Happy π Day! If you are a sweet and gentle and sensitive person, with an obsessive nature and a deep fascination for numbers and a complete infatuation with the calculation of π, March 14 is the day for you! And what better way to celebrate than by baking a transcendent(al) pie? Before you decide on a recipe, though, it wouldn't be irrational to think long and hard about the dough you'll use. Maybe you're most interested in a pie dough that's superfast and forgiving, or maybe you want a buttery, flaky crust that doesn't require a food processor. (See here for a little deeper discussion of the merits of Stella's recipe versus Kenji's.) Going gluten-free? We've got you covered there, too. Want whole wheat? Ditto.
Beginning pie-makers should check out our advice on the best pie pans and how to blind-bake a crust (and even more experienced bakers may want to consult Kenji's foray into pie myth-busting). If you've got the basic knowledge you need and are just looking for an Instagram-worthy way to dress up your creation, we've got step-by-step guides for making a pretty lattice top or an extra-fancy herringbone pattern. Finally, if you're carting your pie over to a friend's house for a π Day celebration (or, you know, any old special occasion), don't forget to pick up a carton of food-grade Epsom salt: When placed inside your carrying container, it'll help keep your crust from getting soggy in transit.
(I suppose some people—you know who you are—will insist on celebrating the day with a different sort of pie, and all I can say to you folks is that I think that's merely a figure of speech, but here, have some recipes.)
Now, onto the recipes. Not three, not 14, but 21 recipes (because...this year it's 3/14/21? Why not?) for both savory and sweet pies, including chocolate cream and classic cherry, pie variations like cobbler and crisp, and more hot pies for all your π Day needs.
Fresh and Creamy Lime 𝜋
We're here to tell you lemon meringue pie is old hat, so why don't you give a lime meringue pie a try? The filling is all tart and creamy, sort of like a Creamsicle without the -sicle, and its zippiness is tempered by the graham-y whole wheat crust. Don't forget to save the zested and juiced limes to make a lime variation of fresh lemon syrup, which you can put to use in drinks or on top of pancakes.
Grasshopper Ice Cream 𝜋
It isn't often that you can describe a sweet pie as "herbaceous," but that's exactly what this pie is, thanks to a splash of Fernet-Branca in the rich and creamy peppermint filling. Of course, you don't have to go with homemade Oreos for the blitzed cookie crust—store-bought works just fine—but do not skip the cocoa nib fudge topping.
BraveTart's Butternut Pumpkin 𝜋
Normally I associate pumpkin pie with my relatives' terrible political opinions and dry roast turkey, but the first thing that pops into my head when I look at this recipe is "magic." It isn't because of the butternut squash bit, even though, yes, subbing in butternut squash for the usual canned pumpkin purée is brilliant. It's because of the homemade condensed milk. If you haven't yet made the sweetened condensed milk, go give it a whirl: There's a moment when the mixture starts to foam up and the liquid in the pot transforms that's a beautiful example of cooking alchemy, and it makes the whole process worthwhile. (A bit of advice: I strongly suggest using a scale to measure the milk's reduction.)
BraveTart's Easy, Old-Fashioned Apple 𝜋
Good old, old-fashioned pie; there isn't really anything like it. This one is a little different from others (and the one below) in that the apples don't get cooked before assembling the pie. Since it's relatively low-key, you can spend the time you save figuring out how to do one of those lattice-type thingies (or not, you do you). For whatever reason it just seems to me that if one were to try to make a lattice top, it would definitely be for an old-fashioned apple pie on the day of π.
Double-Chocolate Cream 𝜋
This is the chocolate pie to end all chocolate pie, using a combination of Dutch cocoa and dark chocolate to create a filling that's rich and intense. Though the pie does involve a number of steps, the filling's not all that complicated to make, and it won't weep on you. A lovely layer of swirled Swiss meringue on top gets a nice toasty color from the oven, while remaining fluffy on the inside.
Silky Sweet Potato 𝜋
No need for canned condensed milk here; instead, you'll make your own version as you simmer sweet potatoes in a mixture of milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. The process results in a sweet potato filling that's fresher- and lighter-tasting, with an almost vegetal flavor, thanks to a generous dose of nutmeg. Don't forget to save the vanilla seeds to make a topping of Brown Sugar Whipped Cream, an elegant touch when dolloped onto the pie.
Late-Summer Mixed-Fruit 𝜋
A variety of fruits, both sweet and tart, form a colorful filling for this summery pie—but don't worry, you can totally use frozen fruit in the wintertime. This is another great opportunity for you fancy bakers out there who want to try out a lattice design to top your pie, but if you don't feel up for it, you can certainly just use a solid sheet of dough, cut to span the πr2 of the base. Do read the label on the tapioca starch you buy: Only starch made from real cassava will gel properly.
Freeform Peach 𝜋 (Galette)
A galette, or freeform pie, is the perfect vehicle for fruit like peaches, which won't survive the long bake at high heat that's needed for a traditional pie made in a pie dish. It's also perfect for when you don't want to bother with careful shaping and fluting of that crust, since all you've got to do is pile the filling in the middle and fold the dough over, section by section. You can substitute other stone fruit for the peaches, or swap out some of it for berries.
