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  #1  
Old 09-23-2005, 08:27 AM
chappachula chappachula is offline
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why is pie always round?

and , no the following answers don't count:
- because if it's served in squares it's called cobbler (but the crust is different)..

- because statistics are diagrammed in pie charts.

-- because corn bread are square (reference to an old, old joke, based on "pi R squared" math formula)
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  #2  
Old 09-23-2005, 08:30 AM
GuanoLad GuanoLad is online now
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It's not always round. Just most commonly so.

I think they're round because the dishes they're baked in are too. Which isn't much of a reason.
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  #3  
Old 09-23-2005, 08:32 AM
bouv bouv is offline
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"Back in the day" it was much easier to make a round baking dish than a square one.
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  #4  
Old 09-23-2005, 08:37 AM
Q.E.D. Q.E.D. is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bouv
"Back in the day" it was much easier to make a round baking dish than a square one.
Additionally, it's much easier to press or roll the dough for the crust into a round(ish) shape than square. It's a natural shape for this kind of thing, which probably is why pizzas, hamburger patties, tortillas and pancakes tend to be traditionally round as well, among many other similarly-formed foodstuffs.
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  #5  
Old 09-23-2005, 08:38 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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I don't think it's because the dish is easier to make -- I suspect it's to provide more even baking. It's much easier to put a lot more heat into the corners (which get heat from two sides) than to the middle of a side (where it mostly comes from one side). No matter how careful I am in making brownies, the corners always seem tio come out drier and more cooked.

In a round pan, all othe things being equal, the baking will be much more even all around. The same goes for all those round cake pans, too.


Yeah, I know that you can bake and cook evenly, even with rectangular pans (look at all those sheet cakes), but it's easier and more likely to come out more uniform with a round pan/pie dish. That's why they do it.
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  #6  
Old 09-23-2005, 08:40 AM
FlyingRamenMonster FlyingRamenMonster is offline
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Because the circle is a beautiful shape.

What?
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  #7  
Old 09-23-2005, 08:44 AM
The Chao Goes Mu The Chao Goes Mu is offline
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My WAG is that when you cut a pie, it's from center to edge so everyone gets filling and a nice chunk of crust. If say, a cherry pie, was cooked in a square or rectangular pan you'd have some crusty pieces and some goopy blob pieces that are lacking in the yummy crust. I mean, a nice slice of pie sitting next to a scoop of french vanilla ice-cream is just so much more aesthetically pleasing than if it were next to a goop blob of cherry compote. IMHO.
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  #8  
Old 09-23-2005, 08:45 AM
Scumpup Scumpup is offline
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They aren't always round. My mother used to bake rectangular and square pies. Likewise the US Army, when I was part of that fine organization, used to have enormous rectangular pies in the mess halls.
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  #9  
Old 09-23-2005, 08:46 AM
awldune awldune is offline
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In some pies (e.g., chicken pot pie, apple pie) the crust plays a crucial role in connecting the top and bottom crust. A round pie ensures that every slice will have crust.
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  #10  
Old 09-23-2005, 08:48 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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I think even baking of circular objects is just a serendipitous effect of making them circular in the first place; basic ceramic dishes are pretty much always round; and pastry naturally rolls out into a rough circle. Even pasties (that's savoury pastry-encased foods baked on a tray, not adhesive nipple adornments) are semicircular largely because circles of pastry (which are then folded over around the filling) are just what you naturally get.

Same thing with hand-made pies - roll out a blob of dough; it forms a circle - dump some filling in the middle and fold up the edges all around it - you end up with a pie that is roughly circular.

More so with pizza; making a non-round pizza crust by traditional hand methods is just too difficult.
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  #11  
Old 09-23-2005, 08:50 AM
David Simmons David Simmons is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CalMeacham
I don't think it's because the dish is easier to make -- I suspect it's to provide more even baking. It's much easier to put a lot more heat into the corners (which get heat from two sides) than to the middle of a side (where it mostly comes from one side). No matter how careful I am in making brownies, the corners always seem tio come out drier and more cooked.

In a round pan, all othe things being equal, the baking will be much more even all around. The same goes for all those round cake pans, too.


