Friday, March 14, 2014

Pi Day 2014


Happy Pi Day!  (3.14)  I think this is the 7th Pi Day our fam has celebrated.  We love it- we make pizza and pie every year.  :)  Pictured above is Crispy Thin-Crust pizza, with leftover Alfredo sauce instead of red sauce, a mix of Italian cheeses, bacon sprinkled around the edge, and green pepper strips making the Pi sign. Below is our cool Pi plate; thanks to a friend for pointing this out to me a while ago; I got it for my husband, who loves math.  

Pictured above is Caramel-Pecan Cheesecake Pie with my mom's crust recipe.  This one is so delicious, and pretty easy, as well!  The hardest part is making the pie crust, which isn't even that hard.  (Recipes posted at the bottom of this post.)
Pictured above (and below) are mini Key Lime pies.  For this recipe, I just use a 6-pack of mini graham cracker crusts, and cut the pie recipe in half- it's perfect for six minis.  This is the kids' fave pie; it's a little too sweet for me.  

Thin-Crust Crispy Pizza
adapted from here, via Lauren's Latest
makes two 14-16 inch pizzas (I double this)

1 cup warm water
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey (or sugar)
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
3 cups bread flour (give or take 1/2 cup…depending on humidity)

Pizza Sauce
Toppings like mozzarella & Parm cheese, red onions, red peppers, olives, pepperoni

1. In a large mixing bowl, preferably that of a stand mixer, stir yeast and honey or sugar into warm water. Sit for 5-10 minutes or until bubbles form and mixture starts to foam. Pour in salt, oil and half the flour and mix. Once that flour is incorporated, start adding flour in bit by bit until you get the pizza dough to the consistency you want: slightly tacky, but when you touch it it doesn’t stick to your hands.

2. Once you reach this stage, turn the mixer on high to knead for about a few minutes, adding bits of more flour if needed. The dough should be smooth and easy to work with. And the bowl should be clean. Lightly grease the bowl & the dough so it doesn’t dry out, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise 1-2 hours.

3. During the last 30 minutes or rising time, preheat your oven to 425-450 F or the hottest it will go. Before turning on the oven, place your pizza stone inside. (An upside down cookie sheet is supposed to work in place of a pizza stone, but I've never tried it....)

4. Tear off two pieces of parchment paper that fit your cookie sheet. Divide dough in half, and roll/stretch each piece of dough thinly over each piece of parchment. I try to go to the edges of the parchment, getting the dough as thin as I can.

5. Spread each raw pizza with your favorite pizza sauce, and then a layer of cheese, and then any toppings you want. Make sure to use a lighter hand with the toppings so the pizza doesn't get weighed down and soggy under them. What is shown in the photos above was a perfect amount.

6. Bake pizzas one at a time for 9-12 minutes in the hot oven. Do this by carefully removing the hot pizza stone from the oven and setting it on hot pads. Working quickly, slide one pizza, complete with the parchment, onto the hot stone and place the whole thing in the oven and shut the door. When pizza is done, crust and cheese will be browned and golden.

Mom's Pie Crust
(makes 2 single crust pies or one double; will only need half recipe for pie below)

1 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour, stirred and measured
1/4 cup cold water

1.  Measure shortening into bowl. Add salt and half of flour. Stir with a spoon until ingredients cream together and mixture is smooth and satiny. Add water and remaining flour. Stir with spoon until mixture clings together in ball. Roll out as desired on a generously floured board. Don't be afraid to handle or overmix. Makes 2 (9-inch) pastry shells or enough for 1 double pie.

To use this pie crust as a filled (pre-baked crust), roll out, place in pie pan, prick with a fork, and bake at 450 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.

*If desired, wrap in plastic wrap to freeze. I have frozen these (unbaked, in a ball) for 3 months, and then just thaw on the counter. It still rolls out very well and, after baking, tastes just like you made it fresh.

Caramel-Pecan Cheesecake Pie
from Taste of Home

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 unbaked pastry shell (9 inches)
1-1/4 cups chopped pecans
1 cup caramel ice cream topping

1.  Preheat oven to 375.  In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, 1 egg and vanilla until smooth. Spread into pastry shell; sprinkle with pecans. In a small bowl, whisk remaining eggs; gradually whisk in caramel topping until blended. Pour slowly over pecans. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned (loosely cover with foil after 20 minutes if pie browns too quickly). Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight before slicing. Refrigerate leftovers. Yield: 6-8 servings. Editor's Note: This recipe was tested with Smucker’s ice cream topping.

Mini Key Lime Pies
adapted from

1 6-pack prepared graham cracker mini pie/tart shells
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt (light sour cream works)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons key lime juice
1/2 tablespoon grated lime zest, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2. In a medium bowl, combine condensed milk, sour cream, lime juice, and lime rind. Mix well and pour into mini graham cracker crusts.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 5 to 8 minutes, until tiny pinhole bubbles burst on the surface of pie. DO NOT BROWN! Chill pie thoroughly before serving. Garnish with lime slices and whipped cream if desired.

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