Pi(e) in a Jar: a sweet & simple equation

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One of my blog teammates here at King Arthur Flour recently made the following request: “Hey, do something clever for Pi Day, OK?”

Hmmm, Pi Day… March 14. 3/14. 3.1416… etc. Pi, as in pie.

It’s a cliché to marry pie with pi; I mean, on March 14, EVERYONE does it. But heck, why not? Sure, let’s put “clever Pi Day post” in the schedule.

Every couple of months or so we go over the blog schedule to make sure it’s up to snuff. We want our posts to be engaging; and we want to entice you to bake. Because, after all, that’s our goal. We want EVERYONE to bake.

OK, the cynic in you might say, “Well duh, yeah, you want to sell flour.”

True. We do want to sell King Arthur flour. It’s the product that supports our bottom line.

But flour only satisfies one-third of our bottom line. King Arthur Flour actually has what’s called a triple bottom line: People, Planet, Profit.

Like any employee-owned business, we have to make a profit to support ourselves; we work with AND for one another, to that end, every day.

But we’re not just about dollar profits.

We want to profit our environment, helping to create a world with better air, greener land, and healthier natural resources. We recycle (of course!). We encourage car pooling with designated reserved parking spots. We offer refueling stations for electric cars. We enthusiastically take part in Vermont’s “green commute,” which supports walking, biking, and taking public transportation to work.

We also want to profit our people beyond the paycheck. King Arthur has a vibrant wellness program, including everything from TRX to yoga to “Mindful Monday,” an hour of meditation in the middle of the day. To say nothing of rewards for not smoking; for regular gym workouts; and even for simply having a yearly physical.

IMG_7673Outside our own doors, we cook dinners for those who might otherwise go hungry; we raise our hammers and ladders for Habitat for Humanity; we do trail work, volunteer at our local hospital, and read with elementary school children. All of this is supported by the 40 paid hours each employee is encouraged to take every year, in order to donate time to charitable causes.

We like to think of it this way: First we do good; then we’ll do well.

King Arthur Flour is one of the founding members of B Corp, “People using business as a force for good.” That about sums it up.

So, our bottom line? It’s richly fulfilling, both for those of us who work here – and those in the community who “profit” by our good work.

Wow, that was a long and winding path from Pi Day, wasn’t it? I confess, I get carried away talking about this neat company.

Let’s get back to baking, and “something clever” for Pi Day: pi pies.

And when Pi Day is over, substitute top crusts for numbers…

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…and you’ve got delicious, portable, single-serve Pies in Jars – which I think is very clever indeed!

IMG_3880First, go down to the hardware store and grab yourself a package of 4-ounce jelly jars. They come 16 to a package; you’ll only need 12 jars for this recipe.

You won’t have any trouble finding uses for the extra jars, though – they make perfect spice containers. Dump spices from their original container into these wide-mouth jars, and you’ll never again struggle with your measuring spoon being too large for the spice can.

At first I considered using wide-mouth half-pint jars, and that’s certainly an option. But in the end, the consensus from my taste-testers was that the 4-ounce size made a lovely little individual dessert.

Next, dig out your favorite pie filling recipe.

IMG_3808I’m using the filling for Bumbleberry Pie, with the cranberry option: half cranberries, half blueberries/raspberries/blackberries.

At this time of year my berries are coming from the freezer, so I dump them into a bowl to thaw a bit.

Pi1Next, I mix the berries with the remaining filling ingredients; then transfer the whole thing to a saucepan. I slowly warm the filling until the berries thaw completely and release their juices; then cook until thickened and syrupy before removing from the burner.

I’ll set the filling aside while I make our Classic Double Pie Crust.

IMG_3811Here it is, chilled and ready to roll.

Turn on the oven; 400°F should do it.

Pi2I divide the crust in half, and use a 2″ biscuit cutter (or 2 1/8″, if that’s what you have) to cut 12 rounds of pastry.

“Gee, doesn’t look like you’re going to get 12 rounds from that crust…”

That’s because I’m experimenting with using a larger cutter, for larger canning jars. In the end, the 4-ounce canning jars and 2″ biscuit cutter prove a perfect match.

pi3When cutting cookies, biscuits, or pie crust, I don’t gather the scraps and squash them into a ball, then re-roll. I simply shove them close together, press down gently with the rolling pin, then continue to cut.

The tradeoff is slightly lumpy (but tender) cutouts, compared to more finished, tougher cutouts. I’ll take tender over tough any day.

Pi9After cutting 12 rounds from one piece of pastry, I take the other piece and use a set of number cutters to cut out the appropriate numbers for pi. (Don’t forget the decimal point!) Unfortunately, we don’t sell number cutters; I borrowed them from a friend.

