Tag Archives: The QT Pi(e) Project

03.14.13: Happy Pi(e) Day 2013!


If ever there were proof of my nerd side, it would be Pi(e) Day, a quirky union of math and baking between layers of flaky pie crust.

Pi and Pie

This year, I’m content to eat a hand pie for breakfast and continue with my other daily routines. However, in the past, I dedicated a LOT of energy to this day.

Bicycle Pie

Here’s the full story…

May your day be filled with an appreciation for the area of circles and lattice crusts! If you feel more like making pie and less like engaging in long algebra, here are some pie suggestions.

A Little Press, and I Was In Pi(e) Heaven!


Just last week my bosses had been teasing me about my less than sunny demeanor, but had they seen my face today at the moment I first heard the word from Erin, “Check out ReadyMade’s homepage,” they would have seen unarguable, pure joy!    I was beaming!  Seeing this article made me melt like butter and then float to a DIY cloud.  I love the mathematical title and the prime location on the homepage banner!  I love the slideshow!  I just simply love it!  Thanks to everyone who helped turn this dorky math pun into a reality far more rewarding than I ever imagined!

Pi(e) Day 2011


Happy today foodie nerds of the world!  In the QT Pi(e) world, the day began with a quick walk to the neighborhood coffeeshop and one day host of QT Pi(e)s!

Inside my recipe box was our latest print material.  I was up late the night before cutting out the book version of the Pi(e) Day stop motion video.

By 11am, the pie plates began to look like this…

At this point, I cut off a tiny sliver just to quality control the situation.  The slice passed the taste test!

I clearly need to up the pie production to keep up with my coworkers!

Happy Pi(e) Day 2011 Everyone!

Pi(e) Day Eve: Pie Preparations


Though less baking work than Pi(e) Day 2010 (just perhaps), there were still lots of pies to be made:  a sweet potato version for Lili Coffeeshop, our gracious Pi(e) Day host and apple pi(e)s for the more geeked out minds of my day job.

Whole Wheat + Unbleached Flour from Saint Vincent Gristmill

Amish Butter from Minerva, Ohio (about 78 miles from PGH)

Maple Syrup from Milroy Farms in Salisbury, PA.  Honey was a reserve supply purchased at the Farmers at the Firehouse fall farmer’s market.

Goat milk chevre and farm fresh eggs

Heavy Whipping Cream from Turner Dairy

Sweet potatoes from Clarion River Organics

For the Crust

16 Tbs Amish butter, cold
1 cup + 3 Tbs Saint Vincent’s Unbleached Flour
1 cup Saint Vincent’s Whole Wheat Flour
1 package goat milk chevre, cold
4 Tbs honey
3 Tbs Apple Cider, ice cold

Whisk together the flours in a medium sized bowl.  Use a pastry blender to cut in the cold butter until dough resembles small peas.  Cut in the cold goat cheese until the mixture resembles coarse sand.  Add and incorporate the honey.  Add the ice cold apple cider.  Use a pastry blender to mix until the dough sticks together.  Use your hands as necessary, but do not overwork the dough.  Form into 2 discs and cover them with foil.  Set aside in the freezer for about 10 minutes or in a refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F

Remove the discs.  On a well floured surface, use a rolling pin to shape the first disc into a rectangle.  Press it into the pan.  Remove overhanging dough.  Roll out the second disc.  Press it into the pan.  Use water to seal the overlapping seam.  Bake for 10 minutes until slightly golden.

For the Sweet Potato Filling

2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1/2 cup maple sugar
2 eggs

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 1 in cubes.  Boil until soft.  Use a mixer to puree.  Blend all the ingredients and pour into the pie crust.

For the Sweet Goat Cheese Swirl

2 goat milk chevre packages
1/2 cup maple sugar
2 eggs

Beat the goat cheese and maple syrup until well blended.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Stir to incorporate.

Spoon dollops of the cream cheese mixture into the sweet potato filling.  Use a chopstick of knife to swirl the two fillings.

Bake for 40-50 minutes until center is set.

Gala apples and Apple Cider from Dawson’s Orchards

All the apple pies started with a base of apple chunks boiled in apple cider and water.  Once the apples were soft, I drained off the water and added a steady flow of honey and stirred to incorporate.  The applesauce was the base, followed by my fancy and then drizzles of maple syrup and buttery flour crumbs.

A special handpie for the little miss coffeeshop namesake!

All packed and ready to transport to work on Pi(e) Day!

Pittsburgh’s Small Press Festival

September 2010


Open Thread is an arts & literary service organization based out of Pittsburgh, whose books, events, and online presence highlight emerging artists and writers from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The Pittsburgh SPF is Pittsburgh’s annual small press festival, organized by Open Thread, sponsored by AIR: Artists Image Resource, and supported in part by The Heinz Endowments.

The QT Pi(e) Project was one of the artisanal vendors on site.  I made the pies, and Erin made the ice cream as well as the adornments.  She represented the QT Pi(e) name for both of us while I spent the weekend in the heated wilderness.  The flavors on the menu were:  honey pear, honey peach and maple plum.  As usual, the QT Pies and ice cream were made from all local ingredients!

