It seems like nowadays there is a holiday for everyone and everything.  Of these made up holidays, March 14th is one of my favorites - Pi Day; the day we celebrate the mathematical constant, Pi, by baking and eating pie.  For those of you with no inclination towards math, Pi is the ratio between a circles diameter and circumference.  In other words, if you know a circles diameter, you multiply that by Pi and you get its circumference and thusly if you know a circle's circumference you can divide that by Pi to get its diameter.  So what is Pi exactly?  Well that is an impossible question to answer as Pi is an irrational number and thus goes on infinitely.  It has been calculated out to over a trillion decimal places and its finality has not yet been resolved.  But rounded up, Pi=3.14 and so we celebrate this important number on March 14th and in doing so have given all those amateur baking math geeks their very own holiday.

In honor of Pi Day I thought I would share a trio of pie recipes with you.  With Spring just around the corner I'll pay homage to one of my favorite fruits/vegetables, rhubarb with a Peach and Rhubarb Pie.  Next I'll offer up a Raspberry Pie and finally a decedent Chocolate S'more Pie.

Raspberry Pie

I am especially fond of raspberries, especially black raspberries, which are becoming more and more difficult to find. As a kid, growing up in Vermont, wild black raspberries grew all around the village I lived in. We’d bike around the village, hitting all the little raspberry patches we could find, hoping that we’d get there first, before the other kids cleaned the patch out of all the ripe ones, often coming home with sticky fingers and purple stains on our tee shirts.

We were also lucky as there were a couple of small patches of black raspberries on our property. I’d spend the month picking ripe berries, which Mom would then freeze until my brother and I had picked enough to make a pie. They were small berry patches so it usually took the entire season to accumulate enough for that pie. I probably could have hastened the process by saving the berries we picked around the village, but it was an unspoken rule that those random, wild patches were there for the eating by us kids and it just didn’t seem right to harvest them for any other purpose.

So you can imagine that after about a month of picking, the pie that Mom made seemed like the best thing in the world. And I still feel that way. I’ve made many a raspberry pie as an adult, but none seem to live up to the memory of those pies from my youth, even when I can get my hands on wild, black raspberries.

Since black raspberries are very difficult to come, up here, in Wisconsin, this pie uses standard raspberries.  It might not be quite as tasty, but the up side is that it has a lot fewer seeds than one made with wild black raspberries.

makes 1 pie (9-9 1/2 inch)

1 1/3 cup Sugar, granulated
5 cups Raspberries, fresh
2 1/2 Tbs. Instant Tapioca granules
2 1/2 Tbs. Cornstarch
1 Tbs. Butter, diced
Your favorite pie crust for a 2 crust pie

To measure out your raspberries, first gently crush them. The idea is not to smash them into oblivion, but merely to compress them so that you get an accurate measurement. The way I do it is to pour my raspberries into a 2 cup measuring cup and tamp them down with a potato masher, adding and mashing until I fill it up to the 2 cup mark. I then dump the raspberries into a large bowl and repeat until I have 5 cups of slightly smashed berries. Mix in the sugar, tapioca and cornstarch and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat your oven to 350°F and line your pie tin with your pie crust. Pour the berry mixture into the prepared pie tin and cover with the other pie dough. You can either do a weave topped crust, or if you go for a solid crust make sure to cut a number of steam vents into it. At this point you can leave the crust plain or you can brush it with about 1 Tbs. of cream and sprinkle it with approximately 1 Tbs. of sugar. I do it both either way depending on my mood that day. Place in the oven, with a tray on the rack below to catch and juices that might spill over. Bake for approximately 50-55 minutes or until the crust is browned and the juices are bubbling. Once done remove from the oven.

Peach and Rhubarb Pie

Here in Wisconsin, rhubarb is one of the first edibles to break ground in spring and by mid May it is ready to start harvesting. Because it is ready so early we often associate it with spring and early summer, often pairing it with other early summer fruits such as strawberries and raspberries. But, rhubarb can be harvested all summer long and into early autumn.  While pairing rhubarb with peaches is far from new, ground breaking work it’s not a pairing that you see regularly.

makes 1 pie

3 cups peaches, sliced, with or without skins-your choice. I left them on.
3 cups rhubarb, sliced
1/3 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Your favorite pie crust for a two crust pie.
1-1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a 9″ deep dish pie tin with one pie crust. Combine the peaches and rhubarb with the flour, sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon, tossing to coat well. Pour into the pie tin and top with the remaining crust. Pinch the edges of the crusts together, fluting the edges for a decorative look. Cut 4-5 steam holes in the top of the crust and place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes then sprinkle the top with the remaining sugar and continue to bake another 15-25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving. I like to wait an hour or more to make sure the pie has set up properly.

Chocolate S'more Pie

With Spring just around the corner, I am starting to look forward to the resumption of late evening fires in our neighbor’s fire pit. The thought of that inevitably leads to s’mores as my wife loves the things and almost always suggests them at our late night gatherings. Unfortunately, beer and s’mores don’t really mix so I usually decline. I have never been a big s’more fan anyway. Sure I love chocolate and toasted marshmallows and I even like graham crackers but I am one of those people that would rather eat them all separately then mash them all together. It was with these thoughts in mind that I was trying to come up with a dessert to surprise my wife.

makes 1 8 inch Pie

1 each Graham Cracker Crust

FOR CHOCOLATE FILLING
7 ounces Bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup Heavy cream
1 each Egg, room temp.

FOR MARSHMALLOW TOPPING
1 package Unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup Water, cold
3/4 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract
Vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350. Put chocolate in a large bowl. Bring cream to a boil then pour over chocolate, stirring until smooth. Lightly beat egg and add to chocolate mixture along with salt then pour everything into pie shell. Cover edge of crusts then bake until filling is just set, about 25 minutes. Cool completely. Meanwhile make the topping. Bloom gelatin in 1/4 of the water in a large heatproof bowl. In a saucepan stir together remaining water, sugar, corn syrup and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Boil until mixture registers 238. Start beating gelatin mixture and slowly add hot syrup, in a slow stream. When all syrup has been added turn mixer to high and beat until triple in volume. Add vanilla extract then immediately pour over cooled pie. Chill, uncovered for 1 hour, then cover with oiled plastic wrap and chill 3 hours more. Before service brown top with either a blow torch or under broiler. If doing under a broiler protect the pie crusts.

If at all possible brown the top with the blow torch. Not only is a much more fun way to do it, I think it provides better flavor and gives it a more rustic look as some parts remain lighter while other parts get darker.