|[now at the kitchen counter] Besides the molasses, Boston brown bread is defined by a trio of grains, wheat, rye, and corn. Now this arrangement probably resulted from the fact that ever-thrifty New Englanders needed a bread that worked with their limited and ever-shifting resources. Of course, each is used in the manufacturing of spirits, so maybe this bread really was born exclusively of the hooch industry.||
[at the oven] Alright, oven prep, we're going to set for 325 degrees and put a three-quart oven-approved pan or pot right smack dab in the middle. I'll explain later.
The Molasses Act of 1733 placed such high taxes on
molasses that maple syrup became the sweetener of choice.
|Alright, time to introduce the Boston brown bread batter teams. We begin with the dry team: two and a half ounces by weight of cornmeal, and the same amount of rye flour, and the very same amount of wheat flour. That's easy to remember. Now the leavening: half a teaspoon each of baking soda and baking powder. While we're at it, half a teaspoon of kosher salt and of allspice. Fresh ground would be best. Grab yourself a whisk and bring that together.||
2½ Ounces Cornmeal
2½ Ounces Rye Flour
2½ Ounces Whole Wheat
½ tsp. Baking Soda
½ tsp. Baking Powder
½ tsp. Kosher Salt
½ tsp. Freshly Grated
|Then the wet team. [ed. which he adds right on top of the dry team] Eight and a half ounces of buttermilk, one teaspoon of vanilla extract. There we go. And one half teaspoon of fresh orange zest. And yes, we do usually consider that to be a wet ingredient. And I'm not measuring. That looks like enough. Last but not least, six ounces by weight of molasses. And by the way, a plunger cup is a much easier distribution device. There we go. Now whisk to combine.||
8½ Ounces Buttermilk
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
½ tsp. Orange Zest
6 Ounces Molasses
Now when it looks really disgusting, you are ready to double check the
weight. Now this is just for distribution purposes. We've got one [pound], nine and
three quarters [ounces]. I'm going to call
that 26 ounces. Which we will distribute into two small cans, which we discussed
before. And I'm going to use a canning funnel to try to get as close to 13
ounces into each one. We're definitely going to lose some in the bowl, so we'll
probably end up with about 12-½.
[at the oven] Now if a dense, moist, cake-like bread is desired, and it is, we've got to do two things, okay. We have to slow the absorption of heat into the batter, and we also need to limit the batter's expansion, what's called "oven spring." So the cans will be topped with double layers of foil tied in place with string, okay? Those go into the middle of the pot. And we're going to add enough boiling water to come about halfway up the side of the pan. There. Now we're going to set the timer for one hour and 15 minutes.
Now I know, it looked like there was plenty of room in those cans, but believe me, if I had packed all of that batter into one, we would be facing a massive molasses explosion in that oven. And there is a precedent for that kind of thing, okay?
|January 15th, 1919, Boston, Massachusetts. Carbon dioxide built up in a giant steel tank filled with 12,000 tons of molasses. The tank exploded, releasing a 15-foot-tall tidal wave of sticky goo, which raced across the north end of the city at about 35 miles per hour, okay? Now 21 people died and another 100 were hurt. Buildings were destroyed, and trains actually lifted right off of the tracks. Now people who inhabit the area today say that you can still smell molasses on hot days. We're not going to let this happen to us.||
January 15, 1919
Speed Limit 35
[at the oven] Okay, time is up and we will take a look. So just snip the string off of one
can. Don't worry if it falls into the water. And kind of work the foil off. Now
if you see that the bread has actually pulled away from the side of the can,
then we are good to go. But let these rest out on a rack for one hour before
[at the table de-canning one of the breads] Ah, there you go. Wow, um, it may not be pretty, but the fragrance is heady, isn't it? [smells] Oh, how would you know? I'm sorry. Now as you can see, it's dense, it's moist, it's dark, and trust me, it's [takes a bite], it's chewy. A fabulous holiday loaf. Also appropriate with Boston baked beans.
Now I realize, of course, that the true molasses heads among you are holding out for dessert. Fine, let's take a little drive.
