Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hamburgers a la Lindstrom and shoofly pie

I am so happy in my cooking life right now. Revisiting these Time-Life books is a great sentimental pleasure.

Two dishes:

-Hamburgers a la Lindstrom from The Foods of Scandinavia. I had to make these because of the name. According to author Dale Brown, in Sweden meat used to be so tough that cooks typically ground it up and made meatballs (which explains Swedish meatballs) and so-called hamburgers like these -- "a piquant and juicy blend of beef, finely diced beets, chopped onions and capers." Mark thought they smelled like fish and was very suspicious. Owen ate with gusto and announced that he loved the dinner. I liked these meat patties fine, but won't make them again. Meatballs are better, as is meat loaf, as are ordinary American hamburgers.  (Isabel is away at summer school so she won't be quoted in the blog for a while.)

-Shoofly pie from American Cooking: The Eastern Heartland. I made a shoofly pie a few years ago that was so harsh I almost gave up on shoofly pie altogether. Since I typed that last sentence I pulled out The Joy of Cooking to see if it was the source of the offending recipe, and it was. But I didn't make the shoofly pie "a few years ago." I made it in 2002. I find this miscalculation disturbing.

The problem with the Joy recipe is that it calls for only molasses in the filling and molasses can be harsh and overwhelming. This recipe uses a mixture of molasses and light corn syrup and it is to die for, as my mother liked to say. You may well die for it. I don't think of the Pennsylvania Dutch as a decadent people, but this may be the unhealthiest dessert ever invented. Not even an egg in there, or a cup of milk.

Some dissenting opinions on the pie:  Owen thought it was "too sugary" and Jose Wilson, who wrote American Cooking: The Eastern Heartland, shares his view. Here's her description of the pie (this Jose is a she), which she first ate at the home of a Mennonite farm family:

"Shoofly pie isn't my all time favorite, frankly, because it's too sweet for me, but this turned out to be one of the best I have eaten. There are many versions of shoofly pie, which can be loosely defined as a liquid filling of molasses, boiling water and baking soda in an unbaked pie shell, topped with a crumb mixture and baked. Each version has passionate advocates among the Dutch. There's a rather dry one that is dunked in coffee, a wet bottom one that is much moister and spicier, and a cake-like kind in which the filling and crumbs are mixed together.  No one seems to know, incidentally, how the pie got its name. Logical thinkers tend to the theory that the sweet stickiness attracted flies. . ."

This is the moist type of shoofly pie. It is better than flummery.

9-inch unbaked pie shell
1 cup flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup butter (the original recipe calls for shortening)
pinch of salt (original doesn't call for, but the pie needs it)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup boiling water
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup molasses

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Rub the flour, brown sugar, and butter together in a bowl to form a mixture that resembles "coarse meal." This is your crumb topping.

2. In a large bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water then stir in the corn syrup and molasses. Mix well. Pour this into the pie shell. Strew the crumbs evenly across the top of the liquid filling. A lot of them will sink.

3. Bake for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake for about 25 minutes more until the filling is set and doesn't quiver when jiggled gently. Don't overbake lest you end up with a dry pie; you want the filling to have a firm, jelly-like consistency. The recipe says to cool to room temperature before serving, but we ate it slightly warm and it was perfect. Needs ice cream or whipped cream. 


  1. My Swedish grandmother always added finely diced prunes to ground beef patties and meatballs. The flavor was undetectable and kept the meat juicy, even though she fried it to death.

  2. I grew up in rural Pennsylvania and have a decided soft spot for shoofly pie. I ALWAYS get a slice at a diner when I'm visiting my family -- so delicious and soft and sweet and... yum.

  3. My Pennsylvania Dutch grandmother made a shoefly pie cake, not as sweet as the pie. I make it every fall and eat the whole thing, since no one else likes it, unless my parents are visiting. The crumbly top id the best part, and it's good with coffee or tea.

  4. I'm so glad you're back to this cookbook series. I loved those. At this point I only have the one called Cooking of Provincial France. The Tomato cheese pie in that book is great. It's simple and so good. I make it with a whole wheat crust from Vegetarian Epicure. However, I'll have to wait for really good tomatoes, since it's been cool this year.

    I keep making the creme fraiche from Make the Bread and it's been just the right thing to have with summer fruit.

  5. The Pennsylvania Dutch ARE decadent with respect to sugar, not that I begrudge it to them. I remember a meal in Pennsylvania Dutch country in which every item in the main course was sweet. I guess if after one of these meals you go out and scythe an entire field you have nothing to worry about.

  6. make a note for our next visit: david LOVES shoofly pie!

  7. Shoofly pie is something I've always wanted to like, but yes, always too sweet. Just thinking about it makes me wish for a glass of milk. I agree that shoofly cake is much less sweet and much easier to eat.

  8. I'm very excited about this new series! Just the other day, I was wondering about the difference between a buckle, a betty, a crisp, and a cobbler. Can't wait to read the answers, especially if they're as well-researched and informative as this one. To see more info please visit http://essayswriters.org/paper-writing/.