When I was young, I used to watch the the digital clock in my bedroom as I fell asleep. I would wait until the clock read something like 7:35 or 8:16 to try to slam my eyes closed and fall asleep in that minute. You see, those numbers seemed to fit together (7X5=35 or 8X2=16 ... hopefully that makes sense), and somehow that made falling asleep at that time magical. Even better was if the numbers would divide out to equal the time I was supposed to wake up. For example: 7:49pm would look like 49 was being divided by 7, which equals 7, and therefore I could wake up at 7am and the whole night—and probably next day—would be perfect.
You see, I'm a little crazy about math and numbers and number patterns.
For that reason, National Pi Day is kind of awesome to me. This year Pi Day happens to fall right after another crazy day: 3.13.13 ... I'm in heaven. I don't know which day is better. Even better will be two years from now, when National Pi Day falls on 3.14.15 (the number Pi is 3.1415) ... okay I'll stop. (I'm sure you all think I'm crazy now)
Four years ago, my husband and I embraced my inner math geek and started officially celebrating National Pi Day by going out for Pi(e). We went to Bob and Edith's Diner in Arlington, VA and had ourselves a big slice of blueberry pie, and with that we had a tradition. As kids have arrived, going out for Pi Day has not always been practical, so we've made our own a few times.
Conveniently, in an effort (and it was an effort) to become more domestic after we were married, I decided I would work to perfect the art of baking an apple pie. I'm not really sure why I chose this as my measure of a good wife—I didn't really even like apple pie (at the time). Over the last 11 years, I've become pretty good at it. So in honor of National Pi Day, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite pie recipes, and a few basic tips, so you can enjoy one of your own on this awesome day.
My favorite pie crust is by Martha Stewart - just follow the directions, it has always come out perfect for me. If you don't have a food processor, a pastry blender will work just fine - plus you'll get a little workout. Click here for the recipe.
When it comes to apple pie I have a hard time deciding on my favorite, but I typically find one of Martha's and modify it a bit to make them more practical. My general tips with apple pie are these: 1) I like to use a variety of different kinds of apples (I usually do at least one granny smith, and one fuji, then whichever others are your favorites or sound interesting). This makes the flavors in the pie really multidimensional and interesting. 2) Make sure to add small (approx 1cm) cubes of unsalted butter to the pie right before adding the top crust. 3) I like to slightly whip egg white and paint it onto the top crust, then add a good amount of sugar - this makes the pie both delicious looking and gives it a nice sugary crisp top crust. 4) When baking, I try to put the pie near the bottom of the oven. This will largely depend on the pan you use, but with most pans I've used, the bottom of the crust stays a bit raw if the pie isn't on one of the bottom two rack levels. 5) Apple pie is delicious hot, but if you give it a few hours to fully cool—or even overnight—it will taste much better, and you won't have a lake of apple juice on your plate when you're done. Here are two recipes that I really love:
|photo credit: mikkel vang via martha stewart|
I would substitute the vanilla beans with a teaspoon or two of vanilla extract. Also, while sanding sugar sounds great, and I'm sure is beautiful, I always use plain granulated and love how it turns out. I would also skip the cream and egg yoke mixture and just use egg whites—although I've never tried the cream and yoke version, so maybe it's awesome.
Martha Stewart's Mile High Apple Pie
This pie is gorgeous, simple and is packed full of apples—which I love.
When it comes to making my own blueberry pie, I typically get a can of blueberry pie filling (*gasp*), and add a container (1/2 pint?) of fresh blueberries. I love the fresh taste it gives the filling.
|photo credit: betty crocker|
- 3/4 c. sugar
- 1/4 c. plus 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 1 tsp. salt
- 4 c. milk
- 5 egg yolks - slightly beaten
- 3 Tbsp. butter, softened
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 1 1/2 c. flaked coconut
Bake pie shell. Stir together sugar, cornstarch and salt in saucepan. Blend milk and egg yolks, gradually stir into sugar mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat; blend in butter, vanilla and one cup of coconut. Immediately pour into baked pie shell; press a sheet of plastic wrap onto filling. Chill pie thoroughly, at least 2 hours. Serve with whipping cream. Put the last 1/2 cup of coconut under the broiler. Watch carefully as it toasts (it will catch fire easily!). Sprinkle the coconut onto the whipped cream just before serving.
Whether you bake your own, or wander to your local diner for a slice, I highly recommend adding National Pi Day to your list of reasons to celebrate. I would also love to hear your favorite recipes - or tips for baking the perfect pie. Let the celebrating begin!