Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pi(es), Glorious Pi(es)

Happy Pi Day! And what better way to celebrate Pi Day than with pie? That's what a group of friends and I did this past weekend as we celebrated the occasion with a potluck Pi(e) Day, hosted by my friend and superstar hostess Jen. The rule of the game? Everyone bakes a pie, sweet or savoury, and brings it to the party to share.

Chocolate Pecan Rum
Chocolate pecan rum "pi"

If I thought Cookie Day was overwhelming, I'm not quite sure what to call Pie Day—epic, that's for sure. There were fourteen bakers expected at the gathering, and when all the pies were assembled at the table, we were faced with 23 pies. Twenty-three glorious pies. Tourtière du shack. Curry beef. Chocolate pecan rum. Strawberry rhubarb. Banoffee with candied bacon. Tarte d'érable. Yuzu meringue. The list of pies goes on!

Tourtiere du Shack
Tourtière du shack

Curry Beef Puffs
Curry beef puffs

Pie^2 (sheppard's pie pie)

Strawberry Rhubarb
Strawberry rhubarb

Banoffee with candied bacon

Yuzu Meringue
Yuzu meringue

I initially wanted to make a nostalgic pie, something like a Mud Pie or Shoofly Pie. But then I came across a recipe for Spiced Pear, Dolcelatte, and Toasted Walnut Pie and instantly knew I had to make this. The combination of the ingredients was intriguing to me—bordering on the sweet/savoury line, it was practically a fruit and cheese course in a pie. I'm not a big blue cheese fan by any means, but I occasionally like a little gorgonzola as an enhancement in a dish. Dolcelatte, or gorgonzola dolce, is a younger, creamier version of gorgonzola, and thus, milder in flavour and a great pairing with fruit.

Spiced Pear, Dolcelatte & Toasted Walnut Pie

A lot of people will say they are intimated with baking pies. I used to be of that camp. But let's be honest, it's not the whole pie-baking process we're most scared of; it's just the pie dough. And indeed, pie dough can be a tricky thing. All professional bakers will tell you the big secret to pie dough is cold, cold, cold. Keep your fat (butter/lard/shortening) cold. Work on a cold surface (marble/granite counter tops are a blessing here). Etcetera, etcetera. For those who own a pastry cutter, you can easily cut your butter/lard into your flour without touching the mixture with your hands. However, I like to do the cheater's version by using my handy-dandy food processor. Pulse, pulse, pulse, and in 30 seconds, I instant have pie dough. Everything is still cold and I haven't overworked my dough. (Seriously, invest in a food processor if you haven't already, for pie dough and for many other fabulous reasons.)

Spiced Pear, Dolcelatte & Toasted Walnut
Spiced pear, dolcelatte, and toasted walnut

The dough in this recipe called for 1/2 butter (which is great for adding flavour to the dough) and 1/2 lard or shortening (which helps make it super flaky). And rather than ice water, this recipe used buttermilk, which really helped give the dough lots of flavour. Like any dough, it really requires you to get the right consistency by touch. Some days, you'll need a little more liquid; some days, less. Always add a bit at a time between pulsing until the dough just starts to come together. I found this dough incredibly easy to work with. It was still soft enough to roll out without cracking or breaking after resting in the fridge for a few hours, yet wasn't sticking a lot my surface area and was very easy to place into the pan. I would definitely use this dough recipe again in the future for other pies.

I especially loved the sprinkling of orange blossom water over the pears in the filing. While you can't detect it in the baked pie, I think it really helps to enhance the flavour of the pears and adds that bit of je-ne-sais-quoi. The toasted walnuts add a lovely nuttiness as well as texture, while the dolcelatte adds that perfect hint of savouriness without being overpowering.

Spiced Pear, Dolcelatte & Toasted Walnut Pie

Some folks were ambitious enough to bring two pies to Pi(e) Day. I had flirted with the idea with making a savoury pie, but then quickly scrapped that idea (I figured there would be enough pie to go around) and decided some homemade ice cream to go with my pie would be better. A few coworkers had previously been raving about the Salted Caramel Ice Cream from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home, and one of them even made some for my birthday last year. It lived up to the hype—super creamy with that underlying hit of salt—and it tasted like frozen dulce de leche. I had been meaning to make this ice cream for so long but didn't get around to it until now, thinking it would be a great ice cream pairing with my pie.

Spiced Pear, Dolcelatte & Toasted Walnut Pie

Jeni uses a dry-burn method to make her caramel. This is a method that I do always get anxious about, as I never really had much success with in the past. But Jeni's book is fabulous because it felt like she was right there in the kitchen with me, holding my hand. She really walks you through the process of the dry-burn method by explaining everything step-by-step. My caramel turned out (hurray!), and I got salted caramel ice cream that was so good, I almost didn't want to share it.

Needless to say, with 23 pies in one sitting, I didn't get around to tasting all of them. By the time I left, with my loot bag of pies in hand, I was painfully stuffed with pie (frankly, I felt like a pie myself at that point), but happily sated. So go treat yourself to a slice of pie today and enjoy Pi(e) Day!

Pi(e) Day

The recipe for the Spiced Pear, Dolcelatte, and Toasted Walnut Pie can be found at Local Milk.

View my full set of photos from Pi(e) Day here.


Sarah R March 15, 2013 at 6:43 p.m.  

The strawberry rhubarb is my fave looking! Hope it was as delicious!

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