What Is Shoofly Pie And Why Does It Have A Soggy Bottom?

If you've never visited Lancaster County in the U.S., you might be unfamiliar with shoofly pie. This molasses-based dessert, with its whimsically mysterious name, is a favorite in various Pennsylvanian counties, where it's traditionally enjoyed like coffee cake. You can savor shoofly pie for breakfast with a cup of coffee, or serve it with a scoop of your favorite ice cream for dessert.

Outside of the Lancaster region, where soggy pie bottoms are preferred, a debate persists over whether the pie should have a dry or wet bottom. In contrast to the grimaces judges on "The Great British Bake Off" exhibit at the sight of a soggy-bottomed pie or tart — which typically suggests undercooking — many contend that a soggy bottom signifies a properly made shoofly pie.

A wet bottom shoofly pie consists of three components: a pie crust, molasses filling, and a crumb topping. For this version, the molasses filling is poured directly onto the unbaked pie shell and covered with the crumb topping. As the pie bakes, the molasses seeps into the pie crust, creating its characteristically sticky and sweet, soggy bottom.

Dry bottom shoofly pie

Although the ingredients are similar, the assembly method determines whether a shoofly pie has a wet or dry bottom. In the dry bottom version, the molasses filling is mixed with half of the crumb topping before being poured into the unbaked crust. The remaining crumbs are then sprinkled over the filling prior to baking. This extra layer of crumbs within the filling prevents the molasses from saturating the bottom crust.

A dry bottom shoofly pie resembles a crumb-topped molasses pie with a cake-like consistency, similar to gingerbread, but without the full array of spices. It is sometimes compared to pecan pie, minus the nuts, although shoofly pie uses molasses instead of pecan pie's corn syrup. Molasses can impart a robust, somewhat bitter taste reminiscent of burnt caramel, which might not appeal to everyone's palate. To accommodate varying tastes, modern iterations of shoofly pie often cut back on the molasses quantity, substituting it with corn syrup and additional brown sugar — a change that, understandably, doesn't please all. Give it a try and decide for yourself.