Welcome! :-) Whatever brought you here today wasn't an accident, and I'm so glad you stopped by. I'm always glad to have folks drop in my kitchen for a visit and hope you'll feel right at home. We always have an ample supply of fresh lemonade, sweet tea, and a pot of coffee brewing along with a sideboard full of baked treats for you to enJOY while you're here. Relax and take your time as we visit and catch up on the latest news. Don't forget to email and let me know what's going on in your world, as well. And, come back soon!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Celebrating National Pi Day

Pi Day is the unofficial holiday that celebrates the mathematical constant pi (π) on March 14 in the month/day date format because the digits in this date correspond with the first three digits of π (3.14). It has become an international observance that is celebrated live and online and also celebrates Albert Einstein’s birthday. (Source: http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/world/pi-day) It also happens to be my sweet grandson, Jacob's birthday, too! (HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you, Jacob!) What a great day for a celebration!
There are many activities that celebrate Pi Day such as games, eating “pi” foods, converting things into pi, making strange mathematical endeavors like having a contest to see who knows the most digits of pi. Many people celebrate Pi Day by eating pie and discussing the relevance of π. Many teachers will use this date to engage students in activities related to pi by singing songs and carols about pi and developing pi projects. Some bakeries offer discounts on their products that have the letters "pi" together in a word. It's a great excuse for pie-baking and pie-eating contests. It's also a great time to share your favorite pie recipe.

No matter what time of year, no matter how hot or how cold, my favorite pie of all has to be Coconut Cream.

Doesn't that make you want to celebrate?!! (My theory: You can never have too many desserts! Below: Fried Apple Pies (recipe and tutorial here-- http://www.pinchofthissmidgenofthat.blogspot.com/search/label/Fried%20Apple%20Pies) , Brownie Bites, Buttermilk Pound Cake, and COCONUT CREAM PIE!)

My favorite place to eat the pie is at Charlotte's Eats and Sweets in Keo, AR (check out this article from Southern Living Magazine-- http://www.southernliving.com/travel/best-southern-pies-00417000067560/page12.html), but since I can't always go to Keo for pie, I have to make my own. Here's the recipe I use for the best Coconut Cream Pie in "A Pinch of This ... A Smidgen of That" cookbook (page 124):

Pat's Coconut Cream Pie

PIE FILLING Ingredients:
1 (9-inch) pie shell, baked and cooled
1 to 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (use more sugar for more filling, more volume)
2 Heaping T. cornstarch
2 Heaping T. flour
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups milk (2% or half & half... depends on how rich you want the pie)
2 to 3 T. butter (cold from the refrigerator)
5 eggs (use 4 if you're using less sugar), separated, at room temp. (Hint: separate when COLD, then allow to come to room temp before mixing them for meringue)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. coconut flavoring
2 MORE T. butter (cold)
1/2 C. moist flaked coconut (Baker's bagged coconut, packed gently), plus extra coconut for garnishing the top of the pie.
MERINGUE Ingredients:
4 or 5 egg whites, at room temperature (be sure not to contaminate whites with the yolks of any oils from your fingers or utensils. Do not begin cooking pie filling until egg whites have come to room temperature, because you will be making the meringue and topping the filling while it is still HOT. If you fail to cover the pie with meringue while hot, and the pie gets cold, it will cause the meringue to "sweat" or get drippy and pull away from the sides. It needs to go on while the filling is HOT and bake while it is HOT to brown the top.)
Wisp of salt (scant 1/4 to 1/2 tsp.)
1/2 to 1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. clear vanilla flavoring
1/2 tsp. coconut flavoring
10 T. granulated sugar.
Moist flaked coconut for topping meringue

DIRECTIONS: (Don't let the lengthy directions scare you! I'm a "detail" person---maybe even a little OCD, so I probably gave you more information than you needed!)
1. In a heavy saucepan or double boiler, use a whisk to combine sugar, cornstarch, flour, and salt. When dry ingredients are well combined, gradually add milk (or mixture of milk, as above). Once well mixed into the dry ingredients and all lumps disappear, add cold butter and bring mixture to a boil over medium to medium-high heat, stirring gently, but constantly to keep from sticking until thick and smooth. Once boiling and beginning to thisken, beat egg yolks well, stir in a little of the hot filling mixture and pour back into the sauce pan. Cook over medium heat (just bubbly) for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, so eggs have a chance to cook. Remove from heat, and stir in the additional 2 T of butter and the coconut and vanilla flavorings. Allow to sit while preparing meringue.

