Happy Pi Day!
It can help us search the universe to find new planets, look into the tiniest particles to measure their properties, determine the strength of gravity, and find out how DNA makes us who we are. It’s used in designing buildings and pharmaceuticals, and it’s being used constantly by all the televisions and computers around you. It’s also a great excuse to eat pie every March.
The concept of pi was first conceived about 4,000 years ago. Its definition is simple – pi is the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a perfect circle. While we most often see it abbreviated as 3.14, what has intrigued mathematicians and students (and bakers, once a year) for centuries is the fact that it is an irrational number. Never ending, never repeating, we use it every day and yet, we will never see its last digit. That doesn’t stop people from trying, of course. Pi has been calculated up to 13.3 trillion digits, completed in October 2014. If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can download 13 trillion digits of it, in 130,000 PDF files of 100 million digits each. There are even people who memorize pi as a hobby; the world record holder, Suresh Kumar Sharma, recited 70,030 digits of pi over 17 hours. I’m not quite that motivated, so I stuck with making pies this year.
Pi Day Pies
Pi Day falls on March 14th (3/14) to commemorate the first three digits of the never-ending number. Lots of schools love to celebrate it and plenty of restaurants offer specials on pie that day. Whether you’re a busy mom baking a pie for your child’s classroom or a restaurateur planning a special menu, time is of the essence. Sticking with that theme, I decided to try three pies that can be prepared in less than 14 minutes. In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t include the crusts or baking/refrigerating time. Most restaurants would make and freeze large batches of crust ahead of time, and home cooks can either do the same or do as I did and cheat with pre-made crusts.
Peanut Butter Pie
This was the quickest of the three pies I made, clocking in at eight minutes of prep time. It’s basically a mix-and-dump pie, and it set up firm enough for us to cut into it right away, without even waiting for it to set up for a couple hours as the recipe instructs. This pie also lets you get a little creative with the top garnish: the original recipe called for peanut butter cups, but I went with crushed Nutter Butters instead, and loved how it turned out.
Recipe adapted from Allrecipes.
- 1 (9-inch) graham cracker crust
- 8 oz. softened cream cheese
- 1⁄2 cup peanut butter
- 1⁄2 cup powdered sugar
- 16 oz. whipped topping
- Miniature peanut butter cups, crushed peanut butter cookies, peanuts, or chocolate sauce for garnish (optional)
- Mix cream cheese, peanut butter, and sugar together until smooth.
- Fold in 1⁄2 of the whipped topping, then spoon the mixture into the pie crust.
- Spread remaining whipped topping over pie, and garnish with topping of your choice.
- Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
This one was almost as quick to make as the peanut butter pie. It took me about ten minutes, but honestly part of that may have been spent resisting the temptation to cut into it immediately. The lightly flavored filling and sweet caramel sauce combine perfectly with the crunch of the pecans. The filling for this one is lighter than the peanut butter pie, and you’ll definitely want to let it set up in the refrigerator for a bit before giving into the urge to dig in.
Recipe adapted from Tablespoon.
- Pre-baked pie crust, cooled
- 11⁄2 cups caramel sauce
- 3⁄4 cup chopped pecans
- 16 oz. softened cream cheese
- 8 oz. whipped topping
- Spread 1⁄4 cup caramel and 1⁄4 cup chopped pecans over the bottom of the pie crust.
- Beat cream cheese and 1 cup of the caramel sauce on medium speed until smooth and completely blended.
- Fold in whipped topping, but be careful not to overmix.
- Spoon mixture into crust, then garnish with remaining caramel sauce and pecans.
- Refrigerate at least two hours before serving.
Lemon Blueberry Pie
My first go-round with this pie was plagued by one bad decision: frozen blueberries. Take it from me and just don’t go there. If you can’t find fresh, wait until you can. It makes a bigger difference than you might imagine. This one almost didn’t make the time limit – I was sliding it into the oven as my 14-minute alarm went off, but it was definitely worth it. Even with my frozen-berry snafu, it tasted delicious and was my favorite of the three pies.
Recipe adapted from Allrecipes.
- 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
- 1⁄4 cup lemon juice
- 11⁄2 cups fresh blueberries
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 pre-baked pie shell
- 4 egg whites
- 1⁄8 cup white sugar
- 1⁄8 teaspoon cream of tartar
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Blend together sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks, then slowly add lemon juice. Blend until well mixed.
- Gently fold in blueberries, then pour into pie shell.
- Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy, then continue beating while slowly adding sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. Spread mixture over the filling, making sure to seal the edges.
- Bake until meringue browns, roughly 6 minutes.
- Cool before serving, and refrigerate to store.
Making pie for Pi Day may be a little cliché, but honestly, I’m okay with clichés that result in my fridge being full of pies. If you happen to miss Pi Day this year, no worries – you can wait it out a bit and just celebrate Tau Day in June.