Archive | April, 2014

Pie picks: Belated Pi Day links

5 Apr

Ritz pie crust

I’m only a few weeks late, but for the sake of cataloging some of the best links I stumbled across, here goes.

More than a just number: A Washington Post blog reminds us that Pi Day is also Einstein’s Birthday and that pi is a ratio of the diameter and circumference of a circle. Not as if I needed an excuse, but what better reason to celebrate than with a circular pie?

What a holiday: A Portland freelance writer says that without a complicated past like other holidays, Pi Day should appeal to all. And with a recipe for a blueberry-orange pie, I can’t say I disagree.

Why pi really matters: A Slate piece charts the political history of Pi Day (it’s an official U.S. holiday), the mathematical  history of the number and the scientific significance of the ratio. The true meaning of pi, what it means for physics and explains about the natural world, should get more credit than we give it, says author Joseph Mazur.

Apple pie science: A New York Times graphic outlines the principles behind the recipes, including why we poke holes in a pie before baking and why we let pies cool before eating them.

Tips and tricks: The blog team at Science and Food present 10 things to know about baking pies, including how to make a crispy, brown crust and how chemistry can help explain the process (post originally found here).


Four pies: Portland (and Bozeman)

5 Apr



Dino apple pie

Well, during my far-too-long Cats and Commas hiatus, I’ve actually been baking quite a bit. Every holiday, birthday, etc., is a reason to share a baked good, and I take almost every opportunity possible.

Above is a collaboration apple pie that Hannah and I made together while visiting our friends in Montana in January. We didn’t follow a recipe per se, but we did use a standard all-butter crust and a standard filling of apples, lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon. One of the highlights of the trip, aside from the board games and microbrews, was our visit to the Museum of the Rockies, where we were gifted these fabulous dinosaur cookie cutters.

We served this pie a la mode, with Graham Slam ice cream, and, yes, it was as good as it looks (not even close to a humble brag). Also, for those of you science nerds, Hannah shared this excellent apple pie graphic a while back, which explains the science behind a great pie.

Ritz cracker pie

On the other side of the apple pie spectrum, for the Super Bowl I tried a mock apple pie, made with nothing but Ritz crackers, water, lemon  juice, sugar, cinnamon and cream of tartar (which I assume helps with the texture). A creation of the Depression era, when fresh foods were likely scarce and processed foods were likely cheaper, the Super Bowl-watchers who ate this pie without knowing what was in it were convinced it was regular old apple.

And, by accident, my crust turned out looking like a giant version of a Ritz cracker.

Ritz mock apple pie

The interior certainly had the gooey texture of an apple pie, just without the apple chunks. It was a bit on the sweet side for my taste, but it was an interesting experiment with a unique historical past. The recipe I used came from the cookbook “Pie,” a volume with hundreds of recipes, bits of history and techniques.

mini greek yogurt honey pie

For Eileen’s birthday in mid-February, I made mini-Greek yogurt and honey pies, which we’ve made before as a previous Cats and Commas challenge. Whipped cream, gelatin and Greek yogurt (chilled in the fridge) top a graham cracker crust, and it’s a delicate, delicious combination. For these, I used mini-springform pans, which are quite handy for individual servings.


My most recent pie creation was in honor of Pi Day on March 14, which I’ll write a separate post about to share some links from around the Web. For this pie, I decided on a “use-what’s-in-your-pantry” philosophy, which led to vanilla cream pie with a graham cracker crust and meringue. The meringue only makes sense for using up your leftover egg whites, because the pie filling calls for the same amount of egg yolks that you need (recipe also from “Pie”).

This was a hit at work, where we had a buffet of different varieties to choose from, including a tasty, cookie-like pie that’s different than any I’ve tried before. For lack of a better descriptor, I assume the recipe is something like this.

It’s no coincidence that each month in 2014 has featured pie as a highlight. I hardly need an excuse to make one, but then again, Easter is only a couple weeks away.


Bundt Cake: Portland

5 Apr


Well, call me lazy. I’m embarrassed it’s taken me more than three months since I made this cake to post about it. Perhaps because I had to download all the photos from my phone (there’s got to be a better way…).

For my first-ever Bundt cake, I’m pleased with how this one turned out. I decided on Root Beer Bundt Cake from the Crepes of Wrath, to help send off a coworker. The texture and taste were wonderfully rich and dense, but I might do without the frosting next time. It proved a little too rich with an already rich cake.

Bundt cake ingredients

Standard wet and dry cake ingredients were employed, along with some high-quality, real-sugar root beer (and, wow, could I tell a difference).

Blaine and bundt cake

Blaine, a devotee of Bundt cakes himself (and whose own Baileys Bundt cake photos I’ll post soon), volunteered to help me craft this cake. Here he’s stirring the butter-sugar-cocoa-root beer mixture to melt all the elements before incorporating it with the dry ingredients.

Bundt cake batter

Once cooled a bit, the wet ingredients met the dry ingredients in a lumpy batter that then went into a buttered and floured, nonstick bundt pan.

Beautiful bundt cake

Finally, because I’m always curious about the origins of things, when my mom had mentioned that Bundt cakes became a fad of sorts in the 1960s and 1970s, I looked up a bit of history.

It turns out the Bundt pan is the product of a Minnesota man: H. David Dalquist, a culinary pioneer who developed the signature pan, with its fluted sides and round center, according to a 2005 Associated Press obituary. The company that he and his wife, Dorothy, started in the late 1940s, Nordic Ware, still exists today. And there’s a reason why only Nordic Ware pans carry the “Bundt” in their name: It’s a trademark, hence why the “B” is always capitalized. (For example, this is the one I have, and it’s instead called a “fluted mold cake pan.”)

Though first created in 1950, the pan didn’t catch on until the 1960s, when the Betty Crocker brand of entertaining was taking off and cake-mix cakes were all the rage. My mom remembers a recipe for Harvey Wallbanger cake made with yellow cake mix and Galliano liqueur being passed around, but there are also from-scratch recipes available.

Frosted bundt cake


Here’s a final view of the cake. I only frosted half, and it’s not the most artful frosting, but the cake itself was just the right balance of chocolate and root beer. I’ll be using this recipe again.