14th of March 2010

The Method of Exhaustion Chocolate Pi(e)

It’s 3.14 and we all know what that means…mm, hmm. You betcha. It’s Pi Day. We’re honoring the brilliant insight of ol’ Archimedes that the ratio of any (yes, ANY) circle’s circumference to its diameter is 3.14 (well it goes on a bit beyond 2 decimal places but I’ll stop it there). Logically this means we have yet another excuse to bake a pie! But this year it’s different. This year we have a chance to win a prize for our effort. A chance to win some money. How much was that cash prize again? Three hundred and seventy? No, that’s not right. Three hundred and twenty-nine? Good grief, what is it?

So we were at a little bit of a loss as to what to bake. So many word plays came to mind but ultimately we went with what we like to eat — chocolate. Triple quantities of dark chocolate. Because good chocolate can be transcendental and my love for it is irrational; attributes of Pi itself. Naturally it must be festooned with visual symbolism as well. We inscribed polygons of whipped cream inside the circle to illustrate the method of exhaustion that Archimedes used to figure out the area inside a circle. Polygon upon polygon upon polygon. We stopped after a few but I think he went on for quite some time.


{thanks, wikipedia and CC licensing}

In the spirit of full disclosure I’d like to mention that I personally don’t understand any of this. I keep a tip chart in my wallet at all times because I can’t even calculate 15% tip on restaurant bills. And don’t give me that ‘move the decimal point over and add…blah blah blah.’ I can’t do it, I just can’t I tell you!

Where were we? Oh yes, let the decadence begin with this cream pie recipe adapted from Mark Bittman’s in How to Cook Everything.


2 cups flour

2/3 cup unsalted butter


1/4 cup ice water


Mix dry ingredients. Cut in butter with a knife. Add ice water and blend. Roll out and press into ungreased pie pan. Bake for 12 minutes in a pre-heated 425 degree oven. Turn temperature down to 350 and bave another 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove and cool.


3/4 cup sugar

2 Tbsp cornstarch

pinch salt

1 whole egg + 2 egg yolks

2 1/2 cups whole milk

4 to 5 oz chopped 72% dark (good) chocolate

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 pint heavy whipping cream

2 Tbsp confectioner’s sugar

1/2 tsp bourbon vanilla

chocolate shavings


Combine the sugar with the cornstarch and salt in a saucepan. In a separate bowl mix the egg and milk. Add the milk-egg into the sugar mixture over medium heat and whisk just enough to eliminate lumps. Then stir, stir, stir, and don’t stop stirring while the mixture comes to a low boil and thickens (about ten minutes). With that free hand, or the hand of a friend, add the chocolate while the milk mix cooks. Don’t boil rapidly or  you might curdle the milk- ew. Once thickened, stir in the butter and vanilla. Set aside but be sure to lick the spoon. Mmmm.

While the pudding, er, chocolate cream cools, whip up some whipped cream topping. Beat the heavy cream with confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until it forms stiff peaks. Cover and refrigerate until ready to decorate the pie.

Once the chocolate custard cools then pour into the cooled pie crust. Cover and refrigerate until it’s well set. Remove cover and decorate with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Even though you’ll want to, don’t really eat two pieces in one sitting. Pace yourself! And remember, we might not all be good at math but we can all enjoy pi(e). 

{Thanks, Dad ; )}

13th of March 2010
I suppose you can be bad at math and still be smart but everyone who’s good at math is smart. 
Tom Pearson
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