Yeah, I know that you can bake and cook evenly, even with rectangular pans (look at all those sheet cakes), but it's easier and more likely to come out more uniform with a round pan/pie dish. That's why they do it.
Doubtful. I think pies were round long before people knew about heat flow. Q.E.D.'s 'because it's the most natural and easiest' is more likely.
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  #12  
Old 09-23-2005, 09:18 AM
pravnik pravnik is offline
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'Cause if it's not round, it's cobbler.
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  #13  
Old 09-23-2005, 09:19 AM
SlyFrog SlyFrog is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Simmons
Doubtful. I think pies were round long before people knew about heat flow. Q.E.D.'s 'because it's the most natural and easiest' is more likely.
Yeah, but you do not have to know the scientific reason for heat flow to know: round shape - seems to cook up better; square shape - not as good.
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  #14  
Old 09-23-2005, 09:33 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SlyFrog
Yeah, but you do not have to know the scientific reason for heat flow to know: round shape - seems to cook up better; square shape - not as good.
Yeah...but... making a square pie would just be extra hassle in ancient types; as indeed would making a square pie dish - corners are just something that can easily go wrong when you're making primitive pottery, so you make round bowls, pots, plates etc - even if you're not using a wheel.
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  #15  
Old 09-23-2005, 09:34 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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'types'=times
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  #16  
Old 09-23-2005, 09:38 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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SlyFrog got here before I returned and made my answer.

It's not obvious to me that round is the "natural" form for pans. If you're making a metal pan, rectangular is way easier. Even if you're making pottery forms, you can easily make them rectangular and use up your oven space more efficiently. I grew up with natural pottery-type clay in my backyard. I speak from experience. It isn't all pottery wheel and coiled pots.
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  #17  
Old 09-23-2005, 09:45 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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traditional ovens would not necessarily have been rectangular; you're thinking about this from an engineering/design perspective; pots and pans may not have to be round, but generally, they are - historically even more so; it's irrelevant whether they could have made square pie dishes, because they simply didn't. The question is not 'what's the best shape for a pie?'; it's 'why are pies (traditionally) round?'
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  #18  
Old 09-23-2005, 10:05 AM
devilsknew devilsknew is offline
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Contemporary Pie, in the form that we know it is of course "Pot Pie".

Quote:
Pot pies have a long history in most Northern European cuisines, and if they were a specialty anywhere, it was in the British Isles. And a pot pie must be made in a pot that is completely lined with crust. Originally, this crust was not eaten; it was there to keep the taste of the iron pot away from the food."
---"ONE CRUST OR TWO?" Leslie Land, Los Angeles Times, September 24, 1992 (p. H11)
Sweet and savory pies were made by using the inlay of cooking vessels or pots and of course the traditional shape of a pot is round. In the case of the round pie, it seems the chicken came before the egg, and it may be more accurate to ask why pots are round.
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  #19  
Old 09-23-2005, 10:12 AM
David Simmons David Simmons is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SlyFrog
Yeah, but you do not have to know the scientific reason for heat flow to know: round shape - seems to cook up better; square shape - not as good.
Sure but this implies purposeful experiments. If you take of hand-formed lump of dough and squish it out either with your palms or a roller it comes out sort of round. Why go to the extra trouble of cutting it square?
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  #20  
Old 09-23-2005, 10:19 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CalMeacham
If you're making a metal pan, rectangular is way easier.
Actually,I'd take issue even with this; it may be the case now that rectangular is easier, but this will not always have been the case; angular objects made from cast iron (using primitive methods) are generally more prone to casting defects and subsequent breakage than are round ones; even metal vessels made from plate would have been beaten from flat with a mallet and a leather sandbag - round is very much the natural shape for these.


Quote:
Even if you're making pottery forms, you can easily make them rectangular and use up your oven space more efficiently. I grew up with natural pottery-type clay in my backyard. I speak from experience. It isn't all pottery wheel and coiled pots.
It isn't all wheels and coils, but they are certainly the most common manufacturing methods, possibly because they're the quickest and easiest. People have been making pies or things like them since at least when the pyramids were being built and they used round pots to make them in, because that's what they had.

Further to devilsknew's quote; pie crusts were also used for short-term preservation of meats; pork pies consisted of ground pork cooked into a sort of meatloaf, completely encased in dense, salty pastry; the meat would remain edible for a while this way, if kept in a cool place - then the pastry would be cut off and discarded and just the meat filling would be eaten.
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  #21  
Old 09-23-2005, 10:24 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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Quote:
[Actually,I'd take issue even with this; it may be the case now that rectangular is easier, but this will not always have been the case; angular objects made from cast iron (using primitive methods) are generally more prone to casting defects and subsequent breakage than are round ones; even metal vessels made from plate would have been beaten from flat with a mallet and a leather sandbag - round is very much the natural shape for these.

Take plate, cut rectangular. Cut corners, bend up. Beat and/or solder into place.

Helluva lot easier than making a round pan.
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  #22  
Old 09-23-2005, 10:31 AM
USCDiver USCDiver is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CalMeacham
Take plate, cut rectangular. Cut corners, bend up. Beat and/or solder into place.

