It's Pi day!

i-64cec6ac359df684046f561c53ed61f3-vinegar pie.JPGOld time vinegar pie

It's Pi day or Pi(e) day...either way you look at it today is 3/14 so a good excuse to eat some pie and Scienceblogs and Serious Eats have teamed up to hold a pi(e) contest. Upon discovering this contest I enthusiastically embarked upon dreaming up something fitting for the famous number. After inspiration from some of the previous year's submissions, I came up with the idea of 'irrationally good' pie, since pi is an irrational number. I wanted something that sounded like it shouldn't be in a pie, yet it was good. My main hurdle was I couldn't think of anything that might be both tasty, and equally it needed to sound like something that shouldn't be in a pie. So what does one do when in a bind? Call in an expert.

I needed an expert in the field and consultant, so I called up my longtime good friend, and food writer Jess Thomson over at hogwash in a moment of much needed creative direction. Her first response: Think Vinegar

My first reaction: ewwwwww

But with a little google searching I found an extremely easy recipe for Old Time Vinegar Pie. For someone like me who isn't DYING to try out that newest greatest recipe, simple is good. I was slightly intrigued by the vinegar pie because I thought: surely it CAN'T taste good...can it?

But after talking further, we brainstormed some other ideas and remembered one of her own gems: A chocolate basil torte. The last time I had visited her was shortly after she made this amazing dessert so when she reminded me about this recipe, I knew I had to make both. As this is actually more of a tort, I ended up taking this recipe and making it more pie-like by putting it into a pie crust from Jamie Oliver (minus the lemon zest).

So for Pi day I made not one but TWO irrationally delicious pies.

While I made both pies and both turned out quite well, I only entered the chocolate basil pie into the contest. Head over there to vote for it! It IS irrationally tasty! (How to vote: Go to the website and then create an account and you can vote at that point.)

i-d73daeb86b5f195d73512ea391ee3775-chocbasil pie.JPG

Irrationally good chocolate basil pie


Irrationally Good Chocolate Basil Pie filling from Hogwash

Although a true torte typically replaces a cake's flour with nuts or breadcrumbs, this deeply chocolaty, dense confection, rimmed with dark ganache, just seems too decadent for the word cake. It's a take-off on a chocolate-basil truffle I tasted Seattle's Theo Chocolate.

Note: If you have a double boiler, use that to melt the chocolate.

TIME: 40 minutes active time
MAKES: 8 to 10 servings

For the cake:
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces, plus extra for greasing the pan
4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate (65% to 75% cacao)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 packed cup fresh basil (leaves only)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

For the ganache:
4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate (65% to 75% cacao)
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and center a rack in the middle of the oven. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of wax paper or parchment paper, and butter the paper.

Place the butter and the chocolate in a small saucepan and melt over very low heat, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat as soon as the mixture is smooth, transfer to a large mixing bowl, stir in the vanilla and salt, and set aside.

Next, make a basil sugar: pulse the sugar and the basil together in a food processor until the basil is very finely chopped and uniformly green in color. The sugar will look slightly wet.

Add the basil sugar to the chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, blending completely between additions. Sift the cocoa powder over the batter and fold it in until no dry spots remain. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top with a spatula.

Bake the cake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top of the cake barely begins to crack. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then invert the cake onto a round serving plate.

While the cake cools, make the ganache: place the chocolate and the cream in a small saucepan, and stir constantly over very low heat until melted and smooth. Using a flat spatula or knife, spread the ganache over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides, if desired. (Hint: Using the ganache immediately will mean a thin coating that drips easily down the sides of the cake; in this case, it's best to frost the cake over a cooling rack, then transfer it to a serving plate. You can also let the ganache cool a bit, then spread it just on the top, more like a thin frosting.)

Serve warm or at room temperature. To store, let cool completely, then cover and keep at room temperature up to 3 days.


1 c. sugar
3 heaping tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 c. cold water
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
2 tbsp. butter
6 tbsp. vinegar
1 (9 inch) pie crust, baked

Mix sugar and flour in saucepan. Add water, egg yolks (reserve egg whites), whole egg, butter and vinegar. Cook until thick. Pour into baked 9 inch pie shell. For Meringue: Beat reserved egg whites until stiff. Add 4 tablespoons sugar, spread over pie. Brown meringue lightly.

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No contest! Why didn't anyone think of chocolate and basil before? This combination is irrational, decadent, and probably illegal, so it gets my vote.

By Deena Tuttle (not verified) on 17 Mar 2010 #permalink