Bringing the U.S. together one state dessert at a time.

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North Dakota Berliner Kranser

Time for the second cookie challenge.  These are a little like shortbread.  If you buy a box of biscuits for Christmas you’re pretty sure to find these Berlinerkranser (Berliner Wreaths) in the box.  They’re very buttery and taste very nice.  They do end up looking very home-made though.


  • 2 Egg yolks – hard-boiled
  • 2 Egg yolks – raw
  • 125g Sugar
  • 250g Butter
  • 300g Flour
  • Egg White & Pearl Sugar for decoration


  1. Mix together the hard-boiled and raw egg yolks
  2. Add the sugar and whisk well
  3. Mix in the flour and softened butter alternately until it becomes a smooth dough
  4. Wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for at least an hour
  5. Roll the dough out into thin sausages about 10 cm in length
  6. Form them into wreaths and place onto a baking sheet
  7. Brush with egg white and sprinkle pearl sugar on them
  8. Bake them at 180 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden
  9. Cool on a wire rack and place into an air-tight box


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North Carolina: Sweet Potato Pie

Growing up, I looked forward to Thanksgiving the most, even more than I did Christmas and Halloween. Friends never really understood it. Why would Thanksgiving be your favorite holiday when it’s flanked by two holidays that involve receiving an inordinate amount of candy and toys?

It’s true; Thanksgiving is not the most kid-friendly celebration. No 8-year-old particularly enjoys wearing fussy tights and being relegated to the flimsy card table with younger siblings and cousins. (It was at this age — having recently acquired the taste for sparkling cider — that I believed myself to be quite the sophisticate.)

For many reasons, I loved that day, and I still do. Peanuts, the parade, the whole shebang. I loved capping all of my fingertips with olives from the vegetable tray, pretending I was an alien. I loved watching my grandfather, a total perfectionist and an occasional hothead, mumble under his breath while carving a dried-out turkey. I loved clinking glasses and saying grace. I cherished these little moments that made me feel taller than four feet three inches.

Of all my Thanksgiving memories, the image of grandma’s sweet potato casserole remains as one of the most vivid in my mind. But that’s not because I especially loved sweet potatoes; it’s actually for quite the opposite reason. Like tights and the kids’ table, my childhood disdain for the fleshy orange root-tuber — even if it was masquerading as a dessert topped with marshmallows — was unrelenting.

Perhaps my scorn stemmed from a matter of texture, or maybe it was due to my strict allegiance to the starchy and gravy-laden Mashed Potatoes Proper. I can’t recall what the problem was, but all I know now is that I feel like I had been a bad North Carolinian (Our State, please don’t fire me for this), and I must confess the error of my ways.

After all those years of pushing sweet potatoes to the edge of my plate, I’m making them the center of attention in this installment of “The Curious Carolinian.” Consider this to be my formal apology to North Carolina’s official state vegetable (which I do actually enjoy in adulthood, in case you thought I should be convicted of treason).

To make proper amends, I reached out to April McGreger, author of the eponymous Sweet Potatoesa Savor the South cookbook, to learn more about what I’ve so gravely misunderstood. She’s the daughter of a sweet potato farmer and grew up in Vardaman, Mississippi, dubbed “The Sweet Potato Capital of the World.” When you’ve committed a sweet potato sin as egregious as I have, this is almost like the Pope personally absolving you from your wrongdoings. Almost.

It seems that every other North Carolinian has had a lifelong, unbridled affection for the sweet potato, and I wanted to know why. As it turns out, this love affair goes back generations — and with good reason.

“Without hyperbole, all Southerners basically owe their lives to sweet potatoes,” McGreger tells me. “Without sweet potatoes, we would’ve probably starved at some point or another, particularly during and after the Civil War.”

She goes on to say that the sweet potato is tougher than its name makes it out to be. It’s thought to possibly be the oldest cultivated crop in the world. While it originated in either Central or South America, sweet potatoes were later introduced to the southeastern United States and grown by Native Americans.

As Europeans settled in the area, the crop became a cornerstone in sustenance farming. The sandy soil that is a hallmark of eastern North Carolina does not make for an ideal environment to grow many kinds of crops, but sweet potatoes endured then as they do now.

The incredibly nutritious vegetable was especially important to slaves, who were often malnourished. Beneath their cabins, they had root cellars in which they stored sweet potatoes through harsh winter months. But in many ways, not only did these sweet potatoes feed their bodies, they fed their souls.