[AB drives a rural road, stops, and gets out of his car wearing traditional Pennsylvania Dutch clothing] "I break for shoofly pie" is the official state bumper sticker of Pennsylvania. And we've got the Pennsylvania Dutch to thank. Actually we have the Pennsylvania Dutch to thank for a lot of things. But especially this gooey, or wet-bottom pie, which is said to be so sweet and delicious that you just can't keep the flies off of it. It is especially alluring to me because, unlike most modern American desserts, which are sweet, but little else, shoofly has character, depth, molasses. [opens a small case, to reveal a fake beard, which he puts on] What do you think? Plain enough? Okay, let's do it.
GUESTS: Dutch Diner Patrons
By the way the Dutch, of Pennsylvania Dutch, does not refer to Holland but to
Deutschland. You see, most of the settlers in this region were Germans and Swiss
who came here in the 17th century to escape religious persecution back in the
Now the Pennsylvania Dutch became America's preeminent dessert designers. And pie, which they consider appropriate at any time of day, even breakfast, is at the top of their totem. Now behold, the shoofly pie, which almost looks like someone spilled molasses in a coffee cake batter and then tried to hide the gaff by baking it into a pie shell. Historians suspect that this odd hybrid evolved as a way to utilize residual heat left over in an oven after bread baking. Very thrifty.
[AB tries to eat a bite of the pie but is bothered by the fake beard which he takes off] Ah, whew, that's better.
DUTCH DINER PATRONS:
[turn and look at him suspiciously]
AB: I'll just eat this in the buggy.
|Baking shoofly pie is, well, ridiculously easy. Just obtain a nine-inch pie crust, by using either the basic version that we put together in our award-winning episode "I Pie," or you could buy one at the grocery store, we won't tell. Just make sure it's thawed before you dock it, that is, poke it full of holes with a fork to let steam out. Then line this with parchment paper and fill with pie weights, or beans, which are cheaper.||
Go to foodnetwork.com four "Pie Crust" recipe
Alright, slide this into the middle of a 425-degree oven for 10 minutes.
Lancaster, Pennsylvania is home to the
"World's Greatest Shoofly Pie Bake-Off".
GUEST: Giant Fly Man
Okay, time for the weights to go. Now I always bring a receptacle to catch these
in, because they're going to be hot. And try to work quickly and pull straight
up [on the parchment paper] because the dough is still fragile. There, now we'll bake for another seven
One of the key ingredients in shoofly pie is brown sugar. Oh, nuts, it's empty! Are we doomed? Not as long as we have regular sugar and molasses on hand we're not!
|Once upon a time, brown sugar was simply unrefined sugar. But today it's lily-white table sucrose with molasses added. And we can do that ourselves, right? So one pound of plain old sugar goes into the food processor, along with three ounces by weight of molasses. We'll just take this for a spin, scraping down the bowl every now and then until the molasses is completely incorporated. It'll take about a minute. Stored in an airtight container, this mixture should remain viable for up to a month, after that it'll get a little crusty. You seem surprised. I mean, what did you think brown sugar was? Sucrose with a tan? Hah hah! Let's make pie.||
1 Pound Sugar
3 Ounces Molasses
|First, we're going to assemble our crumb mixture. This is five and a half ounces by weight of all-purpose flour. We've got two tablespoons of cold unsalted butter, four ounces of dark brown sugar—yes, homemade—and a quarter teaspoon of kosher salt. Now just lid up and buzz that to combine. There. Now we're going to save just a quarter cup of this for a later purpose.||
5½ Ounces All-Purpose Flour
2 Tbs. Unsalted Butter, Cold
4 Ounces Dark Brown Sugar
¼ tsp. Kosher Salt
To make our filling we'll need a big mixing bowl, metal or glass will do. Place into the bottom three quarters of a teaspoon of baking soda, and top that with three quarters of a cup of boiling water.
¾ tsp. Baking Soda
¾ Cup Boiling Water
Now in all the baking that we have done on this show, we have never attempted this maneuver. Why bother? Well, molasses is acidic; soda is alkaline. By bringing them together, we create a slightly alkaline batter, and alkaline batters tend to bake up dark, rich, and moist. So, why not just dump the powder into the batter the way we've done before? Well, because when baking soda and acids come together, carbon dioxide is released. Now this action provides leavening to many baked goods. But here's the thing: in this case, we don't want any leavening, okay? So, by dissolving the soda, we thus create an alkaline aqueous solution as witnessed by this litmus paper. Now, when mixed into the batter, the CO2 will quickly be released, leaving us with a higher pH, but zero lift. I told you those Pennsylvania Dutch are crafty.
