Introduction: The SymmetriPi: Tangy Chocolate and Cranberry Pie With Popcorn Crust
A few days ago while herding my random thoughts I noticed that the Pi Day is on Saturday this year. Saturday is also the day I indulge in various not necessarily healthy food products and culinary experiments, also known as binge day. Since I was going to make something edible anyway, baking a pie with some added creapivity seemed like a totally valid idea.
It got a little bit more difficult when I started going over my criteria for this culinary wonder I intended to make. It had to be tasty (duh), it had to involve using at least a bit of my jam reserves and it also had to be a creative learning experience so I could better myself in this unusual medium. Oh, and it also had to be something I could call a pie, because pi day!
All of that said, I went out to explore and ended up going for a chocolate cake and cranberry combo. The only issue was that I needed something I could call a crust for this to be a pie. Popcorn came to mind and sure enough, someone has done it before and posted a tutorial for that. So there it is, a pi day pie which is borderline cake.
As this is my first real food instructable and I'm still somewhat inexperienced in this medium - please bash me for whatever tiny things I should do another way, than I suggest here. I'm still at the point, where most of the bad stuff is not a habit and would rather form a habit of the proper way of doing something. Thank you.
For those of you not into reading, a.k.a. TL;DR:
Make this is you want something all kinds of sensations in your mouth: the crunchiness of popcorn and satisfaction of popping fresh sour cranberries while everything's still soft to bite.
Step 1: Tools and Ingredients
You will notice, that some of the measurements are rather thematic and then some of those you are used to seeing in volume units are in mass units. The latter is due to my cooking practices - putting a dish on a scale and adding needed amounts of ingredients seems way more convenient than working by volume. In some of the places I've added the usual measurement units as well since my excessive use of π may πss some of you off. :)
- Blender or food processor
- Various bowls
- Cake tin or something else to bake in (rhyme wasn't intended) Ø26cm or around 10" in my case
- Kitchen scale (I prefer this to measuring spoons)
- Measuring spoons (maybe)
Ingridients for crust:
- 420π cm³ popcorn (5.5 cups)
- 40g butter
- 190g brown sugar
Ingridients for chocolate cake filling:
- 100g flour
- 130g sugar
- 35g cocoa powder
- 1π cm³ baking powder (a bit shy of 1 tsp)
- Pinch of baking soda (can you pinch this?)
- Pinch of salt
- Some coffee or espresso powder(?)
- 80g milk
- 35g vegetable oil
- 1 small egg
- Some vanilla extract/bean/sugar (a matter of taste)
- 25π cm³ boiling water or strong coffee (1/3 cup)
Ingridients for cranberry top:
- 105π cm³ not too sweet cranberry jam (approx 1.5 cup)
- 10π cm³ gelatine (2 tbsp)
- A random amount of fresh or frozen cranberries for sourness
A handy guide for pi day pies:
1 cup (236 ml) = 75π cm³
1 tbsp (15 ml) = 5π cm³
1 tsp (5 ml) = 1.5π cm³
1 ml = 1 cm³
Step 2: Making the Popcrust
This was made after a quick search online. The source was this, but I found that the amount of butter suggested is insane and used a lot less of it for better or for worse. Since I couldn't be bothered with making actual caramel for use with popcorn (although I would, if I had to make this again), I opted for simple sticky combination of brown sugar and butter with ratio of around 4 to 1 (sugar : butter).
I made around 230 grams of this butter - sugar mixture in total, although more would've been even better. When you make this and mix with popcorn, go for the amount which makes the popcorn stick together enough to form the vertical sides of pie crust.
The popcorn itself was simply popped in the microwave and I used a little shy of 100g unpopped popcorn for the 420π (5.5 cups) of popped popcorn I used for the crust. A little bit of chopping is required for it, but don't overdo that! See pictures for what it looked like.
Mix the processed popcorn with sugar-butter mixture and let cool a bit. Use this cooled mixture in cake tin or whatever else you use as your pie dish and form a crust. Bake this formed crust at around 180°C (350°F) for around 10 minutes so it sticks together a little bit better as the sugar melt the popcorn together.
Take it out and let cool, or, if you planned well ahead pour the cake like filling (from next step) in it and bake further.
Step 3: Making the Cakey Filling
This again wasn't exactly a fruit of my imagination. After using some google-fu I found a chocolate cake recipe with great reviews and decided to go with that. It seemed easy to make as well.
