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!
For the Pie Crust:
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1 cup (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
- About 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
- Melted dark chocolate for drizzling, if desired
For the Filling:
- 1 1/2 cups sliced fresh rhubarb
- 1 1/2 cups trimmed and sliced fresh strawberries
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate
- To make the pie crust, combine the flour, granulated sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add the cubed butter and toss to coat the butter in the dry ingredients. Then, using your hands, work the butter into the dry ingredients by squeezing it between your fingers. Try to work quickly so the butter doesn’t get too warm. Once the butter pieces are about kidney bean-sized, make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add about 1/2 cup of the buttermilk and use a fork to incorporate the flour mixture into the buttermilk. Add more buttermilk as necessary to make sure all the flour is moistened. The dough will be a bit shaggy at this point. Dump the dough out onto a floured work surface and using your hands, knead and shape the dough together into a ball. Divide the dough ball in half and shape each half into a disk. Wrap the disks with plastic wrap and chill them in your refrigerator for 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, make the filling. Add the rhubarb, strawberries, blueberries, sugar and lemon juice to a medium saucepan. Bring the filling to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the filling to cool for 10 minutes. Then stir in the tapioca and vanilla extract. Allow to filling to cool completely before stirring in the chopped chocolate.
- Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and 1 tablespoon of water. Set aside.
- Remove the dough disks from your refrigerator and unwrap them. Working with one dough disk at a time, roll it out onto a well floured work surface until it’s about 1/8-inch thick. As you’re rolling the dough, occasionally rotate it a quarter of a turn to ensure it’s not sticking to your work surface. Once the dough is rolled out, cut out rectangles 4 X 5-inches in size. Place the dough rectangles on one of your parchment paper lined baking sheets. Re-shape and re-roll the scrapes, continuing to cut out as many rectangles as possible. Repeat the same process with the second dough disk.
- Add 2 rounded tablespoons of filling to the center of half of the dough rectangles. Brush the edges of the rectangles with some of the egg wash. Then top with the other half of the dough rectangles. Press the edges together gently with your fingers. Then use the tines of a fork to press more firmly and seal the edges. Transfer the baking sheets to your refrigerator to chill the pies for 10-15 minutes.
- Remove the baking sheets from your refrigerator. Use the tines of a fork to poke a vent in the top of each pie. Then brush the tops of the pies with some of the remaining egg wash. Sprinkle with a little turbinado sugar.
- Transfer the baking sheets to your pre-heated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow the pies to cool slightly before serving. If desired, you can drizzle melted chocolate on top before serving.