“When enslaved Africans were brought over, the slave ships were provisioned with African yams, which are not at all what we think of as yams here in the United States,” McGregor says.

The continent’s yams are starchy and nearly the size of a football. Originally, the plan was to grow these yams in the South, but they didn’t survive the climate. Sweet potatoes — which were less sweet and not as orange as we know them today — worked as an effective substitute and reminded them of home.

During that Civil War, Confederate soldiers, who moved from battle to battle, often had to scavenge for their own food and would rely on the sweet potato greens that they stumbled upon.

Into the 20th century, sweet potatoes were often associated with poverty as oftentimes it was all some people had to eat.

“My own grandfather felt like he had eaten sweet potatoes pretty much every day of his life until he could afford to eat something else,” she says. “At that point, he only wanted to eat sweet potatoes when they were overly embellished and topped with extravagant ingredients like pecans and brown sugar or even marshmallows — something that made them a treat.”

Sweet potatoes have continued to sustain the lives of North Carolinians even in recent decades. Once the tobacco industry took a hard hit, many farmers turned to growing the sweet potato, an equally hardy crop, as a way to stay in business. Since 1971, North Carolina has been the nation’s top producer of sweet potatoes, supplying about half of the nation’s annual crop.

So while the rest of the country might dine on sweet potatoes only on Turkey Day, the vegetable takes far deeper roots here.

“By the end of it all, all Southerners, black and white and rich and poor, were all eating massive amounts of sweet potatoes,” McGregor says.

It’s this very crop that speaks to the resiliency we share as a Southern people. This Thanksgiving — just as always — there will be sweet potatoes on our table. And for that, I’m now so thankful.




  • 2 cups sweet potatoes, pureed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • 1 tbs. flour
  • 2 cups sweet condensed milk (1 can)
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. lemon extract
  • 1 Deep dish pie crust and 2 small tart size crusts


Combine pureed sweet potatoes with sugar and flour. Stir in beaten eggs, mix in cinnamon and nutmeg add remaining ingredients mix until well combined.
Pour into unbaked pie shell and bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until done. Bake the tart size pies for 15 minutes.
(Pie should rise slightly and middle should no longer look wet or shiny).
Top pie with whipped cream, powdered sugar and cinnamon.

To make with the layer of candied sweet potatoes recipe: layer 2 unbaked pie crusts with candied sweet potatoes. The top with the sweet potato pie filling and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

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This recipe is incredible!

New York: Cheese Cake History:

Ever since the dawn of time, mankind has striven to create the perfect cheesecake. The earliest history of art is lost, but we know that cheesecake was already a popular dish in ancient Greece. With the Roman conquest of Greece, the secret fell into Roman hands. The Roman name for this type of cake (derived from the Greek term,) became “placenta.” Placenta was more like a cheesecake, baked on a pastry base, or sometimes inside a pastry case. They were also called “libum” by the Romans, and were often used as an offering at their temples to their gods.

1st Century A.D. Marcus Porcius Cato (234-149 B.C.) was a Roman politican. His treatise on agriculture, De Agricultura or De Re Rustica, is the only work by him that has been preserved. He wrote about farming, wine making, and cooking among other things. This is his recipe for libum, the small sweet cake often given as a temple offering:

Libum to be made as follows: 2 pounds cheese well crushed in a mortar; when it is well crushed, add in 1 pound bread-wheat flour or, if you want it to be lighter, just 1/2 a pound, to be mixed with the cheese. Add one egg and mix all together well. Make a loaf of this, with the leaves under it, and cook slowly in a hot fire under a brick.

Small cheesecakes were served to athletes during the first Olympic Games held in 776 B.C. on the Isle of Delos.


230 A.D. – According to John J. Sergreto, author of Cheesecake Madness, The basic recipe and ingredients for the first cheesecake were recorded by Athenaeus, a Greek writer, in about A.D. 230:

Take cheese and pound it till smooth and pasty; put cheese in a brazen sieve; add honey and spring wheat flour.  Heat in one mass, cool, and serve.


1000 A.D. – Cheesecake were introduced to Great Britain and Western Europe by the Roman conquering armies. By 1000 A.D., cheesecakes were flourishing throughout Scandinavia, England, and northwestern Europe.


