Posted March 13, 2015

Do the Math: Celebrate Pi Day With These Pie Recipes

Eat + Drink

Pi day pie

Tomorrow is March 14, 2015 … or 3.14.15. It marks the one day this century we can celebrate the first five digits of pi — 3.1415, to be exact. This mathematical constant has ancient roots and is unique in that it’s both never-ending and nonrepetitive. And that recognizable Greek symbol, π? That was adopted in the early 18th century … and mathematicians everywhere continue to be enamored by all things pi.

When it comes to current pop culture, though, pi has gone beyond representing the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. There are Pi Day enthusiasts who tie the knot on this dream date; science and discovery museums like the Exploratorium in San Francisco hold an annual bonanza; and most impressively, Chinese native Chao Lu has held the Guinness World Record for memorizing pi to 67,890 places since Nov. 20, 2005. This feat was witnessed by eight different officials, and in case you were wondering, it took him just over 24 hours to complete his recitation. Now that’s dedication.

But the easiest and most delicious way to observe this auspicious day is with actual pie — no studying required, all ages welcome. So we’re serving up two piping-hot pie recipes — one sweet, one savory, so there’s something to tickle either palate. And if you really want to get your pi on, slice into your pie at exactly 9:26:53 — PM or AM, it’s your choice. That’s 3.141592653, and a whole lotta pi.

Steak & Ale Pie

Executive Chef Dennis Marron, The Commoner, Pittsburgh

Pi Day pie


Beef fat

2 pounds boneless beef short rib, cut into large chunks

All-purpose flour, seasoned with salt and white pepper

8 ounces smoked bacon lardons

6 ounces whole baby onions

6 ounces large diced carrots

4 ounces large diced celery

6 ounces crimini mushroom cut in quarters

1 pint of Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale or other English-style brown ale

1 pint beef stock

4 sprigs of thyme, leaves roughly chopped

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon dark muscovado sugar (minimally refined brown sugar)

1 teaspoon malt vinegar

1 teaspoon cocoa

¼ cup whole-grain mustard

½ cup chopped parsley

For the pastry:

1¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra to dust

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons mustard powder (optional)

½ teaspoon salt

3 ounces suet (or chilled, grated bone marrow if you have it)

Iced water

A little milk, to glaze


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees (with fan on). Heat a generous chunk of beef fat in a large frying pan over a high heat, and toss the beef in seasoned flour to coat. Sear the beef in batches, taking care not to overcrowd the pan, until properly browned.

Turn down the heat slightly and add the lardons, carrots, celery and the onions to the pan. Cook until the bacon fat begins to melt and the vegetables brown on all sides.

Pour a little of the ale into the pan and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom, then pour the whole lot into a pan with the meat. Add the rest of the ale and the stock, herbs, sugar, vinegar and cocoa, and bring to a simmer.

Cover, and put in the oven for 2¼ hours, then uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 1½ hours until the meat is tender and approaching falling apart (it will cook further in the pie.) Allow to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, make the pastry. Put the flour, baking powder and mustard powder in a bowl with ½ teaspoon of salt. Stir in the fat and then add enough iced water to bring it together into dough. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (with fan on). Spoon the pie filling into a dish and roll out the pastry on a floured surface to about 1cm (or less than a half-inch) thick. Place over the pie, pushing down around the edge to seal, and cut a hole in the middle to allow steam out. Brush with milk and then bake for about 50 minutes until golden.

Sour Cream Apple Pie with Oatmeal Walnut Streusel

Pastry Chef Kimberly Bugler, Scala’s Bistro, San Francisco

Pi day pie

For the Tart Dough:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ cup plus 1½ teaspoons granulated sugar

1 pinch kosher salt

½ egg, lightly beaten (beat the whole egg, but just use half)

¾ cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup cake flour

For the Filling:

7 Granny Smith apples

⅓ cup sugar

¾ cup sour cream

1 egg

1 egg yolk

¼ teaspoon salt

1¼ teaspoons vanilla extract

3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

For the Streusel Topping:

1 cup rolled oats

⅔ cup light brown sugar

⅓ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup walnuts, chopped

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

4 tablespoons melted butter


For the dough: Cream butter, sugar and kosher salt together with stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add beaten egg and incorporate until well mixed, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Sift flours together and add all at once. Mix on low speed until a dough forms. Roll into a ball and flatten into a 1-inch thick disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 45 minutes. Remove from refrigerator and roll out on lightly floured surface. Line the bottom of a sprayed 10-inch, deep-dish pie pan with the dough, trimming edges as needed. Keep rolled pie shell in refrigerator until ready to use.

For the streusel topping: Combine oats, brown sugar, flour, walnuts and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Add melted butter and mix by hand, crumbling into small nuggets. Reserve until filling is ready.

For the filling: Peel, core and thinly slice apples. Combine all other filling ingredients together in a separate bowl. Pour sour cream mixture over apples and toss lightly. Place apples in chilled pie shell (no need to arrange perfectly, they will soften and fall into place while baking). Pour any remaining liquid over apples in shell. Top with streusel, being careful not to pack. Bake pie on top of baking sheet at 350 degrees until deep, golden brown (approximately 1½ hours). Cool to room temperature before serving. Yields one 10-inch, deep-dish pie.


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  1. gary king says:

    The Apple pie sounds good!

  2. Carole Nichelin says:

    Thank you , this sounds wonderful!!

  3. Jeanne Dubosar says:

    Can’t wait to try the apple pie