Pi Day should be more than a mathematical celebration

Pi Day is celebrated annually by math nerds on March 14. Pi, Greek letter π, is the symbol used in mathematics to represent the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, which is approximately 3.14159.

Pi Day is an opportunity for math enthusiasts to recite the infinite digits of Pi, talk to their friends about math and to eat pie.

An interesting side note is that NASA has an annual program for Pi Day. Check its website for the activities.

People love to talk about pie. Kathy Strawson from Edmonton said to me, “Sarah… the weirdest pie I ever made was apple pie, made with ordinary Ritz crackers. My former mother-in-law made a plum pie with a sugared crust that was to die for. The most surprisingly successful pie was wild raspberry and gooseberries in a double crust. My worst experience was as a new bride I made a spectacular-looking lemon meringue pie and sadly forgot the sugar. My most sentimental pies were made in mid-July with wild strawberries for my summer birthday girl and her dad. My proudest pie moments were when my children, all now mature adults, made their first pies using my mother’s ‘6 pies at a time’ recipe.”

Flapper Pie

This was a prairie favourite when I was growing up on the farm. I looked through all my cookbooks, including community cookbooks, and I could not find a recipe.

This one is from the Alberta Milk website and is a well-tested recipe.

Crust:

  • 1 1/4 c. graham cracker crumbs 310 mL
  • 1/3 c. butter, melted 75 mL
  • 1/3 c. sugar 75 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon 2 mL

Filling:

  • 1/2 c. sugar 125 mL
  • 1/4 c. + 2 tsp. cornstarch 70 mL
  • 2 1/2 c. whole milk 675 mL
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 5 mL
  • pinch salt
  • meringue topping
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 c. sugar 60 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar 1 mL

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).

Mix all crust ingredients together with a fork. Set aside two tablespoons (30 ml) of mixture, then press the remainder into the bottom and up the sides of a nine-inch pie pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, mix the sugar and cornstarch in a heavy bottomed pot. Add enough of the milk to blend smoothly. Then add the eggs and whisk until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and whisk again. Heat over medium heat, stirring often, until the mixture bubbles and thickens. This will happen very suddenly once the mixture is almost at the boiling point.

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk to ensure there are no lumps.

Pour into the crust and smooth the top.

Use a scrupulously clean metal or glass bowl for the meringue topping. Any trace of fat and your egg whites will not whip. With a mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy, then add the sugar and cream of tartar. Continue to beat until the egg whites hold a stiff peak. When you pull the beaters out of the whites the peaks will stand up straight.

Pile the beaten whites on top of the warm filling. Carefully spread to the edges of the crust, ensuring the whites touch the crust so your meringue won’t shrink back in the oven. Sprinkle with the reserved crumbs.

Bake at 350 F (180 C) for 10 minutes. Watch the pie carefully during the last two minutes because the whites can brown quickly. You want them to be golden.

Remove to a rack and allow to cool.

This pie needs to sit for several hours to set. When it has fully cooled, place it in the refrigerator to continue setting up. When you are ready to serve, run your knife under hot water before each cut. This ensures a clean slice through the meringue. This pie tends to be a bit soft, and may collapse somewhat on the plate.

Store any leftovers in the fridge but this pie is best served the day it is made.

Raspberry and white chocolate tart

Filling:

  • 1/2 c. whipping cream 125 mL
  • 1 lb. white chocolate 500 g
  • 1/2 c. mascarpone cheese 125 mL
  • 2 c. frozen or fresh raspberries 500 mL

Chocolate wafer crust:

  • 1 1/2 c. chocolate wafers, finely ground 375 mL
  • 1/4 c. unsalted butter, melted 60 mL
  • 2 tbsp. sugar 30 mL
  • salt

Optional garnishes:

  • 1/2 c. shaved dark chocolate 125 mL
  • 1 tsp. freeze-dried raspberry powder 5 mL

Make the wafer crust first.

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Pulse ground chocolate wafers, butter, sugar and a pinch of salt in a food processor until well combined.

Pat mixture into a nine-inch (22 cm) pie dish, pressing firmly into bottom and up sides. Bake until crust is fragrant and darkens slightly, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the filling by bringing the cream to a boil in heavy bottomed large pot over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in white chocolate until melted and smooth. Stir in mascarpone cheese until mixture is smooth and uniform. Stir in the raspberries. Pour into cooled chocolate wafer pie crust.

Refrigerate for three hours. Shave dark chocolate or dust raspberry powder over tart, if desired.

This may also be served as a frozen pie.

Let it rest in the refrigerator for about a half an hour after taking it out of the freezer. Serves eight to 10.

Pear pie with ginger crumble topping

Pie filling:

  • 4 c. pears, peeled and coarsely chopped 750 mL
  • 1/2 c. water 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. sugar 125 mL
  • 2 tbsp. tapioca starch 30 mL
  • 1 prepared single pie crust

Ginger crumble:

  • 3/4 c. unsalted butter 175 mL
  • 2/3 c. sugar, brown or white or a combination 150 mL
  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour 375 mL
  • 1/4 c. crystallized ginger, coarsely chopped 60 mL

Grate cold butter into a large bowl. Alternatively, you can dice it into small pieces. Add sugar. Add flour and then, using a pastry cutter or your fingers, work the butter into the flour and sugar until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add the chopped crystallized ginger.

Make the filling by adding pears and water to a heavy bottomed pot. Cook over medium heat.

Whisk the sugar and tapioca starch together and stir into the pear mixture.

Continue to cook until the pears are soft and the mixture has come to a full boil. If it is not thick enough, whisk more tapioca starch with sugar and stir into the filling.

Let filling cool completely.

Add the completely cooled filling to the prepared pie shell. Top with the crumble mixture. Bake at 425 F (220 C) for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 350 F (180 C) and cook a further 25-30 minutes or until the filling is bubbling and topping is browned.

Cool for several hours before serving.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: team@producer.com.

About the author

explore

Stories from our other publications