Pi Day, 2016


In 2014, our pie for Pi Day was Lemon Meringue, and in 2015, Banana Cream. This year El Guapo led the search committee. Bring on the chocolate!

Before settling on the winning recipe, he wandered about a bit in cyberland, waiting for inspiration to strike. Should we try something custard-based–maybe a flan? What about heading in a strawberry direction? Decisions, decisions.

Once he happened upon a recipe for Chocolate Cream Hazelnut Pie, the search was over. The ingredients are simple: whipping cream, crema al cacao con avellanas (chocolate hazelnut spread), eggs, sugar, cookie crumbs, butter, egg whites, almonds, and really dark chocolate. All these things I could get.

What I had a harder time with was a suitable vessel for the proposed chocolate concoction, for pie dishes we have none. When we come to Spain we bring as little as humanly possible, and rely on the luck of the draw in terms of apartment equipment; this year’s arsenal is impressively scanty. We’ve got a paella pan, but it’s giant. I contemplated baking the pie in a cheap frying pan, but worried about the heat tolerance of the handle.


Even though pi is all about the circle, in the end we settled for an earthenware rectangle for the edible commemoration. It’s smaller than we needed, so we had to overflow into not one but two other pans: another rectangle, and a dozen small circles in a min-muffin tin. They can be our token mathematically resonant treats. Ready for the recipe?

Chocolate Cream Hazelnut Pie*

For the filling:
13 oz (400 ml) whipping cream†
7 oz (200 g) chocolate-hazelnut cream, such as Nocilla or Nutella
3.5 oz (100 g) dark chocolate bar with at least 70% cocoa
5 large eggs
1/3 cup (2.5 oz or 75 g) granulated sugar
1.75 oz (50g) chopped almonds
4 oz (112 g) butter (I ended up using 50 g)
2 cups crushed Maria crackers (or graham crackers–I had less, but my pan was smaller, too)
2 egg whites
cocoa powder (unsweetened) for dusting (we didn’t get this far)


Place a rack in the center and heat the oven to 360F (180C) degrees.

Prepare the filling. Pour the whipping cream into a medium sauce pan and heat on medium. When cream is hot, but not yet boiling, add the chocolate-hazelnut cream. Break the dark chocolate into pieces and add to pan. Reduce the heat to low, and stir until the chocolate melts. Remove from heat.

Crack the eggs into a medium mixing bowl.
Add the sugar and beat until mixture is creamy and light yellow in color.

Add the egg mixture to the chocolate and cream. Beat for several minutes, then allow to cool. When the chocolate-cream mixture cools enough to have a film on top, stir in a tablespoon of chopped almonds. Set aside.

Prepare the cracker crust. Melt the butter on the stove or in the microwave oven. Crush the crackers and add to the butter. Beat the egg whites and fold into the crackers. Spread the mixture over the bottom and up the sides of a 8-inch springform pan. Bake on center rack of hot oven for about 5 minutes and remove.

Fill and bake the cake. Pour the chocolate filling into the crust, and bake on center rack of oven for 30 minutes, or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool on counter.


Make the topping. Dust the top of the cake with cocoa powder with the help of a sieve or flour sifter. Sprinkle the rest of the chopped almonds over the top.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Carefully unmold sides and cut into 8-10 slices.


If you’d like a little bit of mathematical controversy to go alongside your pie today, I offer you some esoteric entertainment. Vi Hart is a “mathemusician” who is very handy with a Sharpie and has an axe to grind about pi. If you have no idea what would make pi controversial (and are curious to learn more), you can begin here. There’s more where that came from, easily found at her website. Here is this year’s offering.

I don’t have a dog in this fight, or a favorite mathematical symbol, or anything else relevant–I’m just here for the pie.

What will you be eating today?

*We found it in the Spanish food section of about.com.

†Knowing that 1 milliliter of water weighs 1 gram, I realized that that doesn’t necessarily mean that 1 milliliter or anything else is going to be 1 gram. For instance, the vanilla ice cream we tried with the pie came in a package promising 1500 milliliters, but it weighed only 750 grams. It turns out that while milk’s volume-to-weight ratio is not exactly 1:1, it’s close enough for recipe work, and so that’s what I’ve used.

[images: El Guapo]

2 thoughts on “Pi Day, 2016

  1. Hi Lori,
    Didn’t know you were in Spain again! I’ve begun cooking with my 7-yr. old grandson a lot–maybe we’ll try this. It looks yummy!

    • As often happens when making a new recipe, the process felt somewhat lengthy, but none of the steps were complicated. It might make a good project for the pair of you. Best of luck!

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