Happy Pi Day! Pie tips worth a slice of your budget from chef Kierin Baldwin

Kierin Baldwin knows pies. And some of pi.

My neighbor, the mathematician and baked-goods enthusiast, won’t shut up. He’s been hanging cake decorations all week, and blasting what he swears is “traditional holiday music” that just sounds like non-consecutive digits being listed to “Party in the USA.” Of course, this can only be expected, as Pi Day is today (that’s 3.14, fyi, which is somehow not National Pie Day), so in honor of mathletes and pie lovers all over Brooklyn, I decided to ask the pie guru Kierin Baldwin from The Dutch (a.k.a. pie Mecca) all about this most venerable and algebraic of holidays. Baldwin lives in Park Slope, and even though the Dutch isn’t in Brooklyn, the Voice named it one of the best under $10 treats in the city last year. And if pi day is about anything, it’s about crossing borders/diameters. 

First off, how many digits of pi do you know?
Probably only three: 3.14.

Which is all you really need, at least to celebrate. What would you say is your favorite pie in Brooklyn?
There’s this little place called the Blue Stove on Graham Avenue in Brooklyn that I love. It’s a little bakery and café right by where I used to live.

Grapple Pie with Rum Raisin Ice Cream via Flickr's Kathy YL Chan.

What are some easy, cheap pastry recipes you like to use?
If it’s something that I’m doing at home, it would probably just be a crisp or crumble or something where you just find some really great fruit, cut it up and make some streusel to put on top of it, it’s a really great crowd pleaser and super simple.

Would you say it’s worth it to make your own pie or should you just go out and buy one?
Well, it depends on how much you feel like tackling. I probably spend more time making a single pie than most people at home because I pre-bake my crust and pre-cook my filling to make sure it’s not crunchy when it’s done baking, so I would say that it depends on how easy you want it to be. If you can find a great pie, maybe, but pie is usually expensive to buy because fruit can be on the expensive side. It could go either way.

Favorite type?
Probably peach pie, or even nectarine pie. I would pick nectarines over peaches most the time, but it depends on if you can get amazing ripe nectarines or peaches in the summer. I think great, great, great fruit pie is about the fruit way more than its about the crust, and you just have to have a good crust and not screw it up; let the fruit shine.

What are some secrets for a perfect pie?
Patience and not getting frustrated working with the dough. You have to let a pastry dough chill before you roll it out, and I feel like a lot of people rush it and make their dough then want to roll it out immediately, and that will make the dough impossible to work with because it’s both too warm and too delicate. That’s where you’ll run into problems. So, let your dough chill, and after you roll it out, let it chill or even freeze it again. I usually freeze it after it’s been rolled into the pie shell. I always pre-bake my pie shells, too, which I swear by, because that way you never get soggy crust on the bottom.

How do you think people should celebrate Pi Day?
By eating pie! But making one is not a bad idea either.

So a happy Pie Day to all, and be sure to celebrate with enough pasty to double your circumference and enough math to…well, just with the pie, really.