Helluva lot easier than making a round pan.
By that logic, take plate, cut circular, bend up edges. Voila circular pan and you skip the beat/solder in place step.
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  #23  
Old 09-23-2005, 10:37 AM
Lemur866 Lemur866 is offline
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And also note that rectangular ovens aren't the standard either. I imagine most hand-built ovens are circular rather than rectangular.
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  #24  
Old 09-23-2005, 12:02 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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Quote:
By that logic, take plate, cut circular, bend up edges. Voila circular pan and you skip the beat/solder in place step.
Try it sometime.


Heck, try it with a piece of paper. Metal and paper like to fold in straight lines. Trying to make a circle gets messy. And instead of nice straight sides that your pie/cake/bread can slide out of, you get a nasty crimped edge that tenaciously holds it in place.
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  #25  
Old 09-23-2005, 12:18 PM
Excalibre Excalibre is offline
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I don't really like these explanations because they ought to apply equally to all baked goods, whereas we make plenty of other things in rectangular pans. There's an explanation I've heard, which sounds like a myth to me but is interesting nonetheless, that early American settlers had traditionally baked square pies, but in times of shortage, it became necessary to cook and eat less, and they camouflaged it by making round pies. Of course, this seems impractical if you stop to think it would have meant new pans. Plus, judging by Mangetout's experiences, it sounds like British pies are also round. But it's an interesting story.
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  #26  
Old 09-23-2005, 12:37 PM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
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Pire are not round.
Pie are square.
Ask any mathemetician.
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  #27  
Old 09-23-2005, 12:50 PM
guizot guizot is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Q.E.D.
Additionally, it's much easier to press or roll the dough for the crust into a round(ish) shape than square. It's a natural shape for this kind of thing, which probably is why pizzas, hamburger patties, tortillas and pancakes tend to be traditionally round as well, among many other similarly-formed foodstuffs.
When I go to IHOP, I demand square pancakes. I haven't had much success, but I keep trying.
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  #28  
Old 09-23-2005, 12:54 PM
magellan01 magellan01 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chappachula
and , no the following answers don't count:
- because if it's served in squares it's called cobbler (but the crust is different)..

- because statistics are diagrammed in pie charts.

-- because corn bread are square (reference to an old, old joke, based on "pi R squared" math formula)
Because pie pans are round.
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  #29  
Old 09-23-2005, 01:00 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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Quote:
When I go to IHOP, I demand square pancakes. I haven't had much success, but I keep trying.
Have Mrs. Douglas use square tupperware lids instead of round pot lids.














Does anyone get the reference?
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  #30  
Old 09-23-2005, 01:01 PM
chappachula chappachula is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor
Pire are not round.
Pie are square.
Ask any mathemetician.
Quote:
Originally Posted by pravnik
'Cause if it's not round, it's cobbler.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Chao Goes Mu
.. so everyone gets filling and a nice chunk of crust. If a pie was cooked in a square or rectangular pan you'd have some crusty pieces and some goopy blob pieces that are lacking in the yummy crust.
It all depends on the size of the piece!! A round pie only gives everybody a bit of crust IF you cut large wedges that reach the center of the pie. (If you cut smaller triangles, you would leave a crustless part in the middle). So the same is true of a square pie: If you cut rectangular strips that reach the middle, then everybody gets a piece of the side crust, with no "gloopy blob" left over


No, my fellow Dopers,say it ain't so......it seems we have an impasse here! After 23 posts, no definitive answer ..... Ignorance remains unfought..... How can it be? Cecil..... help!!!!
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  #31  
Old 09-23-2005, 01:13 PM
SlyFrog SlyFrog is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Simmons
Sure but this implies purposeful experiments. If you take of hand-formed lump of dough and squish it out either with your palms or a roller it comes out sort of round. Why go to the extra trouble of cutting it square?
I do not think it has to imply fully purposeful experiments. I think of it as being akin to evolution. Not everything has to be in accordance with scientific method. Over thousands of years, if there is a benefit to round instead of square, it may have been slowly discovered through accidents or because the village crazy made a circle, and it happened to come out better than the square (or vice-versa, depending on the type of food).

Think of all the different types of cooking, baking, etc. that have been discovered, and are the "right" way to prepare things, even if the reason why is not fully known. They were not discovered through rigorous scientific method, but I assume a very slow process (potentially over generations) of trial and error.
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  #32  
Old 09-23-2005, 01:19 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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SlyFrog, you're a person after my own heart.