When Pi Day is over, I’ll forgo the numbers and cut a dozen 2″ rounds from each of the two rolled-out crusts. Hint: Sprinkle any leftover pastry scraps with cinnamon-sugar, and bake alongside the pies.

Yes, you’re right, some of those rounds are bigger than the others; do as I say, not as I do! Again, I was experimenting with larger sizes; you want 2 dozen 2″ rounds.

I sprinkle half the rounds with sparkling white (coarse) sugar; these will be top crusts.

pi8I bake the rounds until golden brown. This takes about 15 minutes for the rounds, slightly less for the numbers: maybe 12 to 13 minutes. I remove them from the oven, and let them cool for at least 10 minutes or so before assembling the pies.

Note: At this point, everything can be stashed for a day, or several days, or even longer. While you can make everything ahead, though, it’s best to actually assemble these pies the same day you plan on serving them, to prevent the crusts from becoming soggy. Cover the filling and refrigerate it; wrap the crusts well, and store at room temperature. I suppose you could freeze both components for super-long storage, though I haven’t tried this.

Pi6I place half the rounds (the ones without sugar) into the bottom of the jars. Some have spread as they baked, and they’re a tiny bit too big; I GENTLY cut them down to size with my 2″ biscuit cutter.

Pi7The filling has stiffened up, so I warm it gently in the microwave, until it’s a more “flowable” consistency. I scoop a scant 1/4 cup filling into each jar; a muffin scoop works well here.

IMG_3859Finally, I place the pi numbers atop the filling.

Next time, when I’m not celebrating Pi Day…

IMG_3877…I’ll simply top the filling with the sugared pastry rounds.

I serve some of these immediately, to absolute rave reviews. As mentioned above, I’m afraid people will think they’re too small; but, just like Goldilocks and Baby Bear, the feedback is, “These are just right!”

Other pies I cool completely, top the jars with their lids for easy storage and transportation, and enjoy within a few days.

Just to see what will happen, I store a couple of pies for 10 days (at room temperature) before serving. They’re still tasty, though the crusts have softened. Refreshing via a brief trip through the microwave helps.

IMG_4174Here’s my 10-day-old Pie in a Jar: crust still flaky (though soft), berry filling still delicious.

I can’t wait to try this with individual apple pies for Thanksgiving, little lemon meringue pies with baked meringue cookies on top… banana cream with vanilla cookies as bottom crust… And, of course, chocolate cream on a chocolate cookie with a marshmallow cream cap.

The CLEVER possibilities are just endless!

 

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      It’s so good to see you here again Naughty! I’ve missed your posts. Happy Pi(e) Day! ~ MJ

  1. Jamie

    OMG! PJ! These are adorable! I love them! How do you think they would do in the freezer? Maybe saving the top crust for after they thawed? (When its just me and my husband at home, your freezer becomes your best friend.)

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Jamie, I think they’d do well in the freezer. Thaw at room temperature with the lid off, then warm in the microwave – that would probably be best. The crust texture may suffer, but they’ll still be yummy… PJH

  2. Kat H.

    It’s also a Pi month: March 2014 = 3/2014 = 3/14
    A significant other trying to get pie all month using this tactic. It worked. Last week it was cranberry-strawberry hand pies and this week is quiche. Not sure about the rest of the other 2 full weeks yet. Maybe some kind of galette, pot pie, empanadas or shepherds pie.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Oh gosh, it really is pie month! Hmm maybe try a pork pie? I know Susan Reid loves her Salmon Pie too… Jon@KAF

  3. Jen

    Oh, that looks like it’s the perfect add to the lunch box size. DS#1 would love it. I’ll have to find something safe for the 5 yr old and middle schooler to take to school, glass will not go into their lunch boxes.

    One more thing to add to my to-do list.

    Reply
    1. The Eclectic Hobo

      Try the plastic containers made by Ball for making freezer jelly. They should work great and are BPA free.

  4. Sherry

    I’ve done this very same thing, but for a ladies’ luncheon and served the pie in various teacups with matching saucers. We made cherry pie filling and peach pie filling…topped with sugared pastry discs. The ladies’ were very complimentary.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Oh that sounds like a very pretty presentation! I bet they were thrilled. Jon@KAF

  5. Barbara

    I have loved pie in a jar for some time. It’s one of the few really great desserts I can make with Splenda, for one thing, and my pies are a wonderful freezer-cooking item. When I make either fruit pies or pot pies (I make both chicken and beef/mushroom), I make a batch of them, then I freeze them with raw pastry then vacuum pack them in Food Saver bags. I often share them with an elderly neighbor, and we can just pop two at a time in the oven for us and have an easy-meal night. I can take out several dessert pies if we have company surprise us. I line the entire jar with pastry and cut a cute shape out of the top for venting, using my mini fondant cutters. I will never, ever go without pies in jars again. They are SO good, SO appealing to look at, and SO easy to make and freeze!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Thanks so much for expanding on this blog post, Barbara – so many good ideas! Really appreciate your feedback – PJH

    2. skeptic7

      What size jars do you use for pot pies? I can’t see using the small 4 oz jars for that. Ball doesn’t make the half pint wide mouth jars anymore but if they did that would be perfect. These had a slight taper from the mouth to the bottom.

