Celebrating Pi Day with (Circular) Food
Every March 14 (3/14) celebrates the wonder that is π, the constant number that begins 3.1415. If you have never observed Pi Day in your home, this is the year to join in on the fun!
Read on for ideas and information:
- A Basic Review of Pi
- Who "Discovered" Pi?
- Quick Pi Day Meal Ideas
- Special Pi Day Recipes: Zippy Zucchini Quiche, Chicken Pot Pie, Homemade Pizza Dough & Homemade Pie Crust
A Basic Review of Pi (π)
Early mathematicians noticed that while circles can exist in different sizes, they all retain the same shape. Therefore, they posited, a special relationship must exist among the elements of a circle. That mathematical relationship is Pi (π). Divide the circumference (the measurement of a circle's perimeter, or length around it) by its diameter (the distance from one side of a circle to the other, or the radius multipled by 2) of any circle by its diameter and the answer is always 3.14159, or pi.
π = Circumference / Diameter
You may remember the equation for the area of a circle:
The area of a circle is equal to Pi times the squared value of the circle's radius. A radius (r) is the distance from a circle's center point to its perimeter; or, 1/2 of the circle's diameter.
Pi's most wonderful attribute is that it is a constant number--a fixed, known quantity. No debate needed. Just as we do not need to consider (outside of Philosophy 101) whether the sun will rise tomorrow, pi will always be 3.14159 (rounded).
Who "Discovered" Pi?
Pi has always existed, but ancient architecture shows that the Egyptians and Babylonians were aware of the constant ratio between the circumference and diameter of circles as early as 2550 B.C., which is when the building began on the Great Pyramid at Giza. Its ratio of perimeter to height equals 2(π).
The first written evidence of the understanding and development of the circumference-diameter ratio (pi) dates back to 1900 B.C., when the Egyptians and Babylonians estimated pi as 3.16 and 3.125, respectively. The Greek mathematician Archimedes of Syracuse is considered the first to accurately calculate an estimation of pi during the 287 B.C. to 212 B.C. era. His calculation involved finding the areas of two polygons: the polygon that was inscribed inside a circle; and, the polygon in which a circle was circumscribed (see above illustration). He used a 96-sided polygon to arrive at a value for pi that fell between 3.1408 and 3.14285. Chinese mathematician Zhu Chongzhi (429 A.D.-500 A.D.) further fine tuned the value of pi by with a similar method and using a 12,288-sided polygon to arrive at π = 355/113.
In the 15th century, Indian mathematician Madhavan of Sangamagramam calculated what is now known as the Madhava-Leibniz series (previously known as the Gregory-Leibniz series), an infinite series formula. Madhavan calculated pi to 11 decimal places. Two hundred years later, German mathematician Gottfried Leibniz developed the series in an alternative formula and proof. In 1707, Welsh mathematician William Jones became the first to use the Greek letter pi (π) to denote the constant ratio, with π taken from the Greek word for perimeter.
In 1945, lacking computer technology, D. F. Ferguson calculated pi to 620 digits, the longest calculation of pi before the advent of the computer.
Quick Pi Day Meal Ideas
You don't have to spend all day in the kitchen to have fun with food on Pi Day. The following are some quick-and-easy Pi Day meals:
Waffles or Pancakes: The easiest of Pi Day breakfasts would be round toaster waffles or pancakes. Use blueberries to form a π on the top of each stack.
Breakfast Sandwiches: Use a biscuit or cookie cutter to cut out circular cheese slices. Stack with round, ready-to-eat ham or Canadian bacon slices and place them between two toasted English muffin halves.
Pi Day Sandwiches: Use a large biscuit cutter to create circular bread for sandwiches. Use a smaller biscuit cutters to cut out your deli meat and cheese into circles.
Pi Quesadillas: Cheese quesadillas are always popular lunch options with family members of all ages. Instead of folding over one large quesadilla, for Pi Day, use two small (6-inch) flour tortillas per serving. Place one tortilla on a griddle or pan and sprinkle with the cheese and other ingredients of your choice. Top with the second tortilla. Cook over moderate heat. When the cheese begins to melt, turn your heat to low and flip your quesadilla. Make your Pi Quesadilla extra special by designing a π on the top with sour cream or hot sauce and sliced black olives or jalapenos.
Pizza: Spend some quality family time making large Pizza Pi(3), creating little round individual pizzas, or just using your phone to order your favorite round pizza.
Pot Pies: Everyone can have their own pie for dinner! See My recipe below!
Oreos: America's favorite store-bought cookie can be an educational Pi Day snack or dessert. Have your children measure the diameter and multiply by pi to find the circumference an oreo.
Cheesecake: Cheesecake is a wonderful dessert for Pi Day. Its texture is perfect for marking clear and straight diameters and radii with dental floss or butcher's string, or bakers' twine. For best results, serve toppings on the side.
Pie: The ultimate Pi Day food. Bake your own pie or stop by your favorite purveyor and purchase your pie. You can even slide it into your own pie pan. I promise I won't tell!
