Tuesday, March 22, 2011

3. Pie

14159 I take a slice excitedly
265358 My hungry hands are fixed, unitedly
979 Unvarying, exactly encircled--
32384 One in the handsome bowl
6264 Around my mellow soul.
338327 It's not integral, but it ascends
950 Ingestion-bound, transcends
2884 My constant, plodding bite--
197 A midsummer delight;
169 A winner overnight!
399 And dexterous, rapacious,
375 The fingers reach--
10 O, irrational--
5 Again.

Happy Belated Pi Day!*

We just finished seven tumultuous weeks of production.  I hear Steven Spielberg works out and loses some thirty pounds before each of his shoots because he knows he'll gain it all back during production.  This is a completely unfounded rumor, and I found no evidence of its veracity on Wikipedia...but if it's true, I don't blame him.  In fact, I wonder -- does Steven Spielberg also get sick and have fever dreams about lighting ratios?  Does Steven Spielberg also sleep in a gigantic pile of his own clean laundry because he hasn't had time to put it away?  Does Steven Spielberg also miss his little brother?

Whatever the case, I think Steven Spielberg may be on to something.  Because across this single school year's production seasons, I've (kind of amazingly) gained 19% of my own body weight, lost a whole bunch of muscle mass, and -- gasp -- felt Pi Day pie guilt for the first time in my life.  Pie guilt is the worst kind of guilt!  No one should feel regret for eating pie, especially not on March 14th.  I missed celebrating a bunch of holidays last week -- my brother's birthday, my birthday, St. Patrick's day -- but on Einstein's birthday, I made damn sure to eat some pie.  And from now on, Spielberg-style, I'll make sure I never feel guilty about it again.

When I was little, I only ever made pies with my mom.  She and I, being very busy women with full-time jobs and times tables homework, respectively, dared not take on a pie whose recipe required three hours of our precious time.  Instead, we bought pre-made pie crusts, filled them with yogurt and strawberry slices and the special ingredient (love), and stuck them in the freezer.  Fifteen minutes -- voilĂ !

Those pies were delicious, but it's no wonder I've had trouble empathizing with the phrase "the joy of baking" for some time now.  So when my friend Shenzi came over to make a pie that actually required an oven, I was happy to find that it was completely worth our time and effort.  Those three hours spent measuring and mixing, waiting for temperatures to fall and rise, and having sweet pie smells balloon warmly into every corner of my apartment -- they were therapeutic.  The result (we named her Pie-y) wasn't picture-perfect, but she was flaky and golden and tartly sweet, and as the first pie I've ever made from scratch, she was perfect to me.

*I haven't nerded out over poetry or math for a while...so here's a pie-shaped poem written in Standard Pilish, chock-full of shape-and-number wordplay.

Blueberry-Strawberry-Cranberry Pie
heavily adapted from Cook's Illustrated and Baked Perfection

Ingredients for Crust
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 12 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 cup cold vodka
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Ingredients for Filling
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups frozen blueberries
  • 2 cups frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries, quartered


Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, and 2 tbsp sugar in a food processor.  Add 1/4-inch slices of butter (reserving about 1 tsp for brushing crust) and scoops of shortening and process for about 15 seconds, until clumpy.  Add remaining 1 cup flour and process until evenly mixed.

Scoop the mixture into a medium bowl.  Add vodka and water, and fold and stir until doughy.

Divide dough into two even balls, wrap with cellophane, and place in the freezer for half an hour.

In the meantime, prepare the filling by mixing the blueberries, cranberries, and strawberries in a medium bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, corn starch, salt, and cinnamon -- then sprinkle over the berries and stir.

Let sit and thaw for about ten minutes, then carefully strain out as much juicy liquid as you can.  I don't have a strainer (oops), but even just using a spatula and the rules of physics, I was able to extract about a cup of excess liquid that would've kept the crust from staying dry and flaky.

When ready, remove the dough balls from the freezer and roll them out on a floured surface with a rolling pin.  I didn't have a rolling pin, either (oops again), so we used a cylindrical vodka bottle covered in flour...worked like a charm.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a 9-inch pie tin with one crust.

Pour in the filling mixture.

Cut the other crust into 1/2-to-3/4-inch strips.

Make a lattice top (Shenzi taught me how to do this -- amazingly easy!).

Crimp the edges, use any excess edge dough to make pretty designs for the top of the pie, and brush with reserved tsp of butter.

Cover edges in tin foil and place on lower shelf of oven.  After about 30 minutes, remove tin foil and rotate 180 degrees.  Then bake for another 20 minutes or so, until golden brown and scrumptious.

Devour about 22/7 fresh slices. Immediately.


  1. That is pretty much my most favorite poem ever.

  2. This really is your best poem yet. Also, I like pie.