Pi Day is the only food holiday I care to acknowledge, because celebrating mathematics is a respectable thing to do. Hell, it’s the right thing to do, because math gives us so much while asking so little in return. If we didn’t have pi, we couldn’t calculate the circumference of pie! In fact, we’re going to use that exact calculation while making this pie, which celebrates pi’s first three digits by being three pies in one! Of course, pi is 3.14(....), not just regular ol’ three, so I needed to figure out a way to jam 0.14% of a pie into this. As such, this pie has an extra thick crust around its circumference with divots that are then filled with lemon curd—so the apple, blueberry, and cherry pies are joined by teeny-tiny itty-bitty lemon pies. I might not be able to recite more than six digits of pi, but goddamn, I sure am a pie genius.
For those of you who are not pie pros, you might see this as a challenge recipe. It is imperative you make your own crust for this; store bought will not do. You’ll need to sculpt all sorts of architectural doo-dads from aluminum foil. This recipe is going to be a lot of resting, a lot of waiting, and (most intimidating of all) a lot of intuition. But do not let fear get the best of you, because I’m going to walk you through this the best I can. (Let this be a reminder to never, ever skip past the opening text of a recipe, and to read the entire recipe through before you start baking.)
First, we must address the topic of pie dough. This recipe is very similar to the rough puff pastry I used in my Beef Wellington Pot Pie, which a few readers said they were too intimidated to try. Do not be intimidated! Making pie dough requires intuition, and you’ll never develop intuition if you don’t try. And seriously, what’s the worst thing that can happen? Your pie won’t look like the ones on Instagram? Who cares! It’s butter, sugar, and flour, so even if it looks like a hot mess it’s still going to taste good. There is zero reason for anyone to be stressed out about aesthetics, because pie is supposed to make you happy and no one needs to be getting upset over it.
The dough will start off on the sticky side, and whenever things are sticky, all you need to do is dust them with flour. Do not worry that you’re adding too much flour, because you can always brush off the excess, and as you roll and fold the dough, it will absorb the flour as it needs to. (Pie dough will always tell you what it needs! If it’s sticky, give it a little flour; if it’s dry and cracking, give it a little water.) Roll this out on parchment paper, which will make the folding step much easier. During the early steps it’s going to look like an absolute disaster, so don’t worry that you’ve done something wrong, and don’t worry about mangling it—it will come together. When you’ve finished rolling and folding (and repeating), you’ll have something that is sturdy and pliable and feels a bit like Play-Doh.
For the pie’s filling, I like starting the maceration of the apples a day ahead of time. (Why am Imacerating the apples, you ask? Read our pie problems series, because I’m too tired to type all that out again. It’s important, though!) The blueberries and cherries do not need advance maceration to remove excess liquid, because I use frozen ones, which are always perfect in flavor and texture. As they freeze, the fruits’ natural juices turn into ice crystals with jagged edges that cut through their cell walls, so when they defrost, all those juices drain out. The resulting fruit gives you a sturdier pie that’s not overflowing with liquid, and an extra flavorful one since you can cram much more fruit into it. And, since fruit is healthy, this probably means the pie is healthy, ergo there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the fact that I’ve eaten over three pies this week “for my job.”
Butter, sugar, and fruit may be the stars of this Pi Day pie, but the true hero behind it all is the versatile miracle that is aluminum foil. First, I used it to cover my counter before rolling out the pie dough to make cleanup easier, and also so I didn’t have to worry if any dough ended up spreading out past the parchment during the rolling process. Next, I used a long piece of foil to make a three-way divider for the center of the pie, allowing me to fill its thirds with apples, cherries, and blueberries without having to corral errant pieces of fruit that didn’t want to stay where they were supposed to. Then, I created “foil plugs” that held the crust’s divots open as the pie baked, which made the teeny-tiny itty-bitty “pie shells” for the lemon curd. And finally (here’s the math part!), I multiplied the 10" diameter of my pie pan by pi, which told me the pie’s circumference was 31.42" inches. I then cut a 3-foot-long piece of heavy duty aluminum foil and folded it longways three times to make a sturdy collar for the pie, which prevented its heavy outer crust from slumping over the pan’s edges as it baked. Thank you, aluminum foil, and thank you, pi!
Once you’ve read over all this and the recipe twice (you should always read recipes twice!), if you still have questions, let me know in the comments (or tweet me for more immediate service). If you want step-by-step visual directions, they will be up on The Takeout’s Instagram. I apologize for their quality, but they were taken by me, in my poorly lit kitchen, while my hands were covered in flour and butter, which forced me to hold my phone between my wrists. and take the picture by pecking my phone with my nose. And those are the kind of Instagram pie pics that you should personally aspire to. Don’t compare your pie skills to those of the intricate, perfect, artfully shot #foodporn accounts. Do compare your skills to a woman (and professional food person!) who is trying to make a beautiful pie while repeatedly bashing her face into an iPhone. As long as you do your best, you’ll be doing enough.
- 3 cups flour, plus an additional 1 cup for dusting
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 1/2 sticks cold butter
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2-3/4 cup ice cold water
- 1 egg beaten with one Tbsp. of water (aka egg wash)
- 6-8 medium cooking apples (like Granny Smiths) cut into 3/4" chunks (enough to fill two quart containers)
- 1 Tbsp. white sugar
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 Tbsp. potato starch
- 2 lbs. frozen cherries, thawed
- 3 Tbsp. sugar
- 2 Tbsp. potato starch
- 5 cups frozen blueberries, thawed
- 3 Tbsp. sugar
- 2 Tbsp. potato starch
- 1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 3 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 3 Tbsp. butter
...make the pie crust and macerate the apples. Let’s do the apples first, because that’s the easy part:
Toss the apple chunks with the white sugar, salt, and lemon juice. Put in a container, then refrigerate.