The Best Blueberry 𝜋
Nothing beats a classic like blueberry pie, and no blueberry pie beats this version. Using our handy ratio of fruit and sugar, you'll be rewarded with a filling that cooks up nice and thick—no more fears of getting blueberry soup—with a complexity of blueberry flavor from a mix of both cultivated and wild berries.
Gooey Apple 𝜋
An improvement on another old standard. Here, the apple slices are cooked to 160°F (71°C), which helps them hold their shape even as they turn tender during baking. Cornstarch and sugar thicken the filling into a nice, gooey syrup, while a bit of lemon zest brightens up the flavor.
Classic Biscuit-Topped Peach Cobbler
All right, I can hear you saying it: "This isn't π!" Not quite, perhaps, but it has the crucial elements, and it's a beautiful dessert to boot. Think of it as 1/π, an inverted π, if you will: a sweet, bright interior of peach slices in a rich syrup, with a moist and tender biscuit blanket.
This may be one of the prettiest pies on the list, but it's also one of the tastiest. Pitted fresh cherries (you can use frozen ones, too) are lightly bound in a clear syrup that doesn't detract from the fruit's naturally sweet and tart flavors. With the right ratio of fruit to sugar, you won't have to sacrifice a crisp crust to get a nicely thickened filling. Hold on to the cherry pits to make a subtly cherry-flavored whipped cream to serve alongside.
Extra-Smooth Pumpkin 𝜋
Who says pumpkin pie is only for Thanksgiving? It might even be extra appealing out of season, when you're not suffering from the pumpkin-spice fatigue of fall. Blending cream cheese with canned fresh pumpkin purée gives the filling a smoother, silkier consistency and keeps it less wet than typical versions, reducing your risk of a soggy crust.
Rustic Apple-Cranberry 𝜋
Here's another galette for those who just want a delicious pie, without all the fussy presentation. Sweet apples and tangy cranberries are a familiar fall combination, and they get a boost in flavor from a sprinkling of cinnamon; added richness from butter helps to balance out their tartness.
The Best Apple Crisp
On this one, you got me: It isn't even close to being π. But it's so good, we couldn't leave it off the list—and it's easy. The crisp topping, chock-full of toasty pecans and scented with nutmeg, comes together quickly in a food processor, and the fruit base is nothing more than chopped apples tossed with cornstarch, sugar, salt, and a little whiskey.
Gluten-Free Blueberry Cheesecake 𝜋 With Lavender Streusel
This might be the dessert equivalent of Euler's identity, since it combines cheesecake and π in a way that is, quite simply, mathematically beautiful. It's more complicated than many of the other recipes here, but the result is a juicy filling of sweet-tart blueberries, covered in a light cheesecake topping and a delicately floral-scented streusel.
The Ultimate Snickers 𝜋
What kind of pie roundup would this be without at least two ice cream pies? And this is ice cream pie to the nth degree, with caramelized condensed milk ice cream in a chocolate crust, topped off with a chocolate-caramel sauce and a chocolate–peanut butter ganache.
Chicken Pot 𝜋 With Buttermilk Biscuit Topping
One of my favorite stories ever written features a relatively lengthy consideration of the pot pie, and it contains the accusation, perhaps unfounded, that commercial pot pie makers will gradually reduce the amount of meat in their pot pies as they gain in popularity. Of course, the only way to be absolutely sure that your pot pie has an ample amount of meat is to make it yourself, and here we have a fine recipe that will help you do just that; tender chunks of delicately poached chicken floating in a flavorful and thick sauce underneath a buttermilk drop biscuit top. There isn't much not to love about this recipe, but if you prefer individual pot pies, here's a variation that uses a flaky whole wheat pie crust that'll crisp up just as well on the top as it will on the bottom.
Mexican Tamale 𝜋 (Tamal de Cazuela)
As good as tamales are, making them at home is a headache. Much easier is packing the flavors of a tamale into pie form. This tamal de cazuela features a filling made with chicken stock, black beans, and lard and flavored with smoky ancho chilies. Alternatively, consider this meatier version, filled with slow-cooked skirt steak, or this vegetarian pie.
Classic, Savory Shepherd's 𝜋 (With Beef and/or Lamb)
There may be no pie, whether savory or sweet, that's as satisfying as a shepherd's pie—buttery mashed potatoes with browned peaks, crowning a mix of vegetables and minced meat. I love lamb (and it is called shepherd's pie for a reason), but this recipe will work just as well with less-traditional ground beef or a mixture of the two.
British Fish 𝜋 With Smoked Salmon, Shrimp, and Mashed Potatoes
This is just like shepherd's pie, except the shepherd is a Brit and happens to herd fish. Firm, white-fleshed fish gets mixed with dry-brined shrimp and hot-smoked salmon in a very leek-y and creamy sauce flavored with herbs and anchovies, and all of it gets topped with mashed potatoes before getting baked in a hot oven. While you can simply buy hot smoked salmon at the store, smoking it yourself is relatively simple and can really cut down on the cost.