Pi Day

Yesterday was 3/14, which, as I'm sure you are all aware, is Pi day. Pi is the ratio of the circumference to diameter of a circle. If you take -e (the base of the natural logarithm) and raise it to pi * i (the imaginary number, or the square root of negative 1) you get 1. The important thing to take away from all this is that the obvious way to celebrate pi day is with pie!

The ability to make perfect pie crust is considered, by bakers and non-bakers alike, to be the mark of a expert baker. So we won't tell them it is actually not very difficult. One of the tricks to making flaky soft pie crust is to use both butter and shortening. Another trick is to get a pastry blender, which lets you mix in the butter without melting it, for maximum flakiness. I am not the most coordinated of people and have still not figured out how to cut butter in with two knives. I just end up poking at the butter awkwardly with a knife in each hand and my elbows askew. Even I can operate a pastry blender (plus I love kitchen gadgets).
Once you master the crust, you have opened up infinite (countably so, like the digits in pi. Sorry, done with the math references now) possibilities for delicious desserts. Everyone is familiar with the standard pies: apple, pumpkin, lemon meringue, key lime, etc. But if those are the only type of pies you think exist, well, that just shows lack of imagination. You can combine any number of sweet (or savory) ingredients and throw them in a pie crust. For example: apple pie - totally been done.
But what if, instead of just apples . . .

. . .we add some raisins. Oh, but not just any raisins, lets soak them in rum and maple syrup first, and then mix all that in. (These raisins are amazing. Don't feel like making an entire pie? Throw the raisins on some vanilla ice cream and you will be perfectly content).
And let's try a different type of crust (half whole wheat). Yum!
This recipe is taken from the cookbook "Country Baking" by Ken Haedrich. This book has lots of unique and delicious recipes and good advice on cooking with whole grains.

Half-and-half Pastry

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
9 tbsps butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
5 tablespoons ice-cold water (maybe more)
1. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl and cut in butter.
2. Rub in shortening.
3. Sprinkle with about 4 tbsps of water and mix together. Add the remaining water slowly until the dough can be formed in to a ball.
4. Knead lightly in the bowl. Press the dough into two circles and chill.

Rum Raisin Apple Pie

1 recipe double crust pie pastry

1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup rum
1 cup raisins
5 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsps unsalted butter
1 tsp cream or milk (optional)

1. Roll out half of the crust, press into the pie pan, cover and chill.
2. Warm the maple syrup and rum in a small saucepan until hot. Add raisins. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes.
3. Mix apples, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add raisins and liquid.
4. Place filling in crust. Roll-out top crust and place over pie. Brush with cream, if desired.
5. Bake in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes. Reduce to 375 degrees and bake a remaining 40 minutes.
Print this recipe


  1. Did Pi get its name from pie? Is the entomology of the derogatory term "pie-hole" the vent in the center of the pie? Can you make rum raisin apple pie on Saint Patrick's Day if you use a shamrock for the pie vent instead of the pi or do you have to dye the pie green?

  2. You two are just being silly! Leslie, for St. Patrick's day, all you need to do is serve it with some pistachio ice cream! Also, pie-hole comes not from the hole in the top of the pie but the hole in your head where the pie goes (i.e. your mouth).

    Eric - you're a blog.