I think Pi Day is my favourite day.
It doesn’t hurt to have an excuse to bake pies, of course, but growing up with a mathematician for a father I was pretty much primed (yes, pun intended) to love all things mathematical. When I was younger, I used to draw Pascal’s Triangle on my notebooks for fun. I also memorized pi up to 50 digits (and I might still remember them all).
So yes, I love pi. And I also love pie. It’s the best of both worlds (unless you’re a Tau fan, in which case you can just skip ahead and come back on June 28 for twice as many pies).
Last year, I brought pies in to my coworkers at our group meeting for Pi Day. We have a bit of a tricky research group when it comes to food: three nut allergies, two soy allergies, a dairy allergy, an egg allergy, and a gluten intolerance. Baking can be a bit of a minefield at time (our post-doc always asks “what is this made of, air?” when I bring in baked goods that everyone can eat). So last year I tried to make some pies for everyone, and a few pies for those of us with a multitude of allergies.
This is what I did last year for Pi Day:
As you can see, things started out great (fully homemade apple pie with pi shaped crust), then quickly devolved as I realized how many pies I was making (homemade blueberry filling in a premade shell, followed by premade cherry pie filling in a premade shell).
For the allergy crowd, I also made lemon meringue pies (gluten-, dairy-, egg-, and soy-free), but those were not my finest (the word ‘crunchy’ doesn’t even begin to describe the stiffness of the crust! The filling had to be eaten with a spoon).
So this year I wanted to outdo myself and find something that was delicious and allergy-friendly. This time, I decided that all of my pies would be suitable for the various allergies in the group (though to varying degrees, as you will see below – but there is something for everyone!).
Without further ado, here are the four (four!) types of pies that I made for pi day this year:
- Dairy-Free Apple Pies
I’ve been wanting to do these number cut out apple pies since I saw this post – how perfect is that pie? My number cutters are a tad smaller, but that works perfectly for these mini apple pies.
I made these dairy-free starting with a coconut oil pie crust (recipe here). The apples were cut into number shapes (using these nifty number cookie cutters) , as were the final pieces of crust, displaying (from top right to bottom left) the first 12 digits of pie (if you were wondering, 3.14159265358). I read that olive oil could be used as a substitute for an egg wash, so I brushed the numbers with olive oil before putting these in the oven. It didn’t brown as much as I was expecting, possibly because these bake a lot faster than your average pie (they were out in 16 minutes!). But overall these are a total success – coconut oil is definitely a miracle food because this crust turned out perfectly flaky and delicious!
2. Gluten-, Dairy-, Egg-, Soy-, and Nut-Free Coconut Chocolate Pies
These are a combination of a nanaimo bar and a chocolate pie (wouldn’t a nanaimo bar pie be delicious? Chocolate graham cracker crust, vanilla pudding center… I’ll file that idea away for next year).
These beauties have a lot of chocolate: a coconut and chocolate crumb crust, chocolate pudding and chocolate ganache filling layers, topped with grated chocolate and coconut.
Take a look at that beautiful, creamy coconut milk pudding:
This pudding was the most satisfying part of putting these pies together – the texture and taste are perfect and I wouldn’t have guessed it was dairy-free if I hadn’t made it myself. The ganache layer gives it another great silky burst of chocolate, but I think these little pies would also be delicious with a layer of vanilla or chocolate coconut whipped cream on top!
3. Gluten-Free Chocolate Cherry Pies
Because I knew I’d be making a lot of pies, these have a homemade crust, but they are filled with a pre-made cherry pie filling. The crust is gluten-free and is made with from a combination of butter and coconut oil. It came out a little softer than I’d like, but it’s a vast improvement over the gluten-free crust from last year! It definitely takes some work to get a really good gluten-free crust – I’ve had no trouble substituting gluten in brownies and cupcakes and cookies, but pie crust is a bit of a sticking point so far. Every time I make a tart or pie I get a little closer, but I’m still searching for that perfect, flaky, delicious gluten-free crust.
4. Gluten-Free White Chocolate Cherry Pies
When I decided to go with a pre-made pie filling, I knew I’d want to do something a little more special with it. I decided on a white chocolate and cherry pie filling.
The crust is the same gluten-free crust as for the plain cherry pies, but here I took the chocolate pudding recipe from the coconut chocolate pies and swapped out the cocoa powder and sugar with 2 ounces of white chocolate (I should note, for anyone who wants to try this, that I halved the recipe again to make just 4 tarts, so that’s 1/4 of the amounts in the recipe I linked to above). I baked the pie shells without any filling. Then, once the shells and pudding were slightly cooled, I spooned them about halfway full with the white chocolate pudding. The rest of the filling was cherry pie filling (be careful not to overfill! I would recommend putting the pies in the fridge to set for a bit before placing on the cherry filling – if you do this while the pudding is soft, the cherry filling will push the pudding out to the edges). For a more finished look, I grated some semi-sweet and white chocolate and sprinkled on top.
That completes my weekend baking! I’ll be bringing these mini pies (all 32 of them) in to work tomorrow to share with my research group – it’s always great to have an eager focus group for new baked goods, and it’s the perfect way to hone my skills when it comes to allergy-friendly baking (especially on the gluten-free front).
I hope you all have a great Pi Day, and hopefully are celebrating with some pie of your own!