It’s March 14th, which means that it’s once again time to celebrate pi day, an international holiday in which math enthusiasts come together in a shared appreciation of the much-loved constant π! Although π has been calculated to over 50 trillion digits, the approximated value of 3.14 has become a standard estimate for general use, making 3/14 a perfect opportunity to celebrate. In fact, Pi Day has been observed on March 14th since at least 1988 and was recognized as a National Pi day by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2009.
While there are many different ways that people celebrate Pi Day, the most common involves making (and eating) pie. Fruit or savory, everything goes. We have previously talked about the science of pie crust, including 5 essential tips to ensure perfection. However, the crust is only one part of the equation. Pie filling is equally complex, often containing a mixture of fresh and dried fruit, sugar, and a thickening agent. So, here are 5 tips for making the perfect pie filling.
- Measure your ingredients by weight. Many recipes call for ingredients to be added by volume, however, it is much more accurate (and scientific) to measure by weight. A simple kitchen balance can make a huge difference in the quality of your crusts and fillings. Plus, you will no longer have to worry about how loose or dense your dry ingredients are as you measure them.
- Precook your pie filling. Almost all fruit pie fillings work better if you pre-cook the fillings. This includes cherry, apple, blueberry, and other moist fruits. Precooking allows for an even distribution of moisture and gives the thickening agents time to do their things. Do note that you might need to adjust your baking times since the filling is already cooked. I find that you can often shave 15-20 minutes from the baking time. One final advantage to precooking your filling is that it allows you to fit more fruit into the pie, however…
- Don’t overfill your pie. As tempting as it can be, don’t overfill that pie crust! Drier and more robust fruits, like apples and pears, can be mounded above the rim of the pan, but fruits like cherries and blueberries should be kept slightly below the rim. An overfilled pie runs the risk of juices overflowing and spilling onto the oven floor, leading to smoke and the potential for fire, as well as providing a nightmare to clean up later.
- Vent the top crust. Adding a crust to the top of the pie can add a beautiful, decorative touch. However, it’s important that you provide a way for steam to escape while baking, especially for fruit pies with high moisture content. Cut slits into the crust or use a lattice to prevent a soggy mess.
- Allow the pie to cool before serving. This is the hardest part, but it’s extremely important to let the pie cool completely before cutting. As the pie cools, the filling will continue to thicken – slice too early and everything will pour out! So, even though it can be hard it’s best to wait. I find that thicker, deep-dish pies can take up to 4 hours before they are fully cooled.
Happy pi day!
Cover image – π day Pies, 2013. Dennis Wilkinson, Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/djwtwo/8556186515