Honey Pear

Honey Peach

Maple Plum

Honey Peach

Event photos from Erin…

[Trailer] Park[ing] Day & Night + Pie

September 2010

PARK(ing) Day is a annual open-source global event where citizens, artists and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public places. The project began in 2005 when Rebar, a San Francisco art and design studio, converted a single metered parking space into a temporary public park in downtown San Francisco. Since 2005, PARK(ing) Day has evolved into a global movement.  The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat … at least until the meter runs out!

Maple & Honey & Pear rosettes

The Polish Hill [Trailer] Park[ing] Day and Night was a collaboration between The Caravan Collective and the lovely folks of Lili Coffee Shop featuring friends from, Copacetic Comics Company, Mind Cure Records, the music of Robin Vote and our delicious pies a la mode!

One of the Polish Hill neighbors brought a platter of deliciously deviled and locally sourced eggs.

The Jam!  There was an accordionist, a trumpeter, a bassist and a few dancing kids.

Two pie girls- one with a much lighter hairdo these days.

As the pie sold out, Erin turned into a ghost.  That was the end of the pie participation at [Trailer] Park[ing] Day/Night.



August 2010

Hothouse is The Sprout Fund’s annual benefit and showcase event. The event serves as stage to present a sampling of some of the innovative projects and emerging leaders of successful community initiatives supported by Sprout over the past year. Held annually at unique development sites, the event celebrates the organization’s accomplishments and features live music and performances, food and drink by Pittsburgh favorites, a silent auction, and a VIP reception.

The Sprout Fund was the sponsor of the QT Pi(e) Project, so we were part of the county fair!

Part of the impetus behind The QT Pi(e) Project was my desire to have a bakery at a 314 address called “QT Pi(e)’s.”  The hothouse booth was just that!  The concept was a diner façade where county regulars would sit and chat with their QT Pie hostesses dressed in proper diner waitress ensembles.  The menu for the night- pie a la mode made from all local, natural ingredients!

Making it happen…

The QT Pi(e) Project is very fortunate indeed to have its own, personal, tremendously talented carpenter- the dashing carpenter!  In exchange for love and pies, Kristian  often lends a very talented hand.  This time around, Kristian made our QT Pie dream concept a reality.  In an effort to leave the man to his madness, there aren’t many photos of the making of the booth, but we have some of the finishing touches to show.

A few things changed since the initial scheme.  In the interest of fully using the potential of our space, we opted to use an entire table instead of attaching little counter tops to the sides of the booth.  Rather than a brick facade, we went with a bright blue!  The people at the paint store thought we were crazy, but the color reminded us of old French bakeries. With so much work, we opted not to have a pie throwing element.  We’d rather eat our QT Pies then waste them on antics.  The last thing we needed was a menu board, but there was a dashing carpenter to that rescue as well!

Hothouse came and went so quickly.  Our bakery facade exceeded our expectations.  We shared our pie and ice cream mission with several party attendees who made some of the best faces after sampling our pies!  And we still had time to party!  All in all, it was worth the effort.  Special thanks to Dana Leigh Dolney, our official QT Pie photographer for the evening.

As always, for the full pi(e) story, check out The QT Pi(e) Blog.

Cookspeak meet Piespeak

August 2010

We made another appearance at The Waffle Shop, but this time we were the interviewees.  Tom Totin hosts a weekly segment called “Cookspeak,” and he invited us to be his guests.  According to The Waffle Shop, “Cookspeak is  an out of the box Culinary Commentary by an experienced Cook who still loves the business in spite of himself.”

We brought a fresh QT Pie and maple ice cream.

Tom brought a sweet tomato topping, a sweet jam topping and fresh melon, all in concordance with our goal to promote local ingredients.  Quite delicious!  Thanks for having us Tom!  To hear a podcast version of our show and to listen to more of Tom’s interviews, click here.  Thanks also to Dana Leigh Dolney for being our photographer for the morning event.

Talkety talk talk talk… PIE!

… a la mode.

A perfect pairing!

The Polish Hill Arts Festival + Pie A La Mode

July 2010

A year ago I had brought a peach tart to Polish Hill for a post Arts Festival celebration.  This year, we brought QT Pies to the celebration!

This year’s commute was shorter too, since I had recently changed my home front to Polish Hill.  The neighborhood’s vibe changed my whole perception of Pittsburgh, and I was excited to share some locally sourced, homemade pies and ice cream with my new ‘hood.

There was just one snafu (as my art history professor liked to say):  bureaucracy!

Having barely made it up the steep hill of Dobson Street and made one lap around the art festival, we were shut down, stopped, thwarted, closed for business.  We understood the reasoning- no food license or registration to show for our wagon pie mobile- but it still hurt.  Luckily, our good friends at Lili Coffeeshop let us hang on their corner for a bit.  We found some of our friends, and our counter culture pies and ice cream hit the spot!

The sad faces of thwarted counter culture pies and ