Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Buttermilk Pie for Pi(e) Day

Today is Pi(e) Day - so named because March 14th (3-14) corresponds to the mathematical concept of "pi" (3.14). Can you tell that I liked math in school? Actually, back in high school we always celebrated this day in my math classes. While I don't want to come right out and admit how much of a math geek I was, I will say that I had more than a minor familiarity with pi and just about every variety of pie that Marie Callendar's made at the time. Needless to say, I have harbored a soft spot for the date ever since and have always tried to have some pie in celebration.
This year I went with something that is a Southern Classic, but new to me: Buttermilk Pie. Fruit pies have always been my top choices and apple pie will always be my favorite, but this pie was incredibly delicious. The filling had a rich, slightly butterscotch flavor and a hint of tang from the buttermilk. It was very smooth and creamy, but much more substantial than most custards. It was also not heavy in the least, reminding me more of a clafoutis than of a cream-type pie. In short, the pie is not only outstanding but also unique.
I paired the filling with a graham cracker crust. The sugary crunch of the crisp crust was ideal for setting off the filling. I don't generally have problems making regular pastry light and flakey, but pie crusts can be tricky and making a graham cracker crust ensures that the base of your pie will melt into your mouth, just as the filling does.
The raspberry sauce that is pictured with the pie was an inspiration from Martha Stewart. I made it by mashing about 1 cup of raspberries with a fork and tossing them in a small saucepan with a tablespoon of sugar to cook for about 2 minutes. It isn't impressive alone, but sets off the pie quite nicely for a variation on the plainer pie.

Buttermilk Pie
1 graham cracker crust, recipe follows
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp ap flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
1 tbsp butter, melted (optional)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a food processor, combine brown sugar, flour and salt and pluse a few times. Add eggs and whizz until well combined. Add vanilla, nutmeg, butter (if using) and buttermilk and process for about 20 seconds, until very smooth.
Pour into prepared graham cracker crust, taking care not to over-fill the pie.
Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes, until just set.
Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Makes 1 pie; serves 8-10.

Graham Cracker Crust
8 large grahams crackers (to make 1 1/4-1 1/2 cups graham crumbs)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375F.
In a food processor, whizz graham crackers until reduced to crumbs. Add sugar and pulse to combine. Pour in vanilla and melted butter and process until crumbs are all moistened.
Press firmly and evenly into a 9-inch pie plate.
Bake for 8-10 minutes at 375F, until browned at the edge.
Set aside to cool.