Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Food: Recipes, cookbook reviews, food notes, and restaurant reviews. Unless otherwise noted, I have personally tried each recipe that gets its own page, but not necessarily recipes listed as part of a cookbook review.

Mark the date for π Day!

Jerry Stratton, March 10, 2021

Pi Day this year is a Sunday. Here’s a date-pecan pie to celebrate with your friends and family!

Servings: 6
Preparation Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs, separated
  • a smidgen of salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup chopped dates
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • ½ tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

Steps

  1. Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks.
  2. Beat the egg yolks with the salt.
  3. Beat the sugar into the yolks.
  4. Stir the dates, pecans, butter, juices, and spices into the yolk/sugar mix.
  5. Fold the egg whites into the yolk mix.
  6. Pour the filling into the pie shell.
  7. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes until firm.
  8. Let cool for about fifteen minutes to gel. Eat warm or cold.
Southern Living Date Pie

What’s better than pecan pie? Pecan pie with dates!

You’re going to lose an hour on Sunday. Make up for it with pie! And take advantage of the ability to celebrate Pi Day on a natural celebratory day! The last time Pi Day was on a Sunday was 2010; the next time is 2027. Invite friends and family to drop in for a slice.

And if you’re in a state or community that will arrest you because you had people over for pie, make it a good pie.

For the last two Pi Days, I’ve recommended lemon pies, one completely unbaked and one lemon meringue. I thought I’d break it up by recommending a heavier pie, and another one of my favorites. I’ve always been a fan of pecan pies. This ups the pecan pie by adding just about as many dates.

Like the lemon meringue pie that I used for my inaugural Pi Day post, this date pie is from the Southern Living series from the seventies. But where that was from the Buffet book, this is from the actual Pies and Pastries book. It’s from Mrs. Rubye Shepherd of Wills Point, Texas, east of Dallas. The recipe that follows it in the book is another date pie from Floresville. We like our dates in Texas; I bet a whole bunch of date palms died last month in the extended freeze, and I’m also betting there’ll be a whole bunch of new plantings this spring.

My copy of the book is dated 1972. One of the weird things about this particular recipe is the detail. A lot of old cookbooks assume prior knowledge of baking, and leave things out. Not this one:

Beat the egg yolks with salt, then add the remaining ingredients except egg whites and pie shells.

Just in case you were tempted to mix the unbaked pie shell into the filling.1

I used the same oatmeal pie crust that I used for Southern Living’s Perfect Lemon Pie. This has rapidly become my favorite pastry crust, and a pie like this needs a pastry crust. A nut crust would make it too heavy, and a crumb crust couldn’t support the filling.

Southern Living Pies and Pastries

The cover of the Southern Living Pies and Pastries Cookbook.

One of those assumptions about prior knowledge that you can still occasionally see is the use of “dash”, “smidgen”, and “pinch” for measurements. For consistency I use a set of measuring spoons that goes down to a sixty-fourth, and in that set an eighth is a dash, a sixteenth a pinch, and a thirty-second a smidgen. But I’m pretty sure every cook used and uses at least a slightly different definition of those terms, often changing from recipe to recipe.

Mrs. Shepherd’s original recipe makes two pies; I modified it to make one pie, which was as simple as halving each of the ingredients. It called for a pinch of salt, so I’ve halved that to a smidgen.2

This recipe might look like it uses a lot less sugar than is normal for a pecan pie, but dates are nearly all sugar. The dates in this recipe replace about half of the sugar that normally goes into a pecan pie.

The recipe also adds some spiciness, and not just nutmeg and cinnamon. The orange juice and lemon juice were—besides using dates and pecans—part of what drew me to this recipe. I’ve found that when making any standard pecan pie recipe, adding a bit of orange zest seriously enhances the pie’s flavor. So why not juice, too? Turns out to be a great idea.

As you can see in the photo, this pie goes great with whipped cream. Microwave it to reheat it (or eat it warm out of the oven—but wait long enough for the filling to gel just as for pecan pie) and it will be amazing with vanilla ice cream.

The Southern Living Cookbook Library is a great series. One interesting thing about it is the graphic design. As in the cover of the Pies and Pastries book that I’ve included here, none of the books in this series—that I’ve seen—had cover text. The title was only on the spine.3

If you’re looking for an older cookbook series to collect, I can strongly recommend this one.

In response to The Southern Living Cookbook Library: One of the best magazine-related cookbook series is also the one of the hardest to find. The Southern Living Cookbook Library appears to be under the radar of food writers online, but it either had a very low print run or few people want to get rid of their copies.

  1. I expect a baked pie shell jumbled into some cooked filling would be great, especially over ice cream.

  2. I would have marked it as 1/32 teaspoon, but the 1/32 unicode character is not yet widely supported.

  3. I have seen one photo of two of the books with the same cover image as in my collection but that also had the title on the front cover. I was only sent that photo, however, because I wrote a review of the series. I suspect that variety is rare.

  1. <- Lemon Pi Day