1545 – A cookbook from the mid 16th century that also includes some accounts of domestic life, cookery and feasts in Tudor days, called A Proper newe Booke of Cokerye,  declarynge what maner of   meates be beste in season, for al times in the yere, and how they ought to be dressed, and  serued at the table, bothe for  fleshe dayes, and fyshe dayes, has a recipe for a cheesecake:

To make a tarte of Chese  – Take harde Chese and cutte it in slyces,and pare it, than laye it in fayre water, or in swete mylke, the space of three houres, then take it up and breake it in a morter tyll it be small, than drawe it up thorowe a strainer with the yolkes of syxe egges, and season it wyth suger and swete butter, and so bake it.


New York Cheesecake:

New York cheesecake is the pure, unadulterated cheesecake with no fancy ingredients added either to the cheesecake or placed on top of it.  It is made with pure cream cheese, cream, eggs, and sugar.  Everybody has a certain image of New York Style Cheesecake.  According to New Yorkers, only the great cheesecake makers are located in New York, and the great cheesecake connoisseurs are also in New York.  In the 1900s, cheesecakes were very popular in New York.  Every restaurant had their version. I  believe the name “New York Cheesecake” came from the fact that New Yorkers referred to the cheesecakes made in New York as “New York Cheesecake.”  New Yorkers say that cheesecake was not really cheesecake until it was cheesecake in New York.

1929 – Arnold Reuben, owner of the legendary Turf Restaurant at 49th and Broadway in New York City, claimed that his family developed the first cream-cheese cake recipe.  Other bakeries relied on cottage cheese.  According to legend, he was served a cheese pie in a private home, and he fell in love with the dessert.  Using his hostess recipe and a pie she made with ingredients he provided, he then began to develop his own recipe for the perfect cheesecake.  Reuben soon began to serve his new recipe in his Turf Restaurant, and the cheesecake quickly became very popular with the people who frequented Reubens Broadway restaurant.


Neufchatel Cheese:

A soft unripened cheese originally from Neufchatel-en-Bray, France:

The supporters of this cheese claim that it is the oldest Norman cheese.  They argue that a text from the year 1035 A.D. mentions the production of cheeses in the Neufchel-en-Bray countryside.  In fact, it was born “officially” in 1543 in the ledgers of the Saint-Aman Abbey (of Rouen) where a cheese was termed Neufchatel.  At that period the cheese was probably already matured in the cellars of that country that was covered naturally with penicillium candidum.

It is known that since the Middle Ages the Neufchatel cheese had many shapes, depending on fashion or simply on the moulds the producer owned!  The legend explains that the heart shape is due to the young Norman women that wanted to express discreetly their feelings to the English soldiers during the wars in the Middle Age …

During the XIXth century, the production of Neufchatel increased strongly and Napoleon III is said to have received a huge basket of Norman cheeses containing lots of Neufchatel cheeses that he appreciated.  At that moment, it was known as one of the best French cheeses and was consumed all over France.  Nevertheless, slowly, its production decreased – more specifically, after the Second World War.  The producers and the market laws are responsible for that disaffection since the production of cheeses has become less attractive than the sale of the milk to huge dairies.


Cream Cheese:

1872 – American dairymen achieved a technological breakthrough that ushered in the Modern Age of cheesecakes.  In attempting to duplicate the popular Neufchatel cheese of France, they hit upon a formula for an un-ripened cheese that was even richer and creamier (they named it cream cheese).  William Lawrence of Chester, New York, accidentally developed a method of producing cream cheese while trying to duplicate the French Neufchatel.


1880 – The Kraft foods website states that the Empire Cheese Company of New York began producing PHILADELPHIA BRAND Cream Cheese for a New York distributor called Reynolds.  In 1912, James Kraft developed a method to pasteurize cream cheese (Philadelphia cream cheese), and soon other manufacturers of dairy products offered this newer kind of cream cheese.







15 graham crackers, crushed

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 4 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Add all ingredients to list


  • Prep

30 m

  • Cook

1 h

  • Ready In

7 h 30 m

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9 inch springform pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. Press onto bottom of springform pan.
  3. In a large bowl, mix cream cheese with sugar until smooth. Blend in milk, and then mix in the eggs one at a time, mixing just enough to incorporate. Mix in sour cream, vanilla and flour until smooth. Pour filling into prepared crust.

Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Turn the oven off, and let cake cool in oven with the door closed for 5 to 6 hours; this prevents cracking. Chill in refrigerator.