    3. Amy Trage

      The 4 oz. jars would be small for a meal-sized pie, but you could certainly use the idea for savory as well as sweet! ~Amy

    4. The Eclectic Hobo

      Try using Weck canning jars. The have a rubber ring. The are all glass and come in a multitude of shapes and sizes. The are availble online, Cost Plus World Marketplace and Crate & Barrel. The are versatile, and the tulip shaped ones make great decorative gifts when filled, but all are pretty.

  6. Robert

    These little pies gave me a great idea I thought I’d share. In the summer, I think I’ll can some pie filling in these jars so that whenever I want pie (or cobbler or crisp) I’ll just open the jar, add the appropriate topping, and be off to the races in no time!

    Thanks!

    Reply
  7. Carolyn

    Thank you for talking about KAF sustainability. I was a fan of KAF, but after reading about your triple bottom line I’m now even more of a fan and will continue to support your company. It’s worth paying a bit more to know that employees, the environment and society are benefiting. In all of my dealings with KAF (blog, customer service) I have been impressed with the quality and attitude of the people – quality attracts quality.
    Awesome!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Carolyn, thanks so much for your feedback here, and your support. We truly do try to do the right thing – in so many ways, every day. Thankfully, we have centuries of “doing the right thing” behind us – King Arthur has been a social leader for a long, long time. And we look to continue “doing good and doing well” for centuries to come. Thanks again – and happy baking! PJH

  8. Paul from Ohio

    I’m thinking Chicken Pot Pies – perfect serving size perhaps for Weight Watchers aficionados!

    Reply
  9. gaa

    I echo Carolyn’s sentiments above. I have used KAF products for years because they are simply the best. But that isn’t all that makes KAF the wonderful company that it is. From you bloggers, who I read religiously and from whom I have learned SO many things, to the writers and editors of the Baking Sheet, who consistently provide their readers with amazing recipes to try, to Customer Service, who have never been anything but kind, pleasant and a true pleasure to deal with, to … . I could go on and on. Now, your sustainability mission and your efforts at being a good corporate neighbor have given me still more reasons to cheer “From North to South, and East to West, use KAF and you will definitely “Bake your Best!” Thank you for ALL that you do!

    Reply
  10. Jeni

    I like the concept, and I enjoyed reading Sherry’s idea about using tea cups. I’ve got some other containers (e.g. custard cups) that will work well, too. Thanks!

    Reply
  11. Cheryl Romano

    Thanks for such a fantastic idea! You people are just fantastic. Years ago my husband was going to the store and I needed flour ( he already knew what brand to get) He came home with three 10# bags which was more than I needed at that time. I called your company to see if I could freeze it until needed and you told me yes, that it was recommended. Have been doing that ever since. Have been a baker and cake decorator for over 40 years and have never used any flour but yours. Thanks for a great product!!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Cheryl, we really appreciate your loyalty! Thanks so much for sharing your kind words here – PJH

  12. Buffy

    Hello P.J.,
    Bless you for being so articulate. It was a chance encounter with a note from you which headed a KAF sale ad, now many years ago, that stirred my interest in KAF which is my ONLY subscription indulgence. (I’m not an internet fan but e-mail works).
    Your opening essay for PI day is brilliant. I will cut, paste, and forward to all the people I know, to whom I have been extolling the values of KAF.
    KAF flour is my baking staple for anything meant to be consumed, grocery store brands however are perfect for things like play dough and ornaments destined for varnishing.
    I don’t participate in many of the frequent sales because of the shipping expense to Alaska.
    I used to feel a bit guilty about ordering when there was a ‘free shipping” opportunity and the rates to here, although not free, were certainly much reduced. Customer Service talked me out of concience and into guilt-free purchase so now my chest freezer has a good supply of my favorite 4 flours and pompanoosic porridge……..
    THANK YOU ALL.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Buffy, thank you SO much for your very kind words. I’m glad we were able to provide you with some “shareable” material. We work hard at being a company that does the right thing; we don’t often blow our horn, but quietly go about our business. So it’s wonderful when our customers notice and spread the word for us! And our CS team is right – we’re happy to offer you reduced shipping, form one extreme corner of the country to the other; we aim to keep you well-supplied with both KAF and that Pompanoosuc porridge! Thanks again for writing – PJH

    1. Mindy

      I should have commented after I made them! Served for a dinner party recently and they were delicious. So cute in the little canning jars. Everyone loved them. Will make again!!