|Alright, we continue. Next in, eight ounces by weight of molasses, one whole beaten egg, and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Whisk that together, and then introduce the larger amount of the crumb mixture to the party. Whisk to combine.||
8 Ounces Molasses
1 Whole Egg
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
Alright, let us move to the crust. Pour that in. And then we top with the reserved bit of the crumb mixture.
|Alright, pie goes into the 350-degree oven. And set your timer for, let's say, 40 to 45 minutes, or until the pie puffs slightly and starts to kind of dry and crack on top, okay? Good.||
[after 40 to 45 minutes] There we go, looks perfect. Now get this out onto a
rack and let it cool one and a half to two hours before cutting.
[at the table] Mmm, mmm, sweet, but not cloying. Complex without being bossy. And even after a long hiatus in the heat, it is lusciously moist. How is this possible? Well, let us remember, molasses is a by-product of sucrose refining, right? And it still contains a considerable number of those double sugar molecules. But most of them have been split into single sugars, i.e. glucose and fructose.
Now fructose is special stuff because it is far, far more hygroscopic, or water-loving, than sucrose, which is why molasses baked goods tend to come out of the oven very moist. And since they can literally pull humidity out of the air, they remain moist. Now, as to whether or not flies actually like this kind of thing ...
GIANT FLY MAN: [appears outside the kitchen window making buzzing noises]
By the way, one cup of molasses weighs about twelve ounces, heavy stuff!
Now the very attributes that enable molasses to hold onto moisture in baked goods can be employed in marinades for meat. Now not only would a soak in a molasses-ade, so to speak, help with moisture retention and up the flavor quotient, the liquid can be boiled down into a sauce as the meat cooks.
|Now speaking of meat, I can think of no better molasses mate than pork chops. And I seem to be in possession here of four of them, in the six to eight ounce range. And look! They're already conveniently convalescing in a one-gallon sized zip top bag.||4 6-8 Ounce Pork Chops|
|So to this we will add six ounces of the molasses of your choice, even blackstrap would be fine. And for a little more liquid, I'm going to add one cup of strong, cold coffee. And yes, I save my leftover coffee because I like icing it later. Now I never marinate without an added acid or two. So in this case we'll go with two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and one tablespoon, about, of Dijon mustard. Next, two cloves of garlic, minced. We'll say one teaspoon of kosher salt. Half a teaspoon of ground ginger. There, very nice. Six to eight sprigs of fresh thyme. And one half teaspoon of black pepper. There, now seal the bag, removing as much of the air as possible. Then gently massage to combine. When everything looks nice and stirred together, we will return this to its appointed containment, and into the chill chest for a minimum of two hours. But I have to tell you, overnight would be a whole lot better.||
6 Ounces Molasses
1 Cup Strong Coffee, Cooled
2 Tbs. Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tbs. Dijon Mustard
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
½ tsp. Ground Ginger
6-8 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
½ tsp. Freshly Ground Black
[at the patio grill] When the time comes for your chops to face the fire, in our
case it will be fire, drain the marinade into a small sauce pan, and get that
over high heat. Now we're going to reduce that down until it's about half to
three quarters of a cup of liquid. That'll be just enough time to grill your
chops over medium-high heat. I'm going to call that 400 to 425. Flip once or
twice, and make sure you hit 145 degrees of internal temperature before
extraction. Oh, and don't forget the sauce. Ahh, that's nice.
[at the table] Let your chops rest for five minutes and then top with the reduced marinade. It's kind of like having your own free molasses barbecue sauce.
GFM: [reappears outside the window making buzzing sound]
Almost as good as shoofly pie. [notices the fly, and swings at it with a fly swatter]
GFM: [gestures and then leaves]
|[at the pantry] Well, I hope that we've convinced you to move molasses out of the pantry shadows and into the light. Maybe not right up front, but at least the second row. Now as for the rest of the pantry, well, give us a little bit of time and maybe we'll even find a use for that matzo meal and maraschino cherry vinegar. Maybe.||
OLD JIM'S MOLASSES
Gosh, looks like this thing keeps going. Now you're going to have to excuse me, I think I'm going to go spelunking for something really ancient, maybe some quinoa or horehound, or, ooh, Grandma Brown's pickled prunes. See you next time on Good Eats.
†John Adams, in a 1818 letter to William Tudor
Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger
Last Edited on 08/27/2010