Shoo-Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy - Wonderful Desserts

by AngelaJohnson

"Shoo-Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy" are the names of two wonderful Pennsylvania Dutch desserts. It is also the title of a song published in 1945.

"Shoo-Fly Pie" is a very sweet pie made with molasses. It may have gotten its name because flies were attracted to pools of molasses that often formed on the pie surface while it was cooling, and had to be "shooed" away.

"Apple Pan Dowdy" (or pandowdy) was probably given this name because the dessert looks plain or "dowdy". The apple based filling is placed on a crust, and the top crust is broken or sliced through several times. It is very juicy served hot from the oven. As it cools, the "dowdied" crust absorbs a lot of the liquid. It can be eaten warm or cooled.

In 1945, "Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy" was published as a song. It was recorded by Dinah Shore and by Ella Fitzgerald.

Photo of apple pandowdy by Siriomi'on flickr

Shoo-Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy - Recipe makes two pies

NOTE: If you can't find turkey syrup, you can substitute 1/2 cup molasses and 1/2 cup corn syrup.

Recipe for Shoo-fly Pie from Mr. Food website

shoo fly pieServes: 8      Cooking Time: 35 min

  • 1 refrigerated pie crust
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place pie crust in a shallow 9-inch pie plate and flute the edges.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, butter, and salt; mix well and reserve 1 cup mixture.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine egg, molasses, and cold water; mix gently and set aside.
  4. In a small bowl, mix hot water and baking soda and stir into molasses mixture. Stir molasses mixture into flour mixture and pour into pie shell. Top with reserved flour mixture.
  5. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Pie will firm up as it cools. Cool completely before cutting.

Photo of shoo fly pie by m-e-c on flickr.

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About Molasses


Molasses is usually made from sugar cane, although it can also be made from beets.  Molasses made from beets is usually added to animal feed.

To make molasses, the sugar cane juice has to be separated from the pulp.  Then the sugar (sucrose) is extracted from the juice by heating and spinning the juice in a centrifuge.  

After the sugar has been extracted, there's still some syrup left and that syrup is molasses. This is called light or first molasses and has the mildest taste.

If the molasses syrup is processed further, more sucrose can be extracted.  This second extraction of sucrose can then be manufactured into table sugar.  After this second processing, the syrup left over is concentrated even more and becomes darker.  This dark or second molasses is what is usually sold in grocery stores.  

Second molasses can still be further processed and this third round is called blackstrap molasses.  It is the thickest and darkest molasses.  If you can't find this type molasses in grocery stores, you may have to look in health or natural food stores.  Blackstrap molasses is full of minerals:  iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium, copper, manganese, and selenium.  Blackstrap molasses has a strong bitter flavor and shouldn't be used in baking.  Photo of molasses on spoon from wikipedia.


bottle of molasses


Molasses with the highest sugar content is made from ripe, mature sugar cane.  If sugar cane is harvested before it is mature, the resulting molasses has a lower sugar content.  Sulphur dioxide is then added as a preservative and to help prevent it from spoiling.

All three grades of molasses; light, dark and blackstrap are available sulphured or unsulphured.  Sulphur dioxide in molasses doesn't make any difference in cooking or baking and is considered safe for most people.  But some people are allergic to sulfites and can have serious reactions when exposed to sulphur dioxide.  These people should only use unsulphured molasses.  

Photo of bottle of molasses on wikipedia

Apple Pan Dowdy

Apple Pan Dowdy photo by
Apple Pan Dowdy photo by

Two Versions of Making Apple Pan Dowdy

Old Fashioned Apple Pan Dowdy Recipe

Recipe from, by Diana Rattray

apple pan dowdy

Cook Time: 45 minutes


1/4 cup biscuit mix
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon butter

5 cups apple slices - 6 to 7 cooking apples, golden delicious, jonathan, etc., peeled, cored, sliced
cinnamon and nutmeg
granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups biscuit mix
3/4 cup light cream or whipping cream

In a saucepan, combine 1/4 cup biscuit mix, brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and vinegar and water.

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and clear. Remove from heat and add vanilla and butter. Set aside to cool.

Place apples in a greased 8-inch square baking pan. Sprinkle apples evenly with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Mix 1 1/2 cups biscuit mix with the cream to make a soft dough. Drop over the sliced apples.

Sprinkle with the granulated sugar and more cinnamon. Pour the cooled sauce over the top. Bake in a preheated 375° oven for about 35 to 45 minutes. Serve hot with cream or ice cream.

Recipe from

The Pennsylvania Dutch and Their Food

Amish riding in buggy

Pennsylvania Dutch Immigrants

The Pennsylvania Dutch are descendants of German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania. Among the immigrants were the Mennonites and the Amish who came because they heard that Pennsylvania tolerated all religions. The first large group arrived around 1710 and settled near Lancaster County.

The word "Deutsche" means German. Other settlers who didn't speaker German probably mispronounced the word "Deutsche" as "Dutch" and the immigrants became known as the "Pennsylvania Dutch".


Pennsylvania Dutch Food 

The traditional dishes of the Pennsylvania Dutch are simple, using lots of fresh produce and ingredients that are not heavily processed. Early settlers improvised and used what was available in their new country.  

A lot of their food is not particularly healthy due to the heavy use of fatty meat, butter and lard, and sugar and molasses.  But the traditional meals fill you up and are economical.  If you're heatlh-conscious, eat Pennsylvania Dutch food in moderation. 

Some of the foods originating with the Pennsylvania Dutch are:


~ Birch Beer and Root Beer

~ Apple Butter

~ Beef or Venison Jerky

~ Gingerbread and Ginger Snaps

~ Pork and Sauerkraut

~ Pretzels

~ Angel Food Cake and Funnel Cakes

~ Apple Dumplings

~ Shoo-Fly Pie and Whoopie Pies


Photo of Amish in Buggy on Wikipedia

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Updated: 10/02/2014, AngelaJohnson
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BrendaReeves on 09/18/2012

Now you've gone and made me hungry at 10 o'clock at night. I really want a slice of that.

katiem2 on 09/05/2012

Pie is my most favorite food in the whole world. I love the image of the pie, it caught my eye instantly and I was fast here to see more. Thanks for the great tutorials on pie making and baking. I'm so hungry for pie now. I must confess I've never made or tasted shoo fly pie, a must try. :)K

Sannel on 09/05/2012

These two desserts sound and look just wonderful! I will bookmark and try them out for myself. I have an apple tree full of ripe apples, so the Apple Pan Dowdy recipe will come in handy. Thank you!

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