Introduction: Chocolate Pi
Several years ago, I received a Pi ice cube tray as a gift--from someone who really understands my geekyness. I have never made ice in this particular ice cube tray. I immediately thought of chocolate. That year, I decided that my students were going to celebrate Pi day with me--and they were going to do it voluntarily.
I was making chocolate Pi's--and was almost done with the 110 that I needed for all of my classes--when my husband said, "It is a shame that you couldn't make 314 of them." My response was to go back to the store for more chocolate.
I have found 314 people to celebrate Pi Day with me evey year since--some students even come back to visit with me years after they have passed my class just so they can wish me a Happy PI Day and get their chocolate. One child in my son's elementary school told me that math was not only fun but it was delicious. There was a young man I ran into at the pharmacy and he told me that the only thing he missed about high school was Pi Day.
Step 1: Ingredients and Supplies
silicone pi ice cube mold
chocolate bark (melting chocolate for candy making)
small treat bags with twist ties
Step 2: Melting the Chocolate
Break the chocolate bark until it will fit in your microwavable container. Some brands come in small chunks but I usually only find the stuff in large bricks. I smack the still un-opened package on the side of the kitchen counter a few times. It makes a lot of noise but it works.
Pile the chocolate pieces in your bowl--I like to use a 2 cup glass measuring cup because it holds enough chocolate and is still easy to pour from.
Since every microwave is different, you will have to play this next part by ear--I microwave the cup for 30 seconds the first time. Take it out and stir it as best you can--it is still pretty solid at this time. Put it back in the microwave for 20 second and stir again. For the next few tries I usually use 10 to 15 second bursts and stir between. Your goal is a nice liquid that is not burnt. It is really easy to burn chocolate--and then you have to throw it out and start over!
You can melt the chocolate over a double boiler--but I usually am trying to make 314 of these things in less than a month and I do not have that much patience.
Step 3: Pouring the Chocolate
Pour the melted chocolate into the mold--no greasing of the mold is necessary. The chocolate will pop out easily. I usually fill each chamber almost to the top--I really like chocolate but you can make them thinner if you want.
Tap the mold on the counter 2 or 3 times--to dislodge any air bubbles. I just lift it up about and inch and drop it.
Leave the chocolate alone for an hour or 2 to harden. You can speed it up by putting it in the refrigerator for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Step 4: Unmolding
Push the hardened chocolate from underneath and it should pop out easily. If it breaks--re-melt the pieces and next time, pour it a little thicker.
I wrap each chocolate in a clear plastic treat bag and close it with a twist tie.
Step 5: For the Non-chocolaholics
I had a student who was allergic to chocolate a couple of years ago. I did not want him to miss out on celebrating with us so I made some hard candy pi's also. Use any hard candy recipe that you like, pour the liquid candy mixture directly into the silicone mold--again, you do not need to grease the mold or anything. Let it harden, pop it out, wrap it, and twist tie it. Cherry pi, lemon pi, even grape pi have gone over well. After that first time, I had requests for the hard candy version. I usually make a few batches of hard candy each year to go with the chocolate.
There is an art to eating the hard candy pi's. I watched one teenage boy pop a whole one in his mouth at once. While it was nice that he could not make much noise for a very long time, I do not recommend this method. The girl sitting next to him seemed to have a better handle on the situation--she tapped the closed bag on her desk and broke the candy. She was then able to eat it one piece at a time--and even share with friends who had different flavors.
I made a really big batch of hard candy (2 cups of sugar) the first time--and poured the left over into the other silicone ice cube trays that I have--hence we also had lemon bears one year. I imagine that these would go over well at a bear themed birthday party also.
Step 6: And Then There Was Cheesecake
I had a calculus class that would do anything for cheesecake. They enjoyed bragging to my husband's AP government class that I loved them enough to feed them desert. (My husband would occasionally order pizza for his students.)
For one special student, I made cheesecake pi's for her graduation party. You can use the no-bake cheesecake in a box but I recommend the baked from scratch cheesecake. When I used the no-bake version, it did not freeze completely hard and was difficult to get out of the mold.
For the crust, crush a few graham crackers (2 or 3) with a spoonful of sugar. Mix in a tablespoon of melted butter. Press a heaping spoon full in each well of the mold. If you have large fingers, you may want to have a child help with this part. They can get their little fingers into all the tight corners.
For the filling: soften an 8 ounce package of cream cheese. Mix with one egg, 1/4 cup sugar, and a splash of vanilla. Pour into the molds. Bake at 350 degrees until they get a bit puffy--it takes about 15 minutes in my oven. Place the mold on a baking sheet before putting it in the oven. This will make it easier to remove from the oven.
Cool to room temperature and them place the whole mold into the freezer. I usually freeze it over night but a few hours is probably enough. Remove the pi's from the mold while frozen.
For the no-bake version, follow the package directions. I had trouble removing them from the mold since they did not freeze as solid as I would like. If you have access to a deep freeze it would probably work better.