Whether you’re a baker, math nerd or just a straight up hungry person, today is a day worthy of celebration. It’s Pi Day. The annual observance of the mathematical constant π (pi), who’s first three digits are 3.14 ( = March 14).
So of course, the best way to celebrate Pi Day is by making, eating and sharing actual pies. Right?
Did you know that I basically spent all of my 20’s in either a research laboratory or a classroom? Yup, it’s true. I was busy getting my PhD in Biochemistry, and then later completing a post-doctoral fellowship in Cancer Biology. And I was blinding men with my scientific prowess left and right (not really, but a girl can dream). Full on goggles and lab coat and all that good stuff. So as a bona fide science dork turned food blogger, Pi Day hits home for me on so many levels. Thus, it’s a day that I couldn’t let pass without some recognition.
As much as I love desserts, I must admit that pie is never really my go-to. I’m much more of a cake and ice cream kind of gal. So for my Pi Day inspiration, I asked my Mom for some help. She sent me a rhubarb and berry pie recipe that she had torn out from the pages of a 2001 issue of Better Homes and Gardens. It’s a recipe that she’s made successfully dozens of times over the years. And with some early season rhubarb in hand, I decided it would be a good one to adapt for today’s post.
The original recipe is for a full pie. But I flipped the script and turn it into individual hand pies instead. Because who doesn’t love cute little hand pies?!?!
Because these hand pies don’t take as long to bake as a full sized pie, I pre-cooked the filling ingredients on the stove top for a few minutes. This also helps to get rid of some of the excess juices from the fruits, so the hand pies come out with a wonderfully flakey crust that isn’t mushy at all. The filling is almost jam-like, and these Rhubarb-Berry Hand Pies with Chocolate kind of remind me of a Pop-Tart, which were a childhood favorite of mine.
The buttermilk pie crust recipe is from Joy the Baker. It’s hands down my favorite pie crust recipe ever. I can’t imagine ever needing another one. If you’ve ever made pie dough before, I’m sure you’re familiar with the phrase “pea-sized pieces of butter”. This is the size of butter that most recipes will tell you to aim for as you work the butter into the dry ingredients. I actually find this to be misleading. You want the butter to be pea-sized by the END of making/shaping the dough. Not during the middle of the process. Because as you work the dough, the butter pieces will just keep getting smaller and smaller. So I aim for kidney bean-sized pieces of butter, which by the end will be reduced in size closer to that of a pea. Does that make sense?
To make sure all my hand pies were the same size, I actually created a template with a piece of paper and used that as a guide to cut out the rectangles of dough. You certainly don’t have to be that fussy, but I wouldn’t be my overly obsessive scientific self if I didn’t go the extra mile to make them all evenly sized. Using a 4 X 5-inch template, I was able to cut out 14 rectangles, giving me a total of seven hand pies. If you need more pies, just make and use a smaller template.
The final ingredient worth mentioning here is the chocolate. I added chopped dark chocolate to the filling, which melts into deliciously decadent little pockets of goodness during baking. And for the finishing touch, I channeled Jackson Pollock and drizzled some melted chocolate over top. Personally, I LOVE chocolate paired with fruit. But if you’re a purest either way, you can leave it out.
Happy Pi Day! I hope you all get the chance to celebrate!
Disclosure: I’m so happy to be able to give you all a peek into Alternative Baker by Alanna Taylor-Tobin. Thanks for letting me share this beautiful cookbook with you!
Little known fact about me: I spent almost 2 years cooking and baking exclusively gluten-free.
This was back in my California days. And it wasn’t for my own benefit. But for a man that I was with at the time. I was determined to be the “good girlfriend” and make him all the things that he had enjoyed in his younger years, but had to forgo since excluding gluten from his diet. So with the help of the internet and the local hippie-dippy market (which at the time was the best place to find gluten-free products), I armed myself with a pantry full of alternative flours and got to work. I spent endless hours in the kitchen. And we indulged ourselves in all my creations.
But those days are very far away now. That man is gone. And with his exit, so went the dozen bags of flours that had taken up residency in my kitchen. I returned to my usual baking ways (albeit for the occasional use of almond or hazelnut flour in a recipe). And eventually, all the other parts of my life returned to normal as well.
Truth be told, I did enjoy my walk on the gluten-free side of life. Sure, gluten-free baking can intimidating at times. But it can also open up a brand new world of flavors and textures. And recently, I’ve found myself kind of missing that. So with a copy of Alanna Taylor-Tobin’s new cookbook, Alternative Baker, firmly in my hands, I’m taking the plunge again.
Alanna is one of the sweetest blogging friends that I have. She is soft-spoken, silly, genuine and humble. And I knew I would love her before I even met her in person. Oh and let’s not forget to mention how amazingly talented she is in the kitchen and behind the camera. Like, I want to cry when I look at her beautiful cookbook and blog. It’s just too lovely to even process sometimes.
I knew right away when I spotted her recipe for this Chocolate Cranberry Pecan Tart that it would be the first thing I would make from Alternative Baker. I’m a big fan of pecan pie, but sometimes it can be too cloyingly sweet, even for me. Alanna’s recipe, however, hits just the right balance of tart and sweet. With enough chocolate to keep any chocoholic very satisfied. The gluten-free tart dough comes together easily enough. And Alanna gives lots of tips and tricks so you’ll be sure to nail it on your first attempt. This is definitely one dessert to put on your Holiday baking list!
Check out Alanna’s adorable trailer of her cookbook on over on her blog. And pick up a copy of Alternative Baker today!
Reprinted with minimal adaptations from Alternative Baker. Copyright © 2016, Alanna Taylor-Tobin.