Now, the pie crust! First, prepare your environment: It’s important that your kitchen is cool, so do not have the stove or oven on while you make pie dough. Prepare your rolling area by laying out a few sheets of aluminum foil to cover your counter, then put a 2-foot-long piece of parchment down on top of it. Put one cup of flour in a little mound somewhere on the foil to use for dusting; sprinkle a generous amount over the parchment and your rolling pin.
Put the remaining three cups of flour in a bowl with the sugar and salt and stir together with a fork. Cut both sticks of butter lengthwise into quarters, then cut the eight butter batons into small pats about 1/4" thick. Toss them into the flour mixture, using your fingers to separate any that get stuck together so every little piece gets good and coated. Add the salt to the water and stir well, then slowly pour into the flour mixture, gently stirring with a fork. Keep adding water until there are no dry spots, then dump the dough out onto the floured parchment.
Dust your hands very well with flour and pat the dough down until it’s kinda rectangle-ish (no need to be perfect) and about 1" thick. Roll out the dough until it’s 1/4" thick, dusting the sticky bits with flour as you find them. Your dough will not be in any sort of shape you can identify. There might be crumbly bits around the edges. There will be thick, visible pieces of butter. This is all normal.
Next, fold the dough into thirds like brochure, lifting the parchment paper to assist you. The undersides of the dough will be sticky and may not come off the paper in one perfect piece; again, that’s normal. Just slap it together the best you can and sprinkle the sticky bits with flour. Once you have your dough brochure, fold the top and bottom up so they slightly overlap in the center, flip the dough over so the seam is on the bottom, and voila! You’ve got a dough square. Now, repeat that same rolling, folding, and flipping process one more time, adding a sprinkle of flour as needed. Once you’re done, use your hands to pat the dough down into a 1" rectangle, wrap in the parchment, then wrap well in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
...pull out the pie dough and let it warm up for about 15 minutes or so, during which you can prepare the fruit.
Set a strainer over a bowl and set up three additional medium mixing bowls, one each for the apples, cherries, and blueberries. (If you run out of bowls, use saucepans.) Drain the apples of their liquid in the strainer, then put in a bowl with the brown sugar, cinnamon, and potato starch. Use your hands to toss well.
Drain the frozen cherries in the strainer, and use your hands to gently squeeze some of the extra juices out. Put these in their own bowl with the sugar and potato starch, and use your hands to toss well. Do the same exact thing with the blueberries, without the squeezing part. Then put the reserved apple-cherry-blueberry juice in a container in your fridge for a refreshing beverage to enjoy some other time.
Unwrap the pie dough, spreading out the parchment. Cut 1/3 off of the pie dough, cover with plastic, and set aside. Use your hands to shape the dough into circle, then roll out until it’s about 1/8" thick, and at least 16" in diameter. Transfer the crust to a 10" pie pan, with the amount of overhang even all the way around, and press it into the bottom and sides of the pan, making sure there are no trapped pockets of air. Use a fork to dock the bottom and sides of the pie crust well, then brush the inside with egg wash. Do not trim the overhang. We’re going to use every last inch of it.
Cut a long piece of aluminum foil and fashion it into some sort of pie divider (as seen in the photo above). First, add the cherries to their own compartment, then add the blueberries. Wait about two minutes to check if there are any extra juices running into the remaining empty third; if there’s quite a bit, wad up a thick paper towel and smoosh it in there to sop it all up. Then, add the apples. (If you find you can’t fit them all in, that’s fine.) Gently remove the foil pie divider; all your fruit thirds should more or less stay put.
Roll out the remaining piece of dough into a thin circle, then lay it over the fruit. Use a sharp paring knife to cut slits where the fruits merge, then score and/or decorate as you please. I used a knife to cut a small pi symbol into the center of mine (which looks very slick), as well as additional slits to help with portioning. Brush well with egg wash.
Find the fattest part of the overhang and begin rolling it up to make a thick, high edge. Keep rolling up the dough, smushing and pulling and sculpting as you go along, then smoothing with your hands as best you can. (This will all be covered on Instagram, too!) Poke your finger down into the edge in 2" increments to make little divots, then make plugs out of aluminum foil and stick them in there to hold them open. Give everything another brushing of egg wash.
Cut a 3-foot-long piece of heavy duty aluminum foil, then fold lengthwise into thirds. Wrap the foil around the outside of the pie to make a tight collar, pressing it right up to the outside of the crust. Crimp the foil to hold it together, then pop the pie in the freezer for one hour (or the refrigerator for at least four hours) to firm up.
Twenty minutes before you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Put the pie on a baking sheet that’s been lined with foil to catch drips, and bake on the center rack of the oven for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 400 and bake for another 30-40 minutes until golden brown. Let the pie cool for 15 minutes before removing the collar and foil plugs.
...make the lemon curd. Whisk the lemon juice, sugar, egg, and egg yolk together in a small saucepan. Then, cut the butter into tiny pieces and toss in. Put the pot over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the butter melts. Turn the heat up to medium high and continue cooking while stirring until the curd thickens so it coats the back of a spoon, then strain into a small bowl and stir vigorously for about a minute to help it cool down. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until the pie is ready.
Use a piping bag or small spoon to fill up the crust divots with lemon curd; you can serve any extra on the side. The pie should cool for at least 30 minutes before you cut and serve, so do your best to resist its charms.