I love celebrations, humor, easy math and geometry, treats, strawberries, and pie, so this is my kind of day. Pi Day, also known (with tongue in cheek) as Pi(e) Day by the under-appreciated community of people who look for reasons to smile and enjoy this extraordinary ever-fascinating world. I remember a few things from high school math class, including how to find the area of a square or a rectangle, my times tables, the fact that Pythagorus had a theorum:
and that formula that helped me find the area of a circle, which was always on the test: A = piR2 (squared), the 2 being written tiny and up high, showing itself to be an exponent. Like this:
That’s all the math we have time for today, because you may want to go find, eat, learn about, or even make yourself some pie, the kind with an “e” on the end all the time. My Pi(e) Day pie needed to be an speedy one, given that tax season is upon us and I am determined to Get This Done well ahead of the deadline. This Strawberry Icebox Pie requires no baking (except for a quick baking of the graham cracker crust or pastry crust if you make one yourself), and serves as a harbinger of spring, in that strawberry season is right around the corner — or perhaps since it’s in May here, around a couple of corners (Geometry time, to see what angles those corners have….).
If you make this, plan ahead, because it needs a little stovetop cooking of strawberries and sugar, and cooling off of that ruby-red goodness, and then time to set up and chill out, really chill out, as in hours of chilling out if not freezing, before it’s ready to cut. Making it a day ahead is excellent; but if you want to speed it up, simply freeze it for a few hours and you’ll have a luscious frozen icebox pie. Still divine.
Nancie McDermott’s Strawberry Icebox Pie
This recipe makes one generous, deep-dish pie, OR two everyday-sized pies, or one big pie and a few bowls of pudding! I used frozen strawberries because it’s not yet strawberry season here in North Carolina, and they worked just fine. I thawed them out as they cooked, and then stopped to mash them up once they were softened in the hot syrup. With fresh berries, I chop them before I begin, coarsely. You want some bits — need not be a puree. Allow time for this to set — hours, not minutes. If you want to speed things up, it’s fine to freeze it. You could then cut it frozen, and eat it that way, or let the pieces warm up to ‘chilly and cold’, more like a mousse. It’s beautiful and delightful to look at and so delicious. Raspberries should work, or a mixture of berries. I tried it with blackberries when working on Southern Pies, and was not thrilled. They have lots of pectin and texture, and it was not as wonderful as I had hoped and expected. In a rush, I did not revisit it — I will do so come summer. I think putting it through a sieve to remove the seeds might make it worthy — usually I don’t mind them but here they got in the way.
1 deep-dish 9-inch graham cracker piecrust, or baked pie crusts of any description*
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup cold water
6 cups hulled, coarsely-chopped strawberries, fresh or frozen (3pints, about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or almond extract
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and 1/3 cup cold water. Stir with a spoon to combine them well, dissolving any lumps. until smooth and evenly mixed.
In a medium saucepan, combine the chopped strawberries, sugar, and salt. Stir to combine the fruit and sugar, and then cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a gentle boil. Cook, stirring often, until the berries create a pool of sauce, 3 to 4 minutes.
Stir up the cornstarch-water mixture; it will probably have thickened and separated a little. When smooth, add it to the pan. Cook, stirring often,until the strawberry sauce boils again, thickens up, and the berries are soft, 3 to 4 minutes more. Remove from heat, stir in the butter and vanilla, and setaside to cool to room temperature.
To finish the filling, beat the cream in a large bowl until it is very thick and luscious, holding its shape in round medium peaks, but not cottony-stiff. Stir in the strawberry jam mixture and gently fold the cream and jam together to make an even, rich, beautifully pink mixture.
Pile the filling into the graham cracker crust and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours, until very cold and fairly firm. Serve cold, and if you have sliced strawberries, spoon a small pile of them alongside each piece of pie. Refrigerate any remaining pie for up to 1 day.
Makes one deep-dish 9-inch pie, or 2 standard 9-inch pies
This recipe comes from Southern Pies: A Gracious Plenty of Pie Recipes, from Lemon Chess to Chocolate Pecan, by Nancie McDermott, Chronicle Books, copyright 2010. All rights reserved.
I always want more pie or more pie lore, or pie ideas or pie recipes. That’s why I’m always keeping track of my friend Kate McDermott. We are not related via biology, but we are friends, colleagues, and Sisters in Pie! If you like pie, you will love Kate.
You can click HERE to visit Kate McDermott‘s lovely, useful, and inviting website and blog, Art of the Pie, where you will find abundance of pie recipes, stories, advice, and wisdom, along with information about her hands-on classes and events around the country all year long. Here is Kate’s blogpost for Pi(e) Day 2016. Here is information about Kate’s forthcoming cookbook, The Art of the Pie, which will be published on October 4, 2016.
Happy Pi(e) Day to you!