I think 90% of pre-modern human discoveries were made by dumb luck random unplanned trial and error. People do things the way they do because "they always have", but every now and then a more useful method pops up and gets adopted. Kinda like organic evolution, with human error and clumsiness as the agent of Punctuated Equilibrium.
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  #33  
Old 09-23-2005, 02:32 PM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SlyFrog
I do not think it has to imply fully purposeful experiments. I think of it as being akin to evolution. Not everything has to be in accordance with scientific method. Over thousands of years, if there is a benefit to round instead of square, it may have been slowly discovered through accidents or because the village crazy made a circle, and it happened to come out better than the square (or vice-versa, depending on the type of food).

Think of all the different types of cooking, baking, etc. that have been discovered, and are the "right" way to prepare things, even if the reason why is not fully known. They were not discovered through rigorous scientific method, but I assume a very slow process (potentially over generations) of trial and error.
I don't disagree with this as a concept, I just don't think it ever actually happened; cooking pots have only comparatively recently (that is, after the advent of the pie) started being commonly available any shape other than round; the existence of rectangular ovens may have driven this, along with the technology to reliably make non-circular pots that weren't prone to a greater risk of breakage.

It's also probably worth noting that a square dish has two distinct disadvantages over a round one - it's more difficult to clean (food tends to get burned on in the corners) and it requires slightly more material to make than does a circular dish of the same liquid capacity. I don't suspect these were significant factors; people just made round pots because they worked.
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  #34  
Old 09-23-2005, 03:15 PM
Fish Fish is offline
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Let's see... Applying Cecil's tried and true methods:

Blame the Egyptians. Er, I can't think of any good reasons to do this.

Blame the Greeks. No, no good reasons here either. Some Greek mathematicians had a fascination for easily divisible numbers, and squarish cakes are easier to subdivide, but I doubt they had much to do with the baking.

Blame physics. This is probably closer. Pour some goopy dough, or an egg mixture, or some batter on a hot flat rock in your campfire and it gravity will make it roughly round in shape. Add some filling on top, pour more batter over it, and presto: pie.

If you want to make a thicker pie, you need a way to keep the batter or dough from running too thin (or slipping off the edge of your hot rock) so you use whatever is handy to confine the dough to a given area. One could either use a hot rock with a natural depression in it (which in nature is unlikely to be square) or some kind of shell or gourd (also roundish). You could use naturally occuring objects like bones or sticks to build walls (which are mostly straight but can be carved) or skins/intestines (which can fully enclose your food item).

Naturally, an actual oven (which can heat from the top as well as from the bottom and sides) would enable different kinds of cooking, but I'd think that's relatively late an invention. By the time you can make an oven you can make whatever kind of dishes you want, I should think. My guess is it's got to do with batter/dough consistency and what can be fried on a flat rock.

Eh, I dunno. I'd rather blame the Greeks.
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  #35  
Old 09-23-2005, 04:04 PM
Aangelica Aangelica is offline
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You guys don't bake, do you?

As a person who bakes many pies, I'm going with: "Pies are round because making square corners using pie crust is a pain in the behind which often results in odd double-crusty bits and weird clumping"

If you whip up some pie crust dough and roll it out to the desired thickness, the crust typically comes out roundish. One can arrange for it to come out in other shapes (like squareish), but it's a minor pain in the ass. However, dropping a roundish chunk of raw pie crust into a round pan results in fairly smooth and even coverage of said pan without the need for odd cornering maneuvers. Dropping a squarish (and trust me, square-ish is probably as close as you're getting with only a rolling pin) chunk of raw pie crust into a square pan does not result in smooth even coverage of said pan. It results in the need to trim and re-fuse the edges of the trim back together in order to not have a weird, lumpy, doubled-up spot at the corner.

There's also the problem of the middle bits of a square (or rectangular) pie. Pie filling (in the case of fruit pies and meat pies) is drippy. Or possibly oozy (in the case of say chocolate cream pie). Unlike cake (which is often rectangular or square), pie filling generally fails to stay in one spot unless contained by something. Hence the point of pie crust in the first place - it provides cohesiveness. It's basically pie infrastructure. In many pies, if one doesn't have at least three "walls" what you end up with is top crust immediately on top of bottom crust separated by a very thin layer of filling juice and a landslide of pie goodness on either side taking up the rest of the pan.

Speaking of pie, I need to go make me and my sweetie some pie now. Buh-bye! Apples to peel.
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  #36  
Old 09-23-2005, 04:44 PM
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The way I recall it is-
Rocky: Hey Bullwinkle. Didja know that the area of a circle is pi r squared?
Bullwinkle: No, Rocky. Pie are round.
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  #37  
Old 09-23-2005, 06:52 PM
devilsknew devilsknew is offline
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I would suggest reading this excellent resource on the history of pies researched by Lynne Olver.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fish
Blame the Egyptians. Er, I can't think of any good reasons to do this.

