Oh pi day. I love pie. I was a cake decorator as a teenager and quickly lost the desire to have cake, but then pie filled that place. If given the choice, I will always go after the pie first. They are simple, but you need to know how to do them right to make them. They can come in so many styles, shapes, and flavors. There’s just nothing wrong I can find about them!
March 14 is known as pi day. 3.14 is the first three digits of the irrational number, and since it shares a pronunciation with such a great dessert it has just become a day to celebrate math and pie! Typically, I am really bad at dates and forget until it rolls around and end up not making a pie, but this year I at least realized a few days in advance and was able to whip up a delicious pie to celebrate. I had an idea a few weeks ago for this pie and figured pi day would be a great reason to try it out!
I’m trying to incorporate more herbs and plants into my creations. A newer herb I bought and haven’t really tried much is mace. This isn’t the mace you get in a pepper spray. The herb, mace, is actually part of the plant we get nutmeg from. Nutmeg is a seed with an outer layer. This layer is removed and we use the seed as nutmeg, the outer layer is dried and ground and is known as mace. It has a similar flavor to nutmeg, a bit spicy, but is a lot lighter in flavor and has a little floral undertone.
Not only for flavor, but I’m trying to use more herbs for their medicinal benefits. I know it won’t cure anything overnight, but adding more herbs into food over time can have health benefits so why not add them to my pastries? Mace is traditional in a lot of Indian medicine. Having antifungal, antidepressant, and digestive properties mace can help you with quite a few things. The number one to me is a digestive aid. It can help keep your digestive system running smoothly and aids with nausea and bloating. Mace also helps with blood circulation, can help cold and cough, it even has shown signs to help dental health and aid your teeth. Why does no one talk about this great herb?!
Since the flavor of mace is similar to nutmeg it’s easy to figure out dishes to add it to. The floral tone of it made me want to do something very spring like and refreshing. Similar to the berries and cream flavor profile I love, I went with a mace infused custard with a blueberry compote swirled in. I wanted to add a little more to the flavor profile and play with different pie doughs so I also used an oat and pine nut pie crust for a little nutty flavor. I know these may seem a bit odd but trust me, start mixing things up. The mace custard alone is addictive and I could have eaten the whole bowl without making a pie. The berries add a nice freshness and together with the crust it was just delicious all around.
To make this pie, of course started with the crust. I used my standard pie crust but substituted some of the flour for rolled oats. Blend the oats and pine nuts in the food processor to grind into a flour before adding the all-purpose flour and then butter. Pulse to make a fine crumb then water to bind. I broke the butter down a little more than a standard pie crust and used as little water as I could. I wanted to get a mealier crust that would melt in your mouth but still hold a little of that classic flakey pie crust texture. I blind baked the crust since the filling is cooked before adding. You can blind bake with parchment or foil, pie weights or dried beans. I actually used a second pie pan to weigh it down and it worked really well. The most important thing is to dock the dough, or prick with a fork so that there aren’t any massive bubbles affecting the shape of the crust. About 25-30 minutes in the oven and it was nice and golden.
Oat Pie Crust
100g All Purpose Flour
75g Rolled Oats
10g Pine Nuts (1 tbsp)
113g Unsalted Butter, cold
In a food processor, blend oats and pine nuts into a flour then add salt and all purpose flour, blend until fine.
Add butter and pulse until butter is broken into small pebble sized pieces.
Slowly add water while pulsing until a dough forms.
Remove and shape into a ball then flatten into a disk, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roll and line a greased pie pan. Refrigerate for another 20-30 minutes.
Dock dough and bake at 350°F for about 20-30 minutes until golden brown.
While the crust was baking I made the blueberry compote next. Simple mixture of frozen blueberries, some water, and a little mace to round out the flavor. I didn’t use any sugar. Blueberries tend to be sweeter than other berries and the custard was already going to be sweet. I’ve always gotten compliments on making not super sweet desserts that are flavorful and more enjoyable, just don’t use as much sugar. I use frozen blueberries because they aren’t in season yet. I love using frozen fruit but if it’s in season of course try to use them for the best flavor. Once everything was cooked down and the berries had broken I added a little corn starch slurry to thicken and then set aside while I made the custard.
200g Frozen Blueberries
1 tbsp Cornstarch
In a medium sauce pot, heat berries with first water and salt until soft and berries have burst.
Mix second water and starch in a small bowl, then add to berries and stir while cooking over medium heat.
Cook until bubbling and thickened.
Set aside until needed.
I started the custard when the crust came out the oven as it cooled. This way the custard is fresh and not fully set while filling and adding the blueberries. Simple pastry cream. I do the all in method where you throw all ingredients except butter into a pot, whisk and cook, then you’re done. Instead of any vanilla I wanted the mace to stand out
and only infused with it. Once thick and cooked I strained it and mixed in the butter. Butter melted and mixed in, the custard went straight into the crust and the I spooned the berries into the custard and swirled them around. Always make sure to hold back on this step. It’s very fun and you will want to keep swirling but then it mixes in and you lose the swirl. Stop before you think you’re done for a great swirl.
125g Granulated Sugar
3 ½ tbsp Corn Starch
4 ea Egg Yolk
35g Unsalted Butter
1 tsp Ground Mace
In a medium sauce pot, whisk sugar, starch, and yolks together.
Slowly add the milk while whisking to prevent lumps.
Add salt and mace and whisk in.
Cook mixture over medium high heat, whisking constantly. As it cooks it will thicken and then bubble. Once thick like a pudding and bubbling through remove and strain.
Add butter to strained mixture and mix in until melted.
Pour custard into prepared pie pan and spread evenly.
Add blueberry compote and swirl in while warm.
Refrigerate until cooled.
With the pie assembled, it was into the fridge to set. Then it was ready to enjoy. I finished it off with a few sugar coated blueberries that I thawed. I really love the light sweetness to this pie. I think that’s why I really like pie over cake. As someone always around sweets, I have lost a lot of the appetite for sugar and sweet things. I love a little sweetness but nothing like a cake. Pies are a little sweet and not over powering.
And this is how I celebrated Pi Day! I had a pie this year for the occasion, I made some pizza pie for dinner, and just celebrated food and math. I was one of those “will I ever use this when I get older” kids and let me tell you, yes. I do use math A LOT in baking, even geometry, but I also can google an equation and get a calculator whenever I’m doing it. It’s not as bad as when I couldn’t use that help. Try out this pie if you want a new flavor to work with. The mace is really lovely and stands up with those blueberries. I probably will make this again once blueberries are in season and get some good fresh blueberry flavor!