Happy (merry?) Pi Day everyone! I would be lying if I said I’ve been looking forward to this day all year. I was just informed about it several days ago by my sister (she’s a science type). However, now that I know about it, it might become my favorite holiday. Because as of today it IS an official holiday, per the desires of our Congress.
I had kind of a blast reading the article about how they passed the bill to create Pi Day. It ended with a great quote from Representative John P. Murtha: “We were never good at math in my family. I thought I was voting for p-i-e.”
WELL, Mr. Murtha, you WERE voting for p-i-e. Because who in their right mind would celebrate something like Pi Day without baking p-i-e-s. Specifically lemon meringue and glazed strawberry p-i-e. Because homonyms often equal puns, and I like puns, and I like pies. So god help us, we will celebrate Pi Day with pies.
And didn’t I promise you spring? Check out those strawberries. BAM. Spring. Delivered. Here in Davis, CA, March is all lamb. Things are blooming, shorts are being worn (by me), and strawberries taste like strawberries, not celery painted red. I smelled lilac today! I found a bouquet in someone’s discarded backyard trimmings. For the lemon meringue, I used lemons from a tree in my sister’s backyard and from a tree in the co-op across the street. Then, a unicorn gave me a ride home.
I exaggerate. Of course, cooking the pies was not without its trials and tribulations. I believe it’s because I made them not on Pi Day itself, but on Friday the 13th (so that I could have this post for you bright and early on the holiday). If I had made the pies on Pi Day (like you are going to do…RIGHT?), I think the cosmos would’ve aligned and I wouldn’t have 1) grated skin off my thumb with the cheese grater 2) completely shrunken the crust for the strawberry pie 3) completely overcooked the crust for the lemon meringue pie and 4) realized too late that the house was out of vanilla extract (although I was saved by the co-op).
But Pi Day isn’t about listing the hardships in your life. It’s about eating pie. Specifically, too much pie. It’s about being the “fatty” to whom Abe Simpson is referring in his famous quote: “What are you cackling at, fatty? Too much pie, that’s your problem.” On what other day can too much pie be your only problem?
Chez Panisse Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie
via The New York Times
Flaky pie crust, enough for a 9-inch shell (I used this)
2 Meyer lemons or other large lemons (I used 3. 1 baby meyer and 2 normal-ish. I’d do it again, too. I like lemon)
3 egg yolks
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons salted butter, cut in 3 pieces
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in 3 pieces
3 egg whites, at warm room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (I used the same amount of vinegar)
6 tablespoons superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Prepare the shell. Roll the pastry into a 12-inch circle, 1/8-inch thick, and fit gently into the pan. Trim the edge a half-inch beyond the rim, fold under and crimp or pinch to make a decorative edge. Prick the bottom with a fork. Freeze the shell for 20 to 30 minutes.
Prepare the filling. Grate the zest from the lemons into a small, noncorrodable bowl. Strain in the lemon juice, then press through as much lemon pulp as possible.
In a heavy, noncorrodable saucepan, beat the eggs, yolks and sugar until just mixed. Stir in the lemon juice and pulp, then the six tablespoons of butter.
Cook, stirring constantly, over low to medium heat, until the mixture comes together and thickens enough to coat a spoon. Remove from heat, allow to stand five minutes, then whisk briefly to smooth. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line the frozen shell with aluminum foil, weight with beans or pie weights and bake for 20 minutes, or until set and dry looking. Remove the weights and foil, turn the heat down to 350 and continue baking until shell is golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool slightly, but leave the oven on.
Spread the prepared filling in the shell and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the filling is just set. Remove pie and turn oven to 375.
Make the meringue. Beat the egg whites until frothy, add the cream of tartar and continue beating until rounded peaks form. Beat in sugar and vanilla.
Spread the meringue over the filling, making sure it meets the edges of the crust to make a seal. Swirl in a design with a knife or spatula and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the meringue is lightly browned.
Allow to cool completely, from one to two hours, but do not refrigerate.
Glazed Strawberry Pie
from The Pie and Pastry Bible via Epicurious.com
1 Basic Flaky Pie Crust for a 9-inch pie (I used the cream cheese crust)
1 tablespoon egg white, lightly beaten
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup liquid cran/raspberry concentrate, thawed, undiluted (I just used 1 3/4 cup cran/raspberry juice and omitted the water below)
3/4 cup water
4 cups strawberries, rinsed, hulled, dried, and halved
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. If necessary, allow it to sit for about 10 minutes or until it is soft enough to roll.
Roll the dough 1/8 inch thick or less and large enough to cut a 13-inch circle. Use an expandable flan ring or a cardboard template and a sharp knife as a guide to cut out the circle. Transfer the dough to the pie pan. Fold under the excess and crimp the border using a fork or your fingers. Cover it loosely and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour and a maximum of 24 hours.
Preheat the oven to 425°F at least 20 minutes before baking.
Line the pastry shell with parchment, pleating it as necessary so it fits into the pan, and fill it with rice or dried beans. Bake for 20 minutes. Carefully lift out the rice or beans with the parchment. With a fork prick the bottom and sides and bake 5 to 10 minutes more or until the crust is a pale golden. Check after 3 minutes and prick any bubbles that may have formed.
Cool the crust on a rack for 3 minutes, so it is no longer piping hot, then brush the bottom and sides with the egg white.
Make the filling:
In a 2-quart saucepan, mix together the sugar and cornstarch. Gradually stir in the cran/raspberry concentrate and water until smooth. Over medium heat, bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and cool completely.
Gently fold in the strawberries and spoon the filling into the baked pastry shell. Refrigerate for 4 hours or until set.
Refrigerated up to 2 days.
If the fruit is very acidic, the glaze will only keep 1 day.