Blame the Greeks. No, no good reasons here either. Some Greek mathematicians had a fascination for easily divisible numbers, and squarish cakes are easier to subdivide, but I doubt they had much to do with the baking.

Blame physics. This is probably closer. Pour some goopy dough, or an egg mixture, or some batter on a hot flat rock in your campfire and it gravity will make it roughly round in shape. Add some filling on top, pour more batter over it, and presto: pie.
Probably a combination of all three.


Medieval pie crusts were often described as coffins.

Quote:
Medieval cooking texts typically instruct the cook to lay his fruit or meat in a "coffin," no recipe provided. Up through Medieval times, pie crust was often used as a cooking receptacle. It was vented with holes and sometimes marked to distinguish the baker/owner. The crust was sometimes discarded. Pie crust has changed little through the ages.
From an English cooking text circa 1381 on how to make Apple Pie http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/foc/FoC1...rtys in Applis
"Tak gode Applys and gode spycis and figys and reysons and perys and wan they are wel ybrayed colourd wyth safron wel and do yt in a cofyn and do yt forth to bake wel."


(I still hold that modern American Pie is round because it is a pot pie and is directly related to the traditional shape of pots. There really is no huge mystery- form following function.)
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  #38  
Old 09-23-2005, 07:18 PM
David Simmons David Simmons is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SlyFrog
I do not think it has to imply fully purposeful experiments. I think of it as being akin to evolution. Not everything has to be in accordance with scientific method. Over thousands of years, if there is a benefit to round instead of square, it may have been slowly discovered through accidents or because the village crazy made a circle, and it happened to come out better than the square (or vice-versa, depending on the type of food).
You might be right. But ... The pie dough when flattened just came out roundish and why bother to change it? On the other hand, someone would have to say something like, "I wonder what a square pie would be like?" Then make one, bake it and compare it with the way they had always done it. That would be in the nature of a planned experiment. I seriously doubt that a square pie vs. a round one could happen by dumb luck.

Of course it wouldn't be a series of scientific experiments in the modern sense, double blind with controls and all that stuff.
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  #39  
Old 09-23-2005, 08:33 PM
Runs With Scissors Runs With Scissors is offline
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From Betty Crocker:

"Pies have become a uniquely American institution. Early settlers brought over recipes for 'pyes' baked in long, deep dishes called 'coffins.' When times were tight in colonial days, frugal bakers rounded the corners of the coffin and made it shallow, so the pie would stretch further.

Early Americans ate pie for breakfast, pie for lunch, and pie for dinner, using fruit and berries in the summer and nuts, dried fruits and root vegetables in the winter. Pies were kept in pie safes, wooden cabinets with pierced tin doors that let the pies cool but kept the flies off."
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  #40  
Old 09-24-2005, 03:54 PM
calm kiwi calm kiwi is offline
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The only pie I ever make at home is bacon and egg pie. It is always rectangular because;

a) that is the shape of the oven tin.

b) bacon and egg pie should always be rectangular (unless it is the one person kind).
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  #41  
Old 09-24-2005, 04:29 PM
Arch Trout Arch Trout is offline
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The typical Steak Pie, which is the traditional New Year's meal in Scotland, is rectangular.
And very tasty.

Scotch pies, on the other hand are round.
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  #42  
Old 09-24-2005, 06:55 PM
Rick Rick is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by calm kiwi
The only pie I ever make at home is bacon and egg pie. It is always rectangular because;

a) that is the shape of the oven tin.

b) bacon and egg pie should always be rectangular (unless it is the one person kind).
recipe?
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  #43  
Old 09-24-2005, 07:38 PM
calm kiwi calm kiwi is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2002
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick
recipe?
Bacon and Egg Pie

Flakey pastry (I buy pre-rolled because I'm lazy)
Eggs
Bacon
Onion
Peas
Optional extra, tomato (I have to include tomato as my mum's B&E pie always had tomato, I leave it out.)

Line the baking tray with pastry.
Chop bacon and onion, spread on to the pastry.
Chuck on peas (we like peas, feel free to leave them out)
Break eggs into the tray. Poke them with a fork and swish about for a moment (not long enough to completely mix yolk and white).
Top with pastry.
Bake till golden brown.


Very good hot but even better cold.
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  #44  
Old 09-25-2005, 06:21 AM
Scumpup Scumpup is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2003
I presume that bacon is cooked before you put it in the pie?
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