Special Pi Day Recipes
The following are four useful recipes for Pi Day celebrations:
- Never-Fail Pie Crust
- Easy Pizza Dough
- Individual Chicken Pot Pies
- Zippy Zucchini Quiche
Easy Pizza Crust
CarolineChicago's Pizza Crust
Makes 2 Thin Crust Pizzas
1 envelope active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (105˚-115˚F)
3 ½ -3 ¾ cups unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 egg slightly beaten
- Sprinkle yeast over water and stir until dissolved.
- Stir in 1 ½ cups flour, the sugar, and the salt. Add egg and 1 tablespoon oil and stir until smooth and glossy.
- Stir in 1-1/2 cups flour. Knead dough until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Dough should be soft.
- Place in a greased bowl and tur to grease top. Cover with towel and let rise in warm draft-free place until ore than double, about 1 hour.
- Punch down and chill.
- Divide into 2 rounds and roll out. Best baked on either a pizza stone or a metal pizza pan.
CarolineChicago's Never-Fail Pie Dough
This recipe has been in our family for more than 40 years--and has never let us down! This is a good recipe for both sweet or savory pies, tarts, or quiches. The secret is in the butter.
Makes 2 pie crusts - or - 1 bottom crust and 1 top shell
- 1-1/2 cup unbleached white flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1/2 egg white
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour and the salt. Cut in the shortening and butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with no particles larger than peas.
- Mix together the cold water and egg white with a fork, then stir into the flour mixture with fork. Continue mixing with a wooden spoon until a ball of dough is formed.
- Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into two parts. Handling lightly, form each part into a disc. Lightly flour the top of each disc. Wrap both separately and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to overnight.
- To roll out your dough: Unwrap your chilled dough. Rolling from the center, roll out your first disc until the dough is about a ⅛-inch thick, with a diameter just larger than that of your pie plate. Remember to flour your rolling pin. Fold the dough over once and lay across the pie plate. Unfold the dough very gently. Press the pie dough lightly into the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Repeat for your second shell, if not using as a top shell.
- If pre-baking, use a fork and lightly prick the bottom and sides of the pie dough.Then preheat the oven to 450º F and bake only the bottom pie crust for about 15 minutes.
- If not pre-baking, fill the pie crust with pie filling and bake according to instructions for the pie recipe. Use your second pie crust dough for a second pie or a top shell (follow recipe directions for the top pie shell).
Zippy Zucchini Quiche
Even if you aren't usually a quiche fan, you'll love this Zucchini Quiche, which tastes like a bite of a warm summer day. For a special day treat, use sliced roasted red peppers to create a π symbol on top.
- 9” pie crust
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small zucchini (about 5 oz), cut into a small dice
- 1 small yellow squash (about 5 oz), cut into a small dice
- ½ c finely minced red bell pepper
- 1 c half-and-half
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 c shredded Swiss cheese
- 3 tbsp Basil Pesto (I used Racconto)
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- Roasted red peppers, sliced (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Heat olive oil in a skillet and add the zucchini, squash, and red bell pepper. Saute over medium-high heat for about 8 min. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream, then add the cheese, pesto, and cornstarch. Mix well. Add the vegetable mixture and stir together.
4. Pour the quiche filling into the pie crust. Bake for 25-30 min. or until set. Place roasted red peppers on top of finished quiche as a decorative π symbol, if you wish.
Fun Pi Day Gadgets
For devoted math geeks, teachers, and celebrants of quirky holidays (like me), Pi Day is rapidly accumulating its own line of accessories, clothing, and kitchen gear, from pizza cutters and Pi plates to earrings, infinity scarves, and office supplies.
Easy Individual Chicken Pot Pies
This is the cheater's recipe for chicken pot pie and does the trick for a fast weeknight Pi Day celebration.
- 3 cups cooked chicken, diced
- 2 packages Refrigerated Pie Dough (total, 4 crusts)
- 3 cups frozen peas and carrots, thawed
- 12-ounce jar chicken gravy
- 1 tsp thyme
- pepper, to taste
1. Spray 5 individual, oven-safe baking dishes (about 1-1/2 c capacity) with a commercial oil spray.
2. Preheat oven for 425° F.
3. Place chicken, peas, and carrots in a mixing bowl.
4. Stir in 1 cup of chicken or turkey gravy.
5. Add thyme and pepper. Stir.
6. Adjust thickness with gravy. Any remaining gravy can be heated and served at the table.
7. Set mixing bowl aside and open pie dough.
8. Unroll pie dough. Cut a circle around bottom of ramekin and arrange cut out dough to line bottom the ramekin. Repeat for other four bowls.
9. Fill each pie with the meat filling.
10. Cut tops for each pie out of dough by placing dough over the top of the pie and trimming around the perimeter of the pie. Crimp edges of top crusts. Cut small slits for steam (I cut mine as a π sign for Pi Day). Repeat for each pie.
11. Place in oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes. Check. Crusts should be golden brown and filling bubbly when done.