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 Yes, jello. But it’s delicious

 Utah: Jello

Jell-O has been a potluck and church supper staple for decades. (The people of Utah, incidentally, along with those of some Midwestern states, have traditionally been among the nation’s top consumers of the product.) This recipe is an adaptation of one that appears in _The Essential Mormon Cookbook: Green Jell-O, Funeral Potatoes, and Other Secret Combinations.



12 cup sugar

1 (6-oz.) package lime Jell-O

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 (8-oz.) can crushed pineapple with its juice

2 cups heavy cream


Put sugar, Jell-O, and 1 cup boiling water into a medium bowl and stir until Jello-O is dissolved, 2-3 minutes. Add lemon juice and crushed pineapple with its juice. Stir well and refrigerate until the mixture has a syrupy consistency, 45-50 minutes.

Whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form, then gently fold the cream into the Jell-O mixture. Transfer the mixture to a 9″ × 13″ pan, smooth the top with a spatula, and refrigerate until firm. Serve chilled.

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My grandmother used to make these at Christmas for us every year

Texas Mexican Wedding Cookies


  • 2 cups butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans
  • Additional confectioners’ sugar


  • Preheat oven to 350°. Cream butter and 1 cup confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy; beat in vanilla. Gradually beat in flour. Stir in pecans.
  • Shape tablespoons of dough into 2-in. crescents. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets.
  • Bake until light brown, 12-15 minutes. Roll cookies in additional confectioners’ sugar while warm; cool on wire racks.
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Tennessee Mountain Stack Cake The dried apple stack cake is one of the most popular southern Appalachian cakes— no surprise considering apples are found aplenty in the mountains. Culturally it’s akin to the classic European torte. It looks like a stack of thick pancakes, with apple preserves, dried apples, or apple butter spread between each layer. At holidays and weddings, early mountain settlers traditionally served stack cake in lieu of more fancy, and costly, cakes. Neighbors, according to folk wisdom, would each bring a layer of the cake to the bride’s family, which they spread with apple filling as they arrived. It was said that the number of cake layers the bride got determined how popular she was.

Kentucky lays claim to originating the dessert via Kentucky pioneer washday cake. “Some food historians say that James Harrod, the colonist, and farmer who founded Harrodsburg in 1774, brought the stack cake to Kentucky from his home in Pennsylvania,” observes Mark F. Sohn in Appalachian Home Cooking: History, Culture, and Recipes. “While Harrod may have brought the first stack cake to Kentucky, the cake could not have been common until more than 100 years later when flour became readily available.” Tennessee proudly points to Tennessee stack cake as the first, but in fact variations of the cake abound throughout the region.

The cake is many layered, low in fat, and not sweet. It’s made with layers of stiff cookie like dough flavored with ginger and sorghum and spread with a spiced apple filling. When served, the cake is tall, heavy, and moist.





One stacked cake to serve a crowd


  1. Dry Ingredients
    • 21 ounces (4 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  2. Creaming Ingredients
    • 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
    • 10 ounces (1 1/4 cups) superfine granulated sugar
    • 3/4 cup molasses
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  3. For the Dried Apple Filling
    • 8 to 12 cups dried apples
    • 2 pounds (4 cups) superfine granulated sugar
    • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
    • 2 teaspoons nutmeg
    • 2 tablespoons molasses
    • 3 cups water
  4. For Serving
    • Confectioners’ sugar


Preheat the oven to 350°F and place the rack in the middle position.

    1. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
    2. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on medium speed until wet and grainy.
    3. Add the molasses. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a flexible spatula to get all of the molasses into the mixture.
    4. Add the eggs one at a time. Scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl and mix on low speed.
    5. Alternately add the buttermilk and the dry mixture about a quarter at a time. Stop the mixer to scrape the bowl and turn it on again on low speed for about 10 seconds. The mixture should be stiff like a soft cookie dough.
    6. Shape the dough into a ball and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
    7. Divide the dough into 6 or 8 equal portions and place each one on a round piece of parchment paper a little larger than a 9-inch cake pan. Roll out the dough to the size of the parchment. Place the cake pan over the disk and trim away the excess around the edge.
    8. Leaving the parchment paper underneath, lift the disks onto baking sheets and bake them for approximately 10 minutes, or until the top surface appears dry and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
    9. Slide the disks off the baking sheet onto a flat surface to cool.
    10. To make the filling, combine all the ingredients in a large, heavy-bottom saucepan and bring to a light simmer. Immediately transfer to the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse into a thick paste.
    11. To assemble the cake, spread about 1 cup of the filling onto each layer, taking care to center each disk on top of the one beneath it. Repeat until all the layers are used. Do not put apple filling on top of the cake.