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for letting us know what a hit they were! Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Oooh I would try blueberry, peach, blackberry, apple, chocolate cream (refrigerate any cream filled pies in a jar)…just about any pie would work! Jon@KAF

  13. Barbara

    For those who asked, I use half-pint (8 oz.) jars for fruit pies, and my favorites are the Kerr straight-sided ones, but I also use Wal-Mart’s Mainstays brand because they are easy to get and only cost about 50 cents each, so I can afford to give them away to elderly neighbors. For the savory pies, I use the new Ball Elite pints. They are short and wide, and they provide a nice full meal. I have also used the empty 13 ounce canned chicken cans (bought in bulk at Sam’s Club) when I didn’t have enough jars for chicken or beef pot pies. I make the pies by pressing strips of raw pastry dough on the bottom and sides of the jars, and cut a round for the top using the ring of a two-part Mason jar lid. I then put the lid on a jar and freeze, or if I’m using the cans, I freeze them all on a baking sheet then vacuum seal them in quart bags made for that purpose. They never get freezer burn that way; I highly recommend it! With 3 sons, I have made lots of MMREs over the years, including these. Mom’s Meals, Ready To Eat are a way of life for us. Perfect for evening meetings, long tiring days, late appointments and no time to cook, these are little lifesavers to make any day pie day. Start them in a cold oven when frozen in a jar, minus the lid, letting them heat up gradually so there’s no thermal shock causing breakage. I’ve never lost one!

    Tomorrow I’m canning my homemade salsa in half-pints which also become the individual serving bowls for a chips and salsa appetizer! I often serve soup heated in my Ball Elite pints, and I make ticking-fabric baskets to put them in, which are microwave safe to act as a pot holder/bowl cozy, and which insulates the bowl and keeps my wood table safe.

    Reply
    1. BCE

      Thank you Barbara for the great tips. What temp do you put the oven on? How long do you let them bake? I cook on Sundays for the week and these would be super to add to my repitoire.

    2. Barbara

      If baking from frozen, place the pies on a baking sheet in a cold oven, then turn it on to 375F and bake for 50-60 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and you see the filling bubbling. If banking from fresh, bake for about 45 minutes at 375F.

      I’ve been buying frozen fruit in bags to use lately (winter time) because it’s so fast and easy to assemble the pies. But when peaches and cherries are in season, or when the best apples appear in the fall, I use fresh. It’s easy to make a little basket from a brown lunch bag to carry a hot pie to an ailing neighbor.

  14. Elizabeth

    Thank you for all your good ideas. My aunt ,a terrific baker used only King Arthur.
    Her simple answer to why was always the same
    “It is the best” and nothing would change her mind during over her 80 year lifetime !!

    Reply
  15. linda brecht

    If you are not canning the assembled product…to preserve it for 10 days…at room temperature…aren’t you afraid of it molding or going bad? Its a good idea and cute and freezing for later use sounds good..just concerned about just capping it and letting it sit out in room temperature for 10 days ….

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We did not have any trouble using this method, but please feel free to freeze the pies instead. Jon@KAF

  16. redbipsie

    Next year will be an even bigger event when the date is 3/14/15. That aside your Bumbleberry pie with the cranberry option is to die for. You are my go to site whenever I wish to get rave reviews with my cooking. Keep up the great work!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      And the year after that will be “true” pi – 3-14-16! I’m glad you like the cran-bumbleberry filling – it’s so flavorful, isn’t it? Thanks for your kind words – PJH

  17. eric

    Great idea! When I first skimmed it, I thought you were baking them in the canning jars. Has anyone ever tried that? I have done this in ceramic ramekins, but not glass jars.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Eric, apparently the typical glass jelly jar isn’t meant for oven use, so I’d avoid baking in jars, unless you can find ones labeled oven-safe. I’d love to try pumpkin pies that way… PJH

    2. Barbara

      I AM baking them in canning jars, Eric. If canning jars can withstand pressure canning, they can handle an oven. I’ve baked dozens and dozens of pies in canning jars, and never had a broken one. The 4 oz. ones are too small for us, so I use the larger, and heavier jars. If starting with a frozen one, be sure to start it in a cold oven, then turn on the heat.

  18. Kim

    Just wanted to make sure i understood from the Main Recipe….After baking the cobbler in the jar, you can put the lid and ring on and let them seal, and then they will keep unfrozen or unrefrigerated for up to 10 days. The crust was the only thing i would be worried about, that it might mold in that time span?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      No, I actually didn’t bake it in the jar; the jars aren’t recommended for baking. I put in a crust, then the cooked filling, then another crust, and shut the lid. I imagine in hot, humid weather it might become moldy fairly quickly; but in winter, when I did it, it lasted a surprisingly long time. You could always refrigerate if you’re worried about mold, then reheat just prior to serving. Good luck – PJH

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