We’re adopting Pi Day (March 14 = 3.14) as our own here at the P.I. with a pie recipe roundup. Everybody loves pie, we’re pretty sure. Here, local bakers offer up the reasons why, with pies inspired by childhood memories, road trips, farmers’ market stands, and favorite books.
Pop+Dutch’s Atlantic Beach Pie
By Rebecca Orchant and Sean Gardner
This is an old North Carolina recipe from the seafood houses on the Outer Banks. Locals there thought it was uncool to eat dessert after a seafood dinner — unless it had lemon in it. We’re complete nerds for regional food traditions and recipes out of church cookbooks, so when we came across Atlantic Beach Pie, it instantly became one of our favorites. Oh, and also it’s really easy. We adapted Bill Smith’s famous Crook’s Corner version: instead of making the crust from saltines, we use Ritz crackers because we are salt fiends.
POP+DUTCH’S ATLANTIC BEACH PIE
For the crust:
1½ sleeves of Ritz crackers
1/2 cup completely softened unsalted butter
3 Tbsp. sugar
For the filling:
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice or a mix of the two
Fresh whipped cream, for garnish
Flaky sea salt, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Crush the crackers with your hands until they’re a coarse meal. Add the sugar, then knead in the butter until the crumbs hold together like a graham cracker crust. Press into an 8-inch pie pan. Chill 15 minutes, then bake for 18 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.
While the crust is cooling (it doesn’t need to be cold), beat the egg yolks into the sweetened condensed milk, then beat in the citrus juice. It is important to completely combine these ingredients. Pour the custard into the shell and bake 16 minutes until the filling has set.
Chill that baby. The pie needs to be completely cold to be sliced so it holds together. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve with fresh whipped cream.
Cranberry and Secret Squash Pie
By Elspeth Hay
Don’t laugh, but this pie recipe was inspired by the Little House on the Prairie series. In The Long Winter, an early frost hits the Ingalls’ garden. Ma tells Laura to bring her one of the green pumpkins for pie. It’s so good, Pa thinks it’s made with apples. Once I learned to cut the butternut squash into paper-thin slices, it was so good that multiple testers adored the pie without detecting even a hint of squash. Cranberry-pear! They guessed. Apple-cranberry! You can tell your pie lovers, or not, but butternut-cranberry is a keeper.
3 cups very thinly sliced butternut squash
3 cups cranberries
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Pie dough for bottom and top crusts for a 9-inch pie
Preheat the oven to 425º F.
Combine the squash, cranberries, sugar, flour, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and lemon juice in a bowl. Mix gently until the fruit is evenly coated.
Roll out a bottom crust, drape it over the pie plate, and spoon in the filling. Roll and place the top crust. Trim the edges so about one inch of both top and bottom crusts hangs over the edge of the pie plate, roll and pinch the crust around the edges.
Cut steam slots (I like to do a nice pattern like a sun or a heart) in the top. Bake 15 minutes at 425º F, then lower the heat to 375 and bake about 30 minutes more, until the fruit is bubbling and the crust is golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.
WINNER: HIGH CRUST QUOTIENT
By Milisa Moses
This is my go-to dessert. Quick and simple, with just a handful of ingredients that can vary depending on what flavors you want to play up: swap vanilla for almond extract, or use walnuts instead of almonds. Use any jam in the pantry. Nice in summer when the farmers’ markets have local jams. Even nicer right now, if you were smart enough to save a jar.
SIMPLE JAM TART
1/2 cup sugar
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup blueberry jam
1/3 cup sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 350º F and place a tart pan in the freezer.
Beat butter and sugar in an electric mixer until fluffy and light in color, about 4 minutes. Scrape the sides down, add almond extract, and mix well, about 30 seconds.
With mixer on low, add flour to the butter and sugar mixture, until the dough is thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds.
Scoop out a half cup of dough and place it in the freezer. Meanwhile, remove the tart pan from freezer and press the remaining dough into it. Spread jam in a thin layer over dough.
Remove the reserved dough from the freezer and crumble it over the jam. Top with almonds.
Bake 40 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool and top with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
WINNER: JIGGLY DESSERTS
By Frank Vasello and Nathan Butera
Frank grew up eating custard pie. That and blueberry are his favorites. But Nathan had never heard of it. He did some research and came up with this adaptation. You partially cook the custard on the stove before pouring it into a warm blind-baked pie crust.
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs + one yolk
2/3 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. corn starch
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Generous pinch of salt
Dough for the bottom crust only
Heat oven to 375º F while you make your favorite crust and place it in an 8-inch or 9-inch pie or tart pan. Blind bake the crust until it is just golden.
Make the custard now — you want it to still be warm when you pour in the custard.
First combine the milk and cream in a small pan and heat until it’s steamy.
In a small bowl, whisk until smooth: the eggs and yolk, sugar, corn starch, vanilla, nutmeg, and a generous pinch of salt. Slowly whisk the warm milk and cream into the egg and sugar mixture, then pour it all back into the pan and cook gently, about 6-8 minutes.
Pour custard into warm crust and bake 12-15 minutes. You want the pie to be just jiggly in the center. Don’t overcook it or you’ll end up with curdled eggs.
Cool, then chill in the refrigerator and serve cold.