Monday, January 31, 2011

Shoofly Pie

A potluck was planned at my grandma's retirement home, to use up a turkey that had been in the freezer. Most of the other family members were offering to bring Thanksgiving-style side dishes, so when I was asked to bring dessert, my first thought was pie. Not to mention that I could also play along with the "use-up from the freezer" idea, as I still had a pie crust in my own freezer from making just a single pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.

In any case, I wasn't ready to head straight back to pumpkin or pecan, so I started looking for  a recipe just a little bit different, and decided on this Brandied Date and Walnut pie.

My coworker, who is much more of a "foodie" than I am, and is also a loyal reader and tester of Fine Cooking magazine, gave me a couple of issues as a holiday present. In the "Test Kitchen" section, I came across a technique for edging a pie crust that I'd never seen before; they call it "wheat." I think it's just lovely, and especially appropriate as a design for any pie representing the American Bounty that is Thanksgiving. I decided to try it, and it is perhaps the easiest decoration I've ever done.

The unbaked pie crust with "wheat" edge.
Unfortunately, I'd forgotten that this was an all-butter dough, and so it couldn't stand up to par-baking at all. Given the slouchy, shrunken (albeit flakey and delicious) crust I was left with, I decided to use it for a purpose other than taking to a potluck at my grandma's, and find a more flattering accompaniment.

The baked all-butter crust.

What happens to a butter crust design after the pastry shrinks and slouches during baking. But it's this very
puffing and browning that make the butter pastry so delectable and flakey.
I had already mixed up the brandied date and walnut filling, so I simply baked it in a Pillsbury crust. I combed through my saved recipe file for the pie that I've always wanted to try, but never really had an excuse to make, and found the perfect alternative: Shoofly Pie. I'd always known this name, but never really knew what it was until I heard a segment about it on The Splendid Table. I'd saved the recipe, but was disappointed to see that it called for filling an unbaked crust, and I already had a baked crust. However, when I cross-referenced the ingredients with the recipe in Joy of Cooking, they were identical, but for the par-baked crust. The recipe really couldn't be simpler, with only a few pantry-staple ingredients, so in the mixture went to the crust, and back into the oven.

Shoofly Pie
 It's a very curious thing. It's good, but not really anything I would crave. It doesn't have a sticky or too-sweet texture like I thought it might. But it doesn't have much depth or layers of flavor either. I would say it is a satisfying snack; it wouldn't necessarily be the right choice after or with a meal, but it's hearty enough that it stands alone for an afternoon pick-me-up and is good with black coffee.

Don't forget to serve with a dollop of cream!

Then I finished up with baking the date-walnut pie:

I think I could have given this a few more minutes to allow the center to set-up more; though I couldn't have known that by looking. When we went to slice it, the center was a little soft, so my slices came out pretty messy looking, but the texture was delicious and the flavor even more impressive. The brandy - unlike some alcohol infusions - didn't taste boozy at all, but rather gave it a distinctly spiced aroma... one of the tasters asked if the pie contained cardamom, and there was certainly a "something" that makes this pie a special memory. I will definitely make again. Don't forget to serve with freshly whipped cream!

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