As far as my limited kitchen skills go, I know one thing which helps when making stuff like that: mixing the dry ingredients first and adding the liquid ones later. So this was the tactic I used here turned out well.
Since I didn't have espresso powder mentioned in the linked tutorial, I opted for a natural way of brewing very strong coffee and adding that instead. Not sure if that made any difference and how strong taste one does get from the espresso powder. Couldn't complain about the taste though and that's the most important part.
The mixed batter minus the boiling coffee was withheld until the crust was ready so that when I added the boiling coffee to the mix, I was able to whisk it like I have never whisked before, apparently to make it more airy.
After all of this and given that you have the crust ready - just pour it in and let put back in to bake. The centuries (probably) old toothpick technique for testing doneness (put toothpick in centre, if it comes out clean - it's done), while not very scientific, works really well. It took around 20 minutes total for it to cook. As it was done I took it out and away to cool. It was the time to make the top cranberry layer.
Step 4: Cherr... Cranberries on Top
I wanted a sweet and sour sensation while eating this and my grandma's cranberry jam with some extra frozen cranberries added seemed like the right candidate for that.
Making the top layer is at the same time simple and complex. It's a simple combination, but it's somewhat hard to get the consistency right. My aim was to make it not as runny as the jam was, yet not gummy. Basically, it should feel like eating jam with the convenience of it not oozing everywhere while you eat it. The ratio in my case was around 10 to 1 jam to gelatine, although it was on the gummy side, so a little less would've been even better.
You will definitely need to test this yourself with the jam you're going to use. A good way to do that is by taking a small dish, putting in some 3 teaspoons or so of jam and adding a bit of gelatine (remember how much though). Heat this up in microwave oven and let cool. See what the consistency is after it is around room temperature and decide if that suits you.
The gelatine won't melt in a cold jam, so you will need to heat all of it up. No need to overdo that though. While it is possible to do it on the stove or in the microwave oven, I simply mixed the cold jam with gelatine and threw the bowl in the oven which was still warm from baking. Since the cake was still cooling down and I didn't need to hurry anywhere this was very convenient and also saved energy I would've otherwise used to heat it!
As the pie was cool, I took out the jam with already molten gelatine, mixed it a little bit just in case and poured some frozen cranberries in there. I would suggest defrosting them before this though since they cool down the jam rapidly and it will gummy up or at least become harder to pour over pie.
As you have the jam and cranberries mixed, pour that over the pie still in tin and leave to cool so the gelat-jam isn't runny anymore. As it cools - remove from tin and eat or add decor.
Step 5: The Pi Day Attributes
The pi day decor was pretty simple. I made a vector image on my computer, made sure it is the right size for my pie and cut it out of cardboard. The file is attached so you can print and cut or simply cut in the size it is given that your dish is around the same size (the image is 20cm or 8" wide). One thing to keep in mind is that I forgot to add stencil like connections for the 4 (or P) so you may want to do a little bit of editing to fix that. Not a big deal at all, I solved this issue with some bits of masking tape which held the islands in place. You should probably also mark the middle point in some way. I remembered that too late already and just eyeballed it.
The lettering was made using powdered sugar, yet that is probably not the best way to do it, since it soaks up from the top layer of jam eventually, and the text becomes a lot less visible. So if you do this - do that right before serving for best effects.
The cardboard stencil itself was not put directly on jam because it would stick awfully and I'm not sure that it's the kind of paper I want to get in contact with my food. I used some broken toothpicks as stencil supports so it is right above the pie, yet doesn't touch it.
The powdered sugar was applied through a fine net to assure somewhat even coating.
Step 6: Yum!
All that's left now is to serve and enjoy and I certainly hope you do so!
If some questions arise - leave a comment, I try to answer all of them. If there is something where you see bad form - definitely leave a comment, as I said, this is a new medium for me and it would be great to get into good habits early on.
Speaking of the end result - I liked the taste, and everyone else I gave the opportunity to taste it enjoyed it as well. Some stuff was pointed out which I already had in mind as having the potential for being fixed. To put it simply, if I had to make this taste combination again, I would make a thicker, sweet, decently caramelized popcorn crust with chocolate fudge as a not too sweet filling and leave the top cranberry layer as is.
The odd pictures you see in this step are from tests I ran for taste compatibility and the feel of things in general.
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Until next time!