# pi day, observed

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Instead of baking a pie for Pi Day, I baked a pie on Pi Day. Now I am observing it, bank-style, on Monday.

For those of you who are confused, we’re talking math… sort of. Remember that whole circumference of a circle thing? Ï€ = approximately 3.14159265, often shortened to 3.14, and observed on 3/14. Pi Day.

You can either do some math, or celebrate with my preferred method:

Pie. Pi. Ï€. It’s a 9-inch diameter pie plate if you feel like doing some additional calculations. I only got as far as dividing it into slices.

Oh, I wanted to apologize for three dessert posts in a row. Don’t worry, I pick up our next CSA share tomorrow, and I have some exciting science to share this week, too!

Back to pie.

For my pie, I wanted to make something I had never tried before, and nothing that required a trip to the grocery store. Lazy pie. I had four beautiful lemons from my friend’s neighbor’s tree, so I decided on a lemon chess pie. Chess pie is a traditionally Southern dessert with a simple baked custard-like filling. Lemon is a common variation as is a brown sugar version.

A pre-baked pie shell is filled with the custard then baked until the top is nice and brown. I used pie crust dough already in my freezer from the coconut cream pie to make it even faster. Except that I forgot to take it out to defrost the night before, hence this not getting posted until today.

There may be a lot more pies in this blog’s future since blind-baking is not a skill I seem to possess. Rolling out the dough isn’t a problem, but I trust the recipes too much and need to leave the beans weighing down the shell longer. Despite ample fork-jabs, the crust still puffed up after the beans were removed. This decreased the volume of my shell and my filling was dangerously close to overflowing the pie plate.

It did not overflow, however, and the pie baked up nicely with a flaky crust, tart curd-like interior, and a top layer reminiscent of cheesecake. If you have not made a single-crust pie with a baked filling, this is a great time to level your oven. Take it from someone who has had a third of a pie cascading like a waterfall onto the floor of her oven which promptly filled with smoke, you want your oven rack to be pretty flat. A cookie sheet only holds so much.

### Lemon Chess Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie

Ingredients:
1 pre-baked 9-inch pie shell
4 large eggs, separated
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:
1.) Preheat oven to 350F. Place pie plate with baked pie shell on a baking sheet.

2.) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until combined. Add butter, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla, salt, and flour, and whisk until smooth.

3.) Beat egg whites in a separate bowl until they form stiff peaks. Fold egg whites into lemon mixture until uniform with no visible streaks of white.

4.) Pour filling into pie shell. Bake 30-35 minutes at 350F until top is dark golden brown. Remove from oven and allow pie to cool on the baking sheet for 30 minutes to avoid cracking, then transfer the pie to a wire rack to finish cooling, at least one hour before serving. Serve warm or chilled.

Birch March 16, 2010 at 5:17 am

Woah, “pre=baked pie shell” !?!?!??! Don’t say that where Mom can see, she’ll cry, maybe disown you! And what are you doing with pre-baksd pie shell, anyway?

stacy March 16, 2010 at 10:39 am

I baked the shell myself (you can see I said I had frozen dough in my freezer). I just didn’t want to type up the recipe for it!

Kate March 16, 2010 at 5:55 am

I haven’t done much blind baking, but I have read that using pennies can be better than using beans. The Pi looks delicious, if only my husband liked lemon flavored desserts!

stacy March 16, 2010 at 10:41 am

The beans actually seem heavy enough, I just took them out too early because the bottom was still raw enough do its own thing. Or I need to bake the shell on the bottom rack of the oven instead of forgetting to move the shelves until it’s preheated. Either way, my method is not working as is!

Kate March 16, 2010 at 11:48 am

I think it wasn’t so much about the weight, but that the pennies conduct the heat better, so it would bake the crust more swiftly, or something like that. I have no idea though, I’m not a pie baker, just an admirer

stacy March 16, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Iiiinteresting. I think I will try the bottom rack idea first, then get out the hammer and the piggy bank if that doesn’t work…

Kimberly March 16, 2010 at 7:25 am

Re: level ovens, I’ve totally been there!! I didn’t realize how seriously not level the floor was in the first apartment I lived in here until I tried to bake a layer cake. One side of each cake was quite a bit higher than the other – so sad! Made it hard to cut the layers, too

stacy March 16, 2010 at 10:42 am

You should have made it into one of those Mad Hatter-style crooked-looking cakes! =)

Bridget March 16, 2010 at 9:55 am

Ooh, custard pie, one of my favorites, and I haven’t made one in years!

stacy March 16, 2010 at 10:43 am

With the egg whites being folded in I thought it might end up fluffier, but it’s a nice smooth filling. Now I’m tempted to make some of the variations — just to practice my blind-baking skills, of course. And other than the crust, it comes together really fast.