2. Add salt and cream of tartar to egg whites that are at room temperature.

3. Using highest speed of your hand mixer, beat egg whites until the mixture looks frothy or foamy. Immediately, add all 10 T. of sugar while you still have enough "liquid" (not all air and foam) to dissolve it. Return to highest (whipping) speed of your mixer and beat in as much air as possible to make meringue fluffy with soft peaks. When you lift the beaters from the beaten whites, the peaks will stand straight and then tip over. Add the flavorings and continue to beat until the meringue pulls into pointy peaks that stay that way. It's now ready to use.

4. Fold in 1/2 C moist shredded coconut into the filling (still in the saucepan) just before folding in 1/3 of the prepared meringue. Be sure to fold in all the way to the bottom and sides of the pan, so the meringue is evenly distributed, but do not beat--gently turn over the filling to fold in the meringue.

5. Have oven preheated to 350 F. Pour filling into cooled pie shell, and beginning at the edges spread remaining meringue around the rim of the pie, then fill the center and work your way out to the edges using a spoon to swirl waves or ripples into the meringue. You can use the back of a spoon to pull the meringue up into peaks all over the pie. Don't wait for the pie to cool! Do this while the filling is HOT. HINT: Make sure to seal the edges by spreading the meringue to the very edges of the pastry, so none of the inside filling shows. I use the tip of a table knife to do this--just to drag a thin layer over the edge of the fluted crust so it seals the pie while baking and doesn't pull away when it begins to cool.

6. If you desire, you can sprinkle moist flakes of coconut over the top, just before placing it in the oven to toast the top of the meringue. Bake the meringue low and slow at 325 to 340 F (you'll learn which does best for your oven and know which to use) for a bout 15 to 20 minutes. Start peeking through the "window" on your oven door (DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN) at about 15 minutes.

7. When done, remove to a cooling rack or countertop to allow the pie to cool completely--which will take several HOURS, so be patient and find something else to do so you won't be tempted to cut this yummy, great smelling pie! Keep it sitting in a place free from drafts (fans blowing, doors opening, an open window, kids galloping through the house, etc.) (grin)

8. When ready to cut, for a clean slice, us a hot, dampened serrated knife (pass one through a stream of your hottest tap water and blot dry before cutting. This also works well for cheesecakes.)

9. EnJOY every yummy bite!

10. Store leftovers in the refrigerator up to one week (it won't last that long, but you can try)!

 If Coconut Cream Pie isn't your favorite, try one of these recipes. You can never go wrong with peanut butter!
No-Bake Peanut Butter Pie
(A similar recipe can be found on page 129 in "A Pinch of This ... A Smidgen of That" cookbook. I think this recipe ---below--- is much easier and takes less ingredients than the one in the cookbook. Both are very good.)
No Bake Peanut Butter Pie

1 - 8oz package cream cheese, softened
1 - cup powdered sugar
3/4 - cup creamy peanut butter
2 Tablespoons milk (2% is okay)
8 oz. container of whipped topping (I like Cool Whip best.)
1 baked (and cooled) 9-inch pie crust (or if you prefer, you can use graham cracker crust)
1/2 cup salted dry roasted peanuts (optional... most of the time, I don't use these, but I this time so I could photograph it.)
In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar, peanut butter, and milk until light and fluffy. Using a spatula, fold in whipped topping. Spoon into crust and spread evenly. Coarsely chop the peanuts and sprinkle over the top to garnish. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. Yield: 6-8 servings.

And, if peanut butter is off limits for you, how about some yummy chocolate?
(Page 122 in "A Pinch of This ... A Smidgen of That" cookbook)
Here's another view ... I love pretty pies! :-) especially when they taste even better than they look!
1 unbaked 9-inch deep-dish pie shell
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup (6 oz.) Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 cup chopped nuts
Sweetened whipped cream or ice cream (optional)
PREHEAT oven to 325° F.

BEAT eggs in large mixer bowl on high speed until foamy. Beat in flour, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Beat in butter. Stir in morsels and nuts. Spoon into pie shell.

BAKE for 55 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between edge and center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm with whipped cream.
Whether you celebrate National Pi Day or just want to bake a pie for your family (or friend, or neighbor), I hope you enJOY your time in the kitchen and you are able to BLESS someone with your delicious pies.  (Don't forget to check out the Fried Apple Pies recipe and tutorial here -- http://www.pinchofthissmidgenofthat.blogspot.com/search/label/Fried%20Apple%20Pies). If you use one of these recipes from today's post, take a photo and email it to me! (pkrains@gmail.com) I'll post it here. You never know, you might just win a cookbook. :-)
I just received two photos of pies from a blog follower, Alan Williams, who made the pies to share with his co-workers. They look delicious! Great job, Alan! Congratulations on winning a copy of "A Pinch of This ... A Smidgen of That" cookbook!


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