Back in my (much) younger days, I used to enjoy math class. I especially got a kick out of geometry and the formulas used to calculate area, perimeter or circumference, and volume. My mother and I used to have fun with one formula in particular:
“What’s the formula for the area of a circle?” she would ask.
“Pi r squared,” I’d say.
“I always thought pie are round!” she’d reply with a smile.
Now you know where my love of bad puns originated. Thanks, Mom!
I still get a chuckle thinking about that little joke between us, and every March now, I start thinking about baking a pie for the 14th — a day otherwise known to my fellow nerds as Pi Day.
Before you groan too much, I hasten to add that I’m not alone. The good folks at ScienceBlogs and Serious Eats have a Pi Day Pie Bake-Off to encourage all those scientists and mathematicians to let loose with a little formulaic fun in the kitchen.
I haven’t entered the competition, tempting though it might be. But I have lots of preserved fruits and such that have been begging for a chance to shine in some sort of dessert, so I’ve definitely been a little pie-eyed this week with all my baking.
I started last Sunday by making a double-crusted pie with my homemade tomatillo mincemeat. Never a fan of my parents’ green-tomato mincemeat in my childhood, I learned to appreciate the sweet-and-sour mash-up a year and a half ago when I had too many tomatillos from my CSA basket. Once I put this pie together, I called my father and asked if he’d be interested in some. He immediately said he’d take as much as I wanted to give him.
Even with the vinegary kick, this was a great pie I had made — and all those who were fortunate enough to sample it agreed. (Sorry, it’s all gone now.)
After that, I met up with a friend and her home-schooled teenage daughter to bake a tarte tatin. The daughter has developed a passion for baking sweet treats, and when I offered to teach her something, she seized on this classic French recipe for an apple tart. I’ve always had difficulty with getting the crust tucked around the apples just right, but we managed to put together a meltingly buttery-sweet dessert that looked as good as it tasted. We stayed true to the original version, though I’ve been known to dress it up with rosemary or lavender or even a Middle Eastern twist (recipe).
Pies don’t always have to be on the sweet side. I’m very fond of quiche, so I took the opportunity this week to break in my new tart pan with a quiche made from very fresh local eggs. I used basil in the butter crust, then added dried cherry tomatoes from storage, fresh spinach and green onions, and crumbled local goat’s-milk feta cheese to the filling. With the weather turning downright balmy this week, this quiche proved to be a perfect pre-springtime welcome!
By the end of the week, I was out of pie again, after sharing so much of what I had already made, so I felt the need to bake yet another one.
This time I made a whole-wheat-and-oat crust (from the “King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking” book) to support a fruit filling made from a pint of canned peaches and a pint of canned blueberries. I added a buttery brown-sugar oat crumb topping that added a nice bit of crunch, especially when I served up slices á la mode. (Ice cream in March? You’d better believe it, since the temperatures almost reached 70 this week!)
Unfortunately, I did not get around to making my favorite kind of pie this week: pecan pie. But I can still savor the memory of one famous past Pi Day pecan pie:
(Made with pecan shortbread, of course. You were expecting something else?)
You’ve still got time to bake a delicious pie for Pi Day, whether you opt for savory or sweet. Why not? It’s easy as pie.
Photos of dough rolling and tarte tatin courtesy of Tara Reynolds; all others by the author.