Thursday, March 15, 2012


Yesterday was “Pi Day”, that is, for all the non-geeks, the date (in AMerican style) that reads 3.14. The Greek letter pi is the symbol for the magic constant that helps us express the formulae for the area and circumference of a circle. And its first digits are 3.14. The sequence goes on to infinity. WIth its next couple of digits it reads 3.1415. Now that of course is a date sequence we’ll reach in three years.

Yikes! Where did the time go that we’re already nearing 2015. Incredible.

Anyhow, "Pi Day” is marked by various people on-line and elsewhere, talked about, celebrated. And yesterday for the first time I thought, I can do this, I can make a pie for pi day.

Long ago, before starting work on HomeBaking in 2000, I was cautious of pie, in fact I’d never made one. I thought it was specialised, only for those with “the touch” for pastry, which I assumed I didn’t have. But in working on the book I discovered that like all baking fears this one was not interesting, and should be discarded. And how lovely, to lose a fear and gain the confidence to embark on a silly delicious Pi Day project with no worries!

I made a large batch of cream cheese and butter pastry (a cup/half pound of each, creamed together), but I didn’t have enough cream cheese so I added 1 egg yolk; and I used whole wheat pastry flour and all-purpose, a cup of each, as well as a dash of sugar and some salt. The pastry went into the frig while I thought about filling options.

In the end the pastry extended to three pie shells and two tartlets. The first filling I tried was a version of Jane Grigson’s Lemon Tart (in her fruit book) which is an intensely flavoured lemon custard topped with slices of candied lemon. Delish and of course beautiful too. It made enough for two tartlets as well. The next filling was easier. I went back to Sean Smith’s Acadian grandmother’s cranberry pie, very simple: You combine 1 pound frozen cranberries with 1 pound (2 cups) sugar. I used a blend of white and sucanat sugar. Pour them into a pricked unbaked pastry shell (it should be strong, so a cream cheese crust or pate sucree are the best options) and bake at 375 for about thirty minutes. Beautiful, simple, delicious. And finally the third orphaned-feeling crust lined a pie plate that I filled with a (small) pile of chopped apple (I should have had one or two more), a few stray cranberries, and flavoured with some cinnamon and sugar and a little maple syrup. Partway through baking I added a “guelon” as they call it in the Swiss Jura, an egg whisked with heavy cream and flavoured, thus time with a little more maple syrup and cinnamon.

When you bake pies on PI Day (or any other time, it’s true) you feel rich – food and treats for whoever comes by are ready and waiting, made by hand, by you, with care.

Of course the other thing on pi day is to bake round things, pies or otherwise. All my pies were in round pans…

And now less than twenty-four hours later, the cranberry is all gone, ditto the lemon tartlets and a good part of the apple-cranberry pie. hmmm

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