To celebrate, I made a chess pie. A friend told me a story behind the name: when someone asked what kind of pie it was, the answer was “oh, jus’ pie” which eventually went from ” ‘jus” to “chess”. In either case it’s delicious and super easy.
The other thing I did to celebrate: made a slight fool of myself on public radio! I was on The Brian Lehrer Show to talk about pi(e) day. Turns out I’m not very good on radio (actually I just rant incomprehensibly about baking cookies) but I’m excited that I was there, and the director of MoMath was a guest at the same time! Glen Whitney is way awesome and excellent on the radio. I liked just listening to him and am hitting myself for not saying anything to him about how great MoMath seems and how I’m excited to see it in a few weeks on my trip to NYC.
So, chess pie: pie crust, buttermilk, butter, sugar, vanilla, cornmeal. Easy as… oh yeah.
Another way I was incredibly disappointing: Brian Lehrer asked if I knew any jokes with baking and math. I had nothing to say, and then I interrupted Glen Whitney to say I had nothing to say. Sigh. He mentioned that if you want to make a 9″ diameter round cake, but only have square pans, you can approximate it using an 8″ square pan. Runs a math museum and knows interesting baking facts. Is he sing- oh right. I have a boyfriend. And Glen Whitney has a wife and two daughters anyway, on a completely unrelated note.
UPDATE: you can listen to the show segment here. Embarrassment and pride. I feel like I’m watching my little kid at a recital of some instrument that she doesn’t know. On another note, here’s an awesome video about pi and pie,
Let’s make a pie crust, shall we?
Usually I just buy frozen pie crusts, but I didn’t want to go to the store, so homemade it was. This was the laziest way to do pie crust: put all the ingredients into the pie tin, stir, and then push them into a rough pie crust form with your hands. It very quickly turns flaky and you worry there isn’t enough moisture for all the flour and sugar, but don’t. It will work. Trust the recipe.
I did a teensy bit of work and stirred the flour, salt and sugar before adding the milk and oil, but then I just plopped it around and pressed, pressed pressed for a minute. Voila, pie crust! Toss this guy into the oven while you make the filling. I think the recipe said 425 for 10 minutes, but I was baking black bean burgers at the time so it got to hang out at 350 for 15. Doesn’t matter!
Notice that mine isn’t that pretty. It’s getting covered with filing anyway! But if you do want pretty pie crusts, lay out some parchment paper under the mixed up dough, put another piece of parchment paper on top of your dough, and roll it with a rolling pin or wine bottle or hammer on top of a solid book if that’s all you’ve got. I do like it when people crimp their crusts with a fork. Or you can do what I did and just throw it in there. I love this crust because it’s flaky without being too melty, and has just the right hint of salt.
Next, the filling. Right after you throw your pie crust in the oven, put a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup. Then add enough milk to reach however much you need. This recipe made enough filling for a deep dish pie crust, but I did not have one of those, so I multiplied all the ingredients by 3/4 and it was perfect. This is 1/2 a cup of vinegared milk, to replace buttermilk.
Meanwhile, stir together your 1 and a half c sugar and 1 TB of cornmeal (that gives your pie a nice crispy texture on top, like creme brulee).
Take a minute and melt just under a stick of butter in a bowl in the microwave (literally this took 60 seconds; my butter came out of the fridge). Then beat three eggs into that, and stir it into the “buttermilk.” Pour that whole beautiful pale yellow mixture into your sugar.
Also, at some point, toss in a splash of vanilla. I think sprinkling in a bit of salt wouldn’t hurt, but Southerners might be angry at me for saying that. This pie is DELICIOUS without it. Pour this whole mess into your crust and bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then lower the heat and bake at 300 for two episodes of TNG. Or about an hour. However you like to measure time the night before Pi Day.
Mix together in a pie pan:
1.5 c flour
1.5 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Then pour in:
2 TB soy milk (add 1/2 tsp sugar if using regular milk)
1/2 c oil
Stir together, then pat around to make a roughly even pie crust. Throw in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 300-350 degrees while you prepare the filling.
Either use buttermilk, or stir 1 TB of vinegar with enough milk (cow milk this time) to make 1/2 cup. Let sit while you do the rest.
1 1/2 c sugar
1 TB cornmeal
6 TB butter (2 TB less than a stick)
And beat into it:
1 tsp vanilla
Mix the butter and eggs with the buttermilk. Then pour into the sugar/cornmeal and stir. Pour into your prepared pie crust, then bake at 425 for 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to 350 and bake for an additional 45 minutes or until custard is set.