Happy Pi Day

Happy Pi Day

Images created in collaboration with Jodi & Kurt Photography


Last week the people of Great Britain dedicated a whole seven days to the art of pie making. Disappointed to see the week come to a close without joining in the celebrations, I was delighted to recall that today is Pi Day; a nerdy phenomenon dedicated to the mathematical constant, Pi . Please don't mistake this knowledge for anything other than the perfect excuse for arriving late to the party. I hated math at school & I ashamedly rely on a calculator to complete the simplest of sums. I do however love pie, the kind that includes an endless possibility of fillings enveloped in crisp, buttery pastry. The subject of the perfect pie crust is a well documented debate. There are thousands of recipe variations, which totally blows my mind considering shortcrust pastry is essentially only three key ingredients. Flour, water & shortening are all one needs to make a pie dough, & just because it's Pi Day I'll throw in a little math for you too! The perfect pie dough ratio is said to be 3-2-1; three parts flour to two parts fat & one part liquid.

As with any subject that's clouded with a whole host of opinions & viewpoints, it's incredibly easy to find oneself venturing down the abysmal rabbit hole. While writing this post I read several discussions on the 3-2-1 ratio, which in turn led to countless conversation concerning what type of fat one should use. Controversy regarding the best pastry preparation soon followed & before I knew it, I was itching to rustle up a pie dough in fear of perhaps having discovered a recipe better than the one that's been my arsenal for as long as I can remember.

Last Fall, I partnered with Jodi of Jodi & Kurt Photography to capture some of our favorite autumnal pies. We spent the day in her cool kitchen, the door ajar as a gentle breeze swept through the house. We cooked up quite the lovely pie feast, from the much loved classic apple pie to a punchy cranberry & ginger pie & everything in between. Equally passionate about the quest for the perfect pie crust, Jodi was happy to share her go-to recipe with me. It was such fun to have the opportunity to experiment!

While some of the basic rules remained the same, our go-to pie crusts were in fact very different. Jodi's recipe yielded a lighter crust in both appearance & texture, while mine was decadently buttery & much richer. In addition to the difference in taste, it was a wonderful learning experience to see how both pastries handled. Jodi's recipe was perfect for creating intricate weaving, braiding & detail while my own recipe needed to be rolled & shaped without any fuss.

Despite being obsessed with the great pie crust debate, for the longest time I was too scared to try something outside of my comfort zone. The fear of falling short of my own high expectations was quite real. I'd been lost deep inside the rabbit warren on so many occasions, yet I always came back to the familiar; the trusted recipe that's never failed to yield a satisfactory crust to date. After spending some time rolling, shaping, baking & of course eating pie that afternoon with Jodi, it occurred to me that there is actually no such thing as the perfect pie crust recipe. There are many. And like with many things in life, it is simply a matter of taste.

Delighted to now have two great pie dough recipes in my repertoire, my obsessive rabbit chasing feels a little less intimidating. While my own shortcrust pastry recipe will always be a firm favorite, I am undoubtedly more confident in my quest for pie dough perfection. I'm excited to experiment with the 3-2-1 ratio & I'll definitely attempt one or two recipes that caught my attention during yesterday's online adventure into the burrow.

For now though, let's get back to Pi Day. To celebrate this glorious occasion, which unfortunately doesn't exist in England because of the way in which we write the date, I'm choosing to share my friend's delicious pie crust recipe. My hope is that even if this recipe is different from your own much loved go-to, you'll still give it a try. Despite once being too wary to stray from my trusted version, Jodi's recipe has fast become my choice when I'm in need of something a little lighter so as to let my filling really shine, or when I want to create more complex picture-perfect pie crusts. And who doesn't want to make pretty pies, right?

So here it is. It may have nothing at all in common with Pi besides sharing the exact same pronunciation, however, it's most certainly a constant in my kitchen.


Jodi's Pie Crust

Prep time: 10 mins
Serves: 12-24

Adapted from Greg Patent, "Baking in America". 

Ingredients

For one double-crusted 9-inch pie or two single 9-inch pie shells:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2/3 cup cake flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup {2 sticks} cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces

  • 1/2 cup iced water

  • 1 large egg yolk

  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, pulse the flours & salt together to mix.

  2. Add butter & pulse a little more.

  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the water, egg yolk & vinegar.

  4. Slowly add the liquid to the food processor while pulsing. Note that you may not need to use all the liquid. The dough should not be wet.

  5. After approximately 20-30 pulses, the dough should be forming into a ball. Stop at this point.

  6. Remove the dough from the food processor & press together between two sheets of plastic wrap.

  7. Refrigerate for at least one hour or up to two days before rolling out & using in your favorite pie recipe.

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