Auntie Thelma's Crustless Shoo Fly Pie


On the first anniversary of losing my dad, I wanted to have a grateful celebration, rather than a sad remembrance. I made my family shoo fly pie. (I also wrote a larger piece about him called The Turtle.)

Growing up, my sister and I would tease our dad a bit about some of his food favorites, most rooted in Pennsylvania Dutch (German farm folk from Pennsylvania) tradition. Some, not the healthiest of choices. But, I have to agree with him on shoo fly pie. And, try as I have to change, it is a recipe that works best with corn syrup. The taste of this pie is totally different at first, but strangely satisfying. Dad loved a good-sized slice with a glass of whole milk, super cold, right out of the “ice box”. I really can still picture having some with him on his front porch, joking about the pie being the perfect cure for fres krankit.

Fres Krankit is short for Fressen Krankheit, the disease of eating or gluttony. I like to think about it a little differently, and less negatively. We’ve all had those days where most things taste really good, but there is still a lingering craving that is difficult to satisfy. To me, that craving is fres krankit.



Makes one 9-inch pie

Crumb Mixture
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and cold

¾ cup combined black strap molasses and dark corn syrup (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons each, see method below)
¾ cup boiling water
½ teaspoon baking soda


Position the oven rack in the center and preheat to 375˚F.

Combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and toss to coat. Break up the butter with your fingertips until evenly incorporated.

Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch traditional (not deep-dish) pie plate with about two-thirds of the crumb mixture. It will look like a lot, but a portion of the filling will soak in to it.

Pour the molasses and corn syrup into a large liquid measuring cup at the same time. (I am a big fan of Oxo and the cups with the measurement markings on the inside and out.) Try to get an even pour on each. The corn syrup will run a little faster, but a little more or less of one, won’t matter.) 

Pour the boiling water into the measuring cup. Mix with a fork or small whisk to dissolve the molasses-syrup mixture. Sprinkle in the baking soda and mix again.

Pour the hot filling into the crumb lined pan. Sprinkle the top with the remaining crumbs covering all of the filling.

Carefully put in the oven and bake until the filling is completely set, with just a tiny jiggle, about 40 minutes.

Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely. The top will crack during baking and cooling.

The pie will be soft if eaten at room temperature. Refrigerate for a firmer consistency.