Happy Pi Day! In honor of the celebration of the irrational number (useful in calculating a circle’s circumference), we’ve cooked up a few useful things that will help you celebrate Pi (π) Day correctly, and that may give you just the excuse you need to eat some pie.
The number is considered sacred to geometry teachers and mathematicians. The late William Schaaf, a professor of mathematics, said, “Probably no symbol in mathematics has evoked as much mystery, romanticism, misconception and human interest as the number pi.”
The number’s homonym — pie — is also seen as sacred in some circles. To celebrate, Union Station is offering a special day of activities from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., in conjunction with Tippin’s Pies.
The day’s festivities include sampling pies from 1 to 3 p.m., measuring pi with Tippin’s domes at 2 p.m. and a “Pi for Pie Contest” at 3 p.m. Throughout the day in the Spark! Lab, attendants can experience the “Infinite Pi Chain” and “Throwing Pi” activities.
Pi, a Greek letter, began in China as the number 3. Today, it’s commonly known as 3.14, which also marks Tuesday on the calendar. Beyond the first two decimals, the number is infinite, extending forever on the right side of the decimal point. (To view the first million digits of pi, visit piday.org.)
Baking your own pizza pie is one way to celebrate. In 2015, Craig Jones offered this recipe for Pi Day:
Cold Fermented Pizza Dough
22 1/2 ounces bread flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
15 ounces warm water (110-120 degrees)
Put the bread flour, sugar, salt, and instant yeast in a food processor and pulse 3 to 4 times until everything is combined. Add the olive oil and water. Turn on the food processor and run until the dough forms a ball that rides around the bowl above the blade, about 15 seconds. Continue processing 15 seconds longer.
Note: If you don’t have a food processor, first combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Then add the oil and water. Using a wooden spoon and your hand, combine all of the ingredients until there’s no more loose flour. Let stand for 10 minutes, then knead on a well-floured board for 5 minutes.
Transfer the dough ball to a floured surface and knead two to three times by hand until a smooth ball is formed. Don’t overwork the dough. Divide the dough into three even parts and place each in a plastic ziplock freezer bag.
Place in refrigerator and allow to rise at least one day. This process is called cold fermentation and it produces a better flavor for your crust. The dough will last up to seven days in the refrigerator, so this makes it easy to plan ahead.
At least two hours before baking, remove dough from the refrigerator and shape into balls by gathering dough toward the bottom and pinching shut, placing the seam side down. Flour well and place each ball into a separate medium mixing bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise at warm room temperature until roughly doubled in volume.
One hour before baking, place a rack in the top of your oven, 8 inches from the broiler element. Place the pizza stone in the center of the rack. Turn the oven to the highest possible temperature (usually around 500 to 550 degrees) and allow the pizza stone to heat up for a full hour.
Using your fingertips, gently flatten out the dough into roughly an 8-inch circle, leaving the outer inch higher than the rest. Gently stretch the dough by draping over your knuckles into a 12- to 14-inch circle about 1/4 -inch thick.
Transfer to a pizza peel covered with parchment paper or the back of a sheet pan covered with parchment paper. Once on the parchment paper, you can spend a little time shaping the dough to a circle.
Note: The parchment paper keeps the pizza from sticking to the peel and does not affect the cooking. Be sure to remove the paper from the oven when you remove the pizza so the paper won’t catch on fire.
Now let’s build the pizza. Follow these steps to make many of your own creations.
For most pizzas, use the following protocol:
Lightly cover pizza dough with kosher salt before topping. Brush dough with a little olive oil, especially the edges. Evenly sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes onto dough. Add 1/2 cup of your favorite pizza sauce. Add 4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese and then 2 to 4 ounces of meat or main ingredient (pepperoni, cooked sausage, bacon, whatever you want.) Top with 1/4 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese
Trim the parchment paper to roughly outline the pizza. Place the pizza in the oven on the pizza stone (parchment paper should be in between the pizza and the pizza stone). Close the oven door. Cook pizza for 4 minutes if oven is at 550 degrees or 5 minutes if at 500 degrees.
After designated time, turn on the broiler and cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
Note: Keep an eye on this especially after the first minute. Even 15 seconds can make a difference from brown to burnt.
When cooked, remove from oven and let pizza rest on a wire rack for 5 minutes before slicing. While resting, garnish the pizza with more sauce, basil or other goodies, if desired.
While waiting for your pizza to bake, you can read some past stories about pi — such as the one about a boy who can recite 576 digits of the number from memory or the one about more raucous celebrations on UMKC’s campus to celebrate 3/14/15 (the first five digits of pi and the date on Pi Day 2015).
If baking isn’t your thing, a few chain restaurants have ongoing deals that happen to fall on Pi Day. Pizza Hut offers a large two-topping pizza for $7.99; Papa John’s offers a large two-topping or pan pizza for $9.99 and Domino’s has a large three-topping pizza for carryout for $7.99.