The Pennsylvania Dutch are a people whose first instinct, when making a cake, is to stick it in a pie crust. Our agrarian ancestors must have burned a lot more calories than the typical office-worker.
Shoofly pie presented both an irresistible challenge and several immovable objections. I don’t like pie crust. I can live without molasses. A cakey, gooey, molasses-flavored dessert excited no excitement. And yet… cakey. Gooey. Recklessly, I took epicurious’ recipe for coffee shoofly pie (recipe) and modified it to be a crustless orange-honey flavored pudding. And it worked.
Finding Pennsylvania bands was much easier, thanks to Paste’s dedication to emptying my bank account, which in this case stretched to 11 must-hear bands (hear them here). As always, we’re going to explore three of them. So preheat the oven to 350 and let’s start with the electro-pop sounds of duo City Rain (Bandcamp).
City Rain is Ben Runyon and Jarrett Zarer. The music sounds to me as if the Pet Shop Boys had decided to cover the livelier works of Pink Floyd, then Depeche Mode and LaRoux teamed up to remix the results. It’s dark, relentless, endlessly dance-able, and interlaced with effects from outer space.
My goal with the quasi-shoofly pie is severe portion control, since these are relentless little calorie bombs. I’m cutting the recipe to one-quarter its original size. This means that the crumb starts with 1/4 cup flour, 2 tablespoons of light brown sugar, and a couple shakes of nutmeg.
“Crumb?” you say. “But I thought you were omitting the crust!”
Do not underestimate Pennsylvania Dutch cooking. The original pie has both a pastry crust and a streusel-crumb filling, along with the gooey filling. Crumble in the butter as best you can, until either you have little buttery pebbles or you’re sick of playing with butter and figure it’ll do.
I’m not sure what’s going on with the lyrics to “Watch Out” (other than that watching out would be prudent), but I’m intensely taken by how something in the percussion seems to be building its way through a rain storm, complete with thunder and the occasional splash from the tires of passing cars.
This song is another example — more complex than yesterday’s MIB 3 theme but related to it — of integrating the sound of upcoming motifs into the prior section of the song, so that the music feels like it develops organically, even when it’s moved a long way from where it started.
Now for something different that also starts with a series of menacing beats (though some are bass, I think), Donora (official site).
If you nuke 1/4 cup of orange juice for 15 seconds to get it hot, then stir in 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda, it froths. That alone justifies making this recipe.
Despite being tangled in double negatives, Donora’s “Shout” is so sweetly upbeat that it’s pretty dance-able itself. At the very least, it requires bouncing around in the car and doing seated choreography. And yet this is rock: it’s got the guitar, it’s got the bass (Jake Hanner), it’s got heavy drums (Jake Churton), and Casey Hanner’s vocals have an edge that I associate with female rockers, particularly from the early 1990s.
In honor of the sweetness of Donora’s sound, despite the dark percussion, stir 1/4 cup of honey into the orange juice mixture. Add a tiny pinch of salt.
The salt represents the way the string plucking around 2:30 to 2:50 builds tension, in a more developed version of the opening. There are actually at least three different tension-building techniques here. There’s the plucking on the opening and the bridge. There’s the “not going/not knowing” vocals overlaid mostly on very dependable prediction. And then there’s the “I’m not trying” that’s heavier on strings and sweeter in tone, where it sneaks into the middle of the shout-filled chorus.
It’s now time for severe portion control. I have three tiny Pyrex dishes (the fourth is holding very small screws from a dollhouse project) and a larger one. First, divide the crumb mixture into the bowls. Then pour the orange-honey mixture over the crumbs. It’s not necessary to fully cover the crumbs, much to my relief.
Into the oven this goes. I’m betting that for portions this small, 10 minutes will be enough.
And I would be right! This is what the pie-lets look like after 10 minutes on the timer plus my moving slowly to take them out. The dishes will be hot, as this mixture is essentially boiling sugar.
It may look like an alien sponge life form, but it’s good in an extremely sweet, feeding-my-obsession-with-Brach’s-orange-caramels way. As advertised, the ingredients coalesce into a cake center surrounded by a sticky, gooey “filling.” Think of it as the poor man’s crème caramel.
The next step out the continuum of sweet pop vocals is Dana Alexandra (Bandcamp). Paste’s pretty much called it by labeling her a cross between Taylor Swift and Katy Perry: confessional, unabashedly pop, and oh-so-catchy. “Where We Started” finishes out the theme of faintly menacing openings.