It was not a lawless giant who meant to do battle with me. Rather, it was an old-fashioned roadside attraction with gesticulatory arms that beckoned me to stop. For more than half a century, the iconic Dutch Haven windmill has waved at cars and horse-drawn buggies traveling along the Lincoln Highway in Pennsylvania's Dutch Country.
This Lancaster County landmark began as a gas station with an adjoining ice cream stand in the '20s. When Roy and Alice Weaver bought the business in 1946, they opened a restaurant that featured Pennsylvania Dutch fare, and added a gift shop. After Dutch Haven's fortunes had declined, however, Paul Stahl purchased the property in 1991 and began selling Amish furniture, crafts, and kitschy souvenirs. Though he closed the restaurant, he reinstated its most famous item: shoofly pie.
Using Alice Weaver's original recipe of white flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and refiners' syrup, Stahl purports to produce "America's best shoofly pie." Never having tried the molasses-based confection, I was eager for my first taste. As I made my way to the counter, Lois Schrock, a Dutch Haven fixture, handed me a sample of the gooey goody.
Served slightly warm with a dollop of whipped cream, the pie delivered surprisingly complex flavors that stimulated my tongue. Instead of being cloying, it was agreeably sweet, with a richness that even afforded slight hints of umami. Its viscid filling, offset by a thick crust and a crumb topping, yielded a palate-pleasing plate of textural contrasts. While I normally eschew sugary desserts, I'm happy to have not es-shooed this one.
It's hard to determine whether Dutch Haven's shoofly pies are truly America's best. Suffice it to say, however, that all others I've tasted thereafter have left me tilting toward the ones beneath the windmill.
2857A Lincoln Highway East (U.S. 30)
Ronks, PA 17572-9607 (map)
Dinah Shore sings "Shoo-Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy" (1946)
Comestiblab: There are a couple of explanations regarding the origin of the pie's name. One theory maintains that shoofly (also shoo-fly) pie originated in France, where its crumb topping was said to resemble a cauliflower, or chou-fleur (pronounced shoo·FLUR) in French. Supposedly, the word eventually morphed into "shoofly." A more plausible explanation, however, is that the sweet ingredients attracted flies that had to be shooed away.
Comestiblab: Pennsylvania Dutch isn't Dutch at all—it's an alteration of Deutsch, the German word for German. The term refers to descendants of the people who emigrated from southwestern Germany to Pennsylvania during the seventeenth and and eighteenth centuries. It also refers to a German dialect spoken in Amish communities. Thus, it would seem a Dutch windmill is somehow out of place in Pennsylvania Deutsch country.