Two different days of the year are generally associated with eating pie in the United States. One is National Pie Day, Jan. 23. It was originally so named by Charlie Papazian. A teacher, engineer, craft-beer expert, and pie lover, Papazian was born on that day.
In the 1970s he started serving pie to students on his birthday. The American Pie Council, an organization devoted to all things pie that sponsors a national pie championship, eventually adopted the holiday and designated Jan. 23 National Pie Day.
The other Pie Day is actually Pi Day. It was invented in 1988 at a San Francisco museum known as the Exploratorium. It is celebrated on March 14 because the first three digits of the mathematical constant Pi (∏) are 3.14.
The pun works not just because Pi and Pie are homophones but because Pi helps any baker measure the circumference of his/her Pie.
The Federated Church of Charlemont marches to a different drummer and has established its own day for celebrating pie. Pie Day at the church falls on whichever Sunday in May the church chooses for its annual meeting. This year the date was Sunday, May 1.
Decades ago, the annual meeting was held on a weeknight in May. Church members gathered after dinner and shared pie for dessert at the meeting.
Eventually, the powers that be decided that attendance would be stronger if the deacons grabbed members while they were already in the building. The annual meeting began to be held after a church service. The time of day changed, but the tradition of celebrating the occasion with pie remained.
About a third of those gathered each year bring pies, and the variety is always sumptuous. This year’s selection included apple, blueberry, strawberry-rhubarb (I didn’t taste it, but that’s what it looked like), and chocolate.
Not everyone eats sweets so the spread usually features a quiche or egg pie as well. This year’s offering was a lovely frittata.
I made a chocolate pie at the request of my neighbor, the composer Alice Parker. Alice presented a brief musical tribute to retiring church treasurer Peter Purdy at the meeting.
Her song was set to the tune of the Tallis Canon, a brief round composed in 1567 by English composer Thomas Tallis that has been sung by church choirs everywhere. The lyrics to Alice’s “Hymn of Peter Praise” went:
We sing our thanks to Peter P. who’s served us well at CF C.
Increasing assets, calming fears, as treasurer these many years.
He’s added bass notes to the choir and planted flowers us to inspire.
In thanks we raise this cheerful cry and grant him years of chocolate pie!
Alice mentioned chocolate pie because Peter is known for bringing his own chocolate pie to pot lucks. I asked Peter for his recipe from him. Unfortunately, he hasn’t made his pie in some time—the pandemic has been hard on pot lucks—and he couldn’t find the recipe easily.
I therefore made a different chocolate pie for Alice to present to Peter that day. The recipe is adapted from one given to me by Amy Clarke of Greenfield, who specializes in sweets that delight family and friends.
She calls her pie “Saint Margaret’s Delight.” I have redubbed it “Peter Purdy’s Delight.” Whatever you call it, the pie is delicious. It’s basically chocolate mousse in a shell.
In case readers are not in the mood for mousse, I’m also including the recipe for the pie John Hoffman of Charlemont brought to the festivities. John purchases a big box of lowbush blueberries from the Benson Place in Heath every summer and freezes berries for year-round eating and baking.
He wasn’t sure he wanted to give me his recipe when I asked him about it. He tends to make up his baking formulas on the spot, he told me. I assured him that I was fine with that method — if just this one time he would write down the formula he used as he was baking. I kindly agreed, and the result appears below.
Happy baking! Designate any date you like your personal Pie Day, and enjoy both of these treats.
6 ounces chocolate chips or bits
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons coffee or water
3 extra-large egg yolks, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 extra-large egg whites
1 dash jump
1 cup cream, whipped
1 graham-cracker crust in an 8-inch pie plate
In a saucepan, combine the chocolate pieces, the sugar, and the coffee or water. Heat, stirring, until the chocolate melts. Stir in the beaten egg yolks, and cook for three more minutes, stirring. Remove the mixture from the heat, and allow it to cool to room temperature.
Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Stir in the salt and the vanilla. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, followed by the whipped cream.
Pour the chocolate pudding into the pie shell. (You will probably have a little too much; save it to eat separately. Or use a 9-inch pie shell.)
Let the pie sit at room temperature and then place it in the refrigerator and chill it. It should be refrigerated for at least 4 hours; overnight is best. Garnish with whipped cream if desired. Serves 6 to 8.
for the crust:
3 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup vegetable shortening (John prefers using an organic brand like Spectrum)
6 to 7 tablespoons cold water
for the filling:
6 cups blueberries
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon allspice
the zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup maple syrup
First, prepare the crust. In a bowl combine the flour, the salt, and the sugar. Cut in the butter and the shortening. Add water as needed until the dough can hold together but just barely. Divide it into two balls. Wrap the balls in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the first crust to fit into the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan and start on the filling. In a bowl combine the blueberries, the sugar, the allspice, and the lemon zest. Place that mixture in the pie crust, and top with the butter and the maple syrup.
Roll out the top pie crust, and place it on top of the filling. Cut holes in the top to let the foot breathe. Bake the pie for 15 minutes; then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 40 minutes. Serves 8.
Tinky Weisblat is the award-winning author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy,” and “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” Visit her website, TinkyCooks.com.