13. Wrap the cake well and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours. This gives the apple filling time to work itself into the cake. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and

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South Dakota Kuchen: Irene Opp’s Kuchen


1 package Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix


3 cups sugar

6 tablespoons flour (a soup spoon, heaping)

6 eggs

1 pint half-and-half


6 tablespoons flour (a soup spoon, heaping)

6 tablespoons sugar (a soup spoon, heaping)

3 tablespoons margarine or butter

Assorted canned fruits

Prepare dough as instructed on package, adding slightly more water and omitting the butter. You will need to add more flour, but do not make it stiff. This dough should be soft to the touch. Let dough rise in a warm place until about double in size, about 2 hours.

While dough is rising, prepare the dry ingredients for the custard. Prepare the streusel, using a pastry cutter to blend. Prepare and drain all fruit. We use a variety of fruit: cooked prunes, canned purple plums, canned peaches, canned apricots or cooked and sweetened apples are some of the favorites.

Roll dough on floured board and shape into 8-inch, well-greased pie tins. Let rise for about another hour.

While dough is rising in the pans, finish making the custard. Blend the eggs and half-and-half. Then blend that with the dry ingredients for the custard.

When dough has risen in pie tins, puncture the dough with a fork. Put well-drained fruit on dough. Ladle custard over fruit, about 1 cup per tin. However, the amount of fruit will determine the amount of custard needed. Put streusel on top, about 1 handful, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until knife inserted in to custard comes out clean. Remove from oven and rub crust with butter or margarine. Immediately remove from pans and cool on rack or towels.

Makes six 8-inch kuchens.


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Here’s a tasty treat for you, family, and friends


South Carolina: Benne Wafers When I was a little girl growing up, every year our family would get a Christmas gift in the mail from Charleston. Amidst the usual holiday mayhem, no one really paid a lot of attention to the tin of benne wafer cookies that emerged from the package – except for me.

While everyone else was busy indulging themselves with homemade Christmas fudge and stocking candies, I was stealthily and systematically emptying the tin of benne wafers. As I recall, the round, flat cookies were arranged in stacks in paper liners around the tin.

Instead of eating a whole stack of cookies from top to bottom, I would eat one from the top of each stack, hoping no one would notice how many had actually gone missing.

The draw for me then, and now, is the combination of three flavors: the nutty taste of the toasted benne (sesame) seeds, a hint of salt, and the caramel sweet flavor from the brown sugar – a chewy crunchy dessert trifecta.

Sesame seed cookies, or benne seed cookies as we call them in the South, are a classic South Carolina tradition. It is believed that enslaved Africans brought benne seeds to Colonial America sometime in the 17th century.

After trying several recipes in search of one that lived up to my recollection (including a number of recipes from my stash of Southern cookbooks), my favorite comes from Gullah Net. In South Carolina, communities of people descended from enslaved Africans are referred to as Gullah communities.


  • Prep time:25 minutes
  • Cook time:20 minutes
  • Dough chilling time:30 minutes
  • Yield:Makes 2-4 dozen, depending on the size of your spoonfuls




  • 1 cup sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract



1 Preheat oven to 325 F. Cover cookie sheets in parchment paper, silpat sheets, or lightly oil them. Toast the sesame seeds in a heavy skillet over medium heat until they are golden brown.

2 Beat the brown sugar and butter together in a medium-sized bowl for several minutes until fluffy. Beat in the egg. Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder, then add these dry ingredients to the butter, sugar, egg mixture, mix well. Stir in the toasted sesame seeds, vanilla extract, and lemon juice.

(Optional): Chill the dough for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. This makes it easier to drop the cookies on the sheets.

3 Drop by teaspoonful onto prepared cookie sheets, leaving space for the cookies to spread. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until the edges are slightly brown. Cool for a minute or two on the cookie sheets, then transfer to a rack to continue cooling.


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Rhode Island Doughboys

    “You must be a Rhode Islander, have lived in Rhode Island, or visited Rhode Island if you know what a doughboy is! They are a fried dough a little similar to zeppoles. My Mom made these almost weekly!  They are found all over the state in restaurants, pizza parlors, and fairs.  

This is my version.  I have added sugar to the dough, enough to taste a sweetness in the dough, while most doughboys have no sugar in it, just on top. For a variation people will use granulated sugar or a sugar and cinnamon combination on top.    No matter your preference, doughboys are in a class by themselves.  Enjoy!”

