casino will soldier in more change—every tourist brochure is already brandishing “Emeril’s Chop Shop” in lieu of the charming downtown eateries. But for now, there is a sweet mix of familiar and new.
My old favorites were greatly influenced by the peoples who call Pennsylvania home—the Amish, the Pennsylvania Dutch, the Moravians, and those of German and Polish descent. You can tell by the names that they are not your average fare: scrapple and summer bologna, Shoofly Pie and Moravian Sugar Cake, red beet eggs and chow chow.
I think my favorite of the favorites is Shoofly Pie, if for no other reason than the name: shoo fly pie. You’ve got to love what your mouth does when you say it!
You’ve got to love what your mouth does when you taste it! Shoofly Pie is a Pennsylvania Dutch dessert. It’s a layered treat of almost-sweet crumbs and gooey molasses—the “wet bottom” part of a traditional wet-bottom Shoofly Pie.
I thought I would share the following recipe with you, courtesy of the Walp’s Family Restaurant Cookbook. Walp’s was a restaurant in neighboring Allentown, Pennsylvania that served traditional Pennsylvania Dutch food for 62 years. It was my grandfather Pappy’s favorite place for family celebrations and one of the first places I ever ate Shoofly Pie.
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Combine and mix thoroughly:
3/4 cup mild molasses
3/4 cup hot water
1/2 tsp baking soda
Combine and blend thoroughly:
1-1/4 cups flour, sifted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt
2-1/2 tbsp solid vegetable shortening
1 unbaked 8-inch pie shell (prepared or make your own)
Prepare crumbs first and set aside; then, prepare liquid and set aside for 5 minutes.
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Thoroughly stir liquid, and place 1-1/4 cups into the unbaked pie shell. Add 1 cup of crumbs to the liquid in pie shell. Let stand for 2 minutes. Add another cup of crumbs evenly over the pie. Place immediately into the pre-heated oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for about 50 minutes.
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