Monday, March 14, 2016

Happy π-Day with a Poppy Seed Quark Pie!

Pi Day is celebrated on March 14th around the world. Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, which is approximately 3.14159.

Pi has been calculated to over one trillion digits beyond its decimal point. As an irrational and transcendental number, it will continue infinitely without repetition or pattern. While only a handful of digits are needed for typical calculations. An approximation for Pi is 3.14, or March 14 using the US date system. So mathematicians, who are always on the lookout to make their subject more interesting to a broader audience, have jumped on today as a day to promote what is a lot of people's favorite little number.

So, let´s make some pie for today´s celebration – I like pies and I just love making them. Sweet as well as savory. My Poppy Seed Quark Pie is one of my favorite pies to make. It combines a lot of the flavors I enjoy. The tangyness of the Quark (or fromage blanc) and the grated lemon zest, the sweet poppy seed filling and the buttery shortcrust pastry all combine in the most delicious of ways. One thing to remember when making this pie is that the pie shell must be made with care, so the edges don’t shrink as they cook, otherwise it will leak once the filling goes in. I always keep a little bit of pastry aside so I can patch any holes before I add the Quark as well as the poppy seed filling.

Poppy Seed Quark Pie

Ingredients for the Shortcrust Pastry
  • 200 g (7 oz) plain (all purpose) flour
  • 1 level tsp baking powder
  • 100 g (3 1/2 oz) superfine (caster) sugar
  • 8 g (1 sachet) pure vanilla sugar or homemade vanilla sugar
  • 1 pinch fine sea salt
  • 1 egg (M), free range or organic
  • 1 tbsp cold water
  • 100 g (3 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature

Ingredients for the Quark Topping
  • 25 g (1.7 oz) unsalted butter
  • 375 g (13 oz) low fat Quark* (or use fromage blanc)
  • 100 g (3 1/2 oz) superfine (caster) sugar
  • grated zest of one organic lemon
  • 25 g (0.7 oz) vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 egg (M), free range or organic

Ingredients for the Poppy Seed Topping
  • 2 eggs (M), free range or organic
  • 1 tbsp. milk
  • 250 g (8.8 oz) poppy seed filling, either use a ready-to-bake poppy seed filling for cakes, pastries, dumplings and desserts OR make your own (see recipe below)
  • one egg yolk (M), free range or organic

  • a tart pan with removable bottom or springform pan (diameter 26 cm or 10 1/4 in)

  1. To make the shortcrust pastry, mix together the flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Add all the other ingredients for the shortcrust pastry and whisk everything using a hand-mixer (kneading hook), first on the lowest setting, then on the highest setting until all the ingredients have been incorporated and formed a shortcrust pastry. Then shape into a disk  with your hands. If the pastry feels sticky, wrap it in clingfilm (plastic film) and put in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
  2. For the Quark topping, place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer until smooth. Set aside.
  3. For the poppy seed topping, mix the poppy-seed filling with 2 eggs and 1 tablespoon milk until smooth. Set aside.
  4. Grease the bottom of the tart pan or springform mold.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180° C / 350° F - fan-assisted oven: 160° C / 325° F.
  6. Sprinkle flour on your work surface and roll out 2/3 of the pastry, make sure it is a bit larger than your tart pan.
  7. Roll the dough up with the help of the rolling pin and place in the baking pan.
  8. Spread the Quark topping on first and then distribute the poppy seed topping over it.
  9. Roll out the 1/3 remaining pastry thin and cut into strips.
  10. Place the pastry strips over the poppy seed topping in a grid pattern.
  11. Brush on egg yolk and milk mixture.
  12. Bake in your pre-heated oven for about 40 to 45 minutes.
  13. Leave the tart to cool in the tart pan or springform mold on a cake rack.
  14. Loosen the tart from the tart pan or springform mold and remove it.

NOTE: *Different fresh cheeses have a slightly different texture – a fromage blanc needs draining 24 hours beforehand. A goat’s milk fromage blanc will add an interesting flavor here. Drain in a colander lined with a tea-towel, leave in the fridge for 24 hours or more with a heavy weight on top.