Servings:   8


 1 package yeast
1 cup warm water
5 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil or similar oil
2 cups flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, for dusting    


  1. In a large bowl, mix warm water and yeast. 
    2. Add sugar, salt, and oil, mix well. 
    3. Add in flour and stir to make a dough. Add a little more flour if necessary to achieve a soft dough that is not sticky. 
    4. Use immediately, or let rise. Divide dough into eighths. 
    5. Shape dough pieces into 1/4 inch thick circles. 
    6. In skillet with heated oil, fry dough boys quickly until lightly browned on both sides. 
    7. Remove dough boys to a plate lined with paper towels. 
    8. Pat tops of dough boys with additional paper towels to remove oil. 
    9. Sprinkle with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar. 

Nutritional Information:  Rhode Island Doughboys

Servings Per Recipe: 8


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Pennsylvania Shoofly Pie

History of Shoofly Pie:

Pennsylvania Dutch cooking is indigenous to those areas of southeastern Pennsylvania that were settled by the Mennonites and Amish.  William Penn (1644-1718), founder of Pennsylvania, was seeking colonists for the Pennsylvania area.


1730 – The Amish and Mennonites both settled in Pennsylvania as part of William Penn’s “holy experiment” of religious tolerance.  He wanted to establish a society that was godly, virtuous and exemplary for all of humanity.  Encouraged by William Penn’s open invitation to persecuted religious groups, various sects of Christian Anabaptists-Mennonites and offshoots such as the Amish and the Brethren-emigrated from Germany and Switzerland.  The first sizeable group arrived in America around 1730 and settled near Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

These settlers were addicted to pies of all types and they ate them at any time of day.  The most famous of their pies is the shoofly pie.  As the very earliest settlers came to North America by boat, they brought with them the staples of their diet – long-lasting nonperishable that would survive a long boat trip.   These staples were flour, brown sugar, molasses, lard, salt, and spices.  Arriving in the new land during late fall, they had to live pretty much on what they had brought with them until the next growing season.  The women, being master of the art of “making do,” concocted a pie from the limited selection that could be found in the larder.  This resourcefulness led to the creation of shoofly pie.

Shoofly pie seems to be a variation of the older Treacle Tart.  Treacle is the British generic name for any syrup made during the refining of sugar cane; i.e., Treacle, Black Treacle, Molasses, Golden Syrup and Blackstrap are all treacles.  During the 17th century, treacle was used chiefly as a cheap from of sweetener.  By the late 1700s, refined sugar became affordable to the masses in Britain and overtook treacle as a general sweetener.  Molasses was often substituted for treacle in colonial American recipes.  Many early cookbooks have Molasses Pie recipes.


First time visitors to the area always comment on this pie and its strange name:

The origin of the name has been debated for years and will probably never ultimately be solved.  The most logical explanation is related to the fact that during the early years of our country, all baking was done in big outdoor ovens.  The fact that pools of sweet, sticky molasses sometimes formed on the surface of the pie while it was cooling, invariably attracting flies, show how such a pie could come to be called Shoofly Pie.



  • YIELD 8 servings
  • TIME45 minutes


Craig Lee for The New York Times

Shoofly pie is often thought of as the cake baked in a pie shell, or so wrote Jean Hewitt, The New York Times food writer who offered this recipe in the paper in 1965. This pie was served at a Pennsylvania Dutch luncheon hosted by the International Cuisine Group of the College Woman’s Club of Westfield, N.J., in the spring of that year. One of the organizers dug up the recipe from her mother’s “Housekeeper’s Scrap Book, 1896.” There were four versions of the pie in the book; this was the one marked: “We like this one better.”




  • 1 ½cups flour
  • ½cup dark brown sugar
  • 1teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½teaspoon nutmeg
  • teaspoon salt
  • ¼pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
  • ¾cup molasses
  • ¾cup boiling water
  • ½teaspoon baking soda
  • 1single crust pie pastry (see recipe), rolled flat and placed in a 9-inch pie plate

Nutritional Information

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  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Make the crumb topping: Mix flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt together in a bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until the consistency resembles cornmeal.
  3. Combine molasses, water and baking soda and pour into pastry shell. Spoon the crumb mixture evenly over the top. Bake 15 minutes, lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake 20 minutes longer, or until set and firm.
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