Yesterday, March 14th, was pi day. A palindromic pi day, in fact. So to celebrate and provide myself with a mental challenge I propose 100 Days of Pie. The idea is to conceptualize and write a brief “menu” style description of a new pie every single day for 100 days. I plan to avoid overly simple and common pies on their own, but instead to add to them. Now I am not, for what are hopefully obvious reasons, going to bake a pie each day, though I do plan to make some of them and occasionally provide my readership with a recipe. Not all of these idea will be good ones, some may turn out to be quite awful in execution. That’s not the point, though. No, the point is to train my brain to think better about flavours and combinations. Besides, I trust my palate enough to say that pretty much all of them will work for the better. For this there will be an extra post each Wednesday detailing the previous week of pie. Because today is the first day of this venture, I will of course make a pie for you and get things kicked off properly. First though a little terminology in crust (the most important part of the pie).
Flaky Crust: Probably the most common pie crust and the one I use most often. Also called Long Flake crust, it is a versatile pie crust.
Shortcrust: This crust has a texture that is often described as sandy. Similar to shortbread cookie, this is a very delicate pie crust that crumbles instead of breaks.
Here are my first seven Days of Pie.
Day 1: Strawberry Mojito
Shortcrust shell, open faced with fresh strawberries, lime zest, fresh mint and a splash of white rum. Topped with whip cream.
Day 2: Fig Balsamic
a savoury tart sized pie. Flaky crust, fresh figs, balsamic vinegar and just a smidge of honey.
Day 3: Ancient Apple
Apples, pomegranate, red wine and honey. Free form (no pie pan) and made only with ingredients available to the ancient Romans. I have no evidence that pies like this existed in Roman times, but the components were all present.
Day 4: Blood Orange Meringue
Blood orange custard in a flaky crust, with coriander spiced meringue.
Day 5: Blackberry Gin
Flaky crust and open faced. Blackberries and candied lime zest with a healthy shot of gin.
Day 6: Strawberry Ganache
Chocolate shortcrust with ganache poured over fresh cut strawberries.
Day 7: Cherry Cocoa Nib Meringue
Today’s pie Recipe.
Cherries, I feel, are wonderfully complimented by cocoa nibs. It is possible that you are unfamiliar with cocoa nibs and I wouldn’t blame you. I will often describe cocoa nibs as being the shell of the cocoa bean, which is close enough to the truth to get by. They are somewhat bitter (a flavour with an overly bad name in my mind) very slightly chocolatey. Anyway here’s for the filling:
500g Thawed Frozen Cherries (it’s winter still, good luck getting fresh)
20g Cocoa Nibs
140g Liquid (mostly the juice from the cherries, topped off with a bit of water)
First, blind bake a Flaky pie shell at 400°for ten minutes. Put the Cherries and Cocoa Nibs together in a bowl. Bring the Liquid to a boil. While that is heating, mix together the cornstarch and sugar. Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the liquids and continue whisking until it begins to thicken. Pour over the cherries and mix together. Next pour the whole shebang into your prepared pie shell and bake at 400° for about 25 minutes.
Since we have the tart or the cherries and the bitter of the nibs, I can’t help but feel a meringue topping would do wonders. So we’ll do a Swiss Meringue today.
2 Egg Whites
Whisk the sugar and whites over a double boiler until the mixture reaches around 50°C, then remove from heat and whisk to stiff peaks. Spoon over your cooled pie, then either torch or put under your broiler until golden brown and delicious.
As to how this experiment turned out, it’s not fully a winner. It’s good, though I want to try again using red rather than the black cherries I had access to. The cocoa nibs work well for this pie and it’s given me something new to work with.