Recipe for Poppy Seed Filling
(if you cannot find ready-made poppy seed filling, you can always make your own following this recipe)

  • 225 g (8 oz.) poppy seeds
  • 55 g (1.9 oz) unsalted butter
  • 235 ml (1 cup) milk
  • 150 g (6 oz) cup sugar
  • 85 g (3 oz) mild runny honey
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs (M), organic or free range, beaten

  1. Grind the poppy seeds in a coffee grinder in batches until they are powdery.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Whisk the milk, sugar, honey and salt into the melted butter.
  4. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved and the honey is melted.
  5. Carefully transfer some of the hot mixture to a small bowl.
  6. Gradually add the hot mixture to the bowl with the beaten eggs. Whisk briskly and constantly until all of the hot liquid is integrated into the eggs.
  7. Slowly pour the heated, tempered egg mixture back into the hot mixture in the saucepan, whisking constantly.
  8. Continue to whisk and cook for 3 to 5 more minutes over medium heat till the mixture thickens and turns light yellow. It is ready when it thickly coats the back of a spoon.
  9. Remove the saucepan from heat.
  10. Then whisk the ground poppy seeds into the buttery liquid and stir well to blend all ingredients.
  11. Allow filling to cool to room temperature before using.
  12. You can make the poppy seed filling ahead of time and store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for a few days.

May you enjoy π-Day as well as my recipe for a Poppy Seed Quark Pie – fabulous taste and a bit of old-world charm are all combined in this delightful pie of a dessert.


  1. I said this on Instagram and it's true, this looks like it should be on a magazine cover! Lovely Andrea and it sounds wonderful!

    1. Dear Chris, thank you very much! I appreciate your lovely comments on Instagram as well as on my blog! Presently, this is one of my favorite dessert pies of all times - just a wonderful flavor combination.

  2. Lovely! I celebrate Pi (and Pie) Day all year round - after all, I am very round and not square! :) However, I didn't make any pie yesterday... very sad. I haven't cooked or baked much with poppy seeds. I will definitely need to try this - although I am not sure either quark or fromage blanc are readily available here, I will need to check at Whole Foods! Now, happy Ides of March! David

    1. David, you know we are very found of those poppy seed fillings around here - I already loved poppy seed fillings as a child, especially in combinaion with Quark or fromage blanc - I know that this kind of fresh cheese is available in some places in the US, as we made a lovely "Cheesecake Tart" for the French Fridays with Dorie group a while back and many of the other members of the FFwD group made Dorie´s tart with fromage blanc/quark.
      Thank you for stopping by! Let´s have some pie together some day!

  3. Wonderful Andrea!! I love poppy seeds, look delicious !

    1. Thank you, dear Gloria! Poppy seeds are just wonderful for baking and cooking!

  4. Super lecker, vielleicht bake ich diesen Kuchen wenn ich meinen Bruder besuche.

    1. Gerlinde, warum nicht - ist ein unglaublich leckerer Kuchen!
      Ich wünsche dir schöne Osterferien bei deinem Bruder - das Wetter ist zur Zeit ganz wunderbar, wenn auch etwas kühl.

  5. Hi Andrea, what a beautiful looking pie, enjoy your posts as you always have a bit of history and tidbits that makes the end result even more inviting. Beautiful pics as always, you should teach classes.

    1. Cheri, thank you very much! Actually, I am working on a cookbook of sorts with a group of interested chefs, trained as well as untrained...we will see where that leads us.
      Always apppreciate your dropping by for lovely comments!

  6. Hi Andrea, love your Poppy Seed Quark Pie, beautiful! Quark is another ingredient, as wild garlic that I have never prepared but in reading up on it and seeing the photos, it appears similar as American cottage cheese, though a ricotta cheese might also serve as a suitable substitute. Love the poppy seed combination too. Your dessert cart repertoire is so exceptional and beautiful to look at too!

    1. Peggy, the Quark can be substituted with a number of different fresh cheeses such as fromage blanc, cottage cheese, cream cheese, farmers cheese but the consistency will be a bit different - you might want to drain them overnight to get rid of excess liquid but this recipe will still work. The poppy ssed and quark filling is an absolutely wonderful combination - I know you would love it. If you ever come over for a visit, that is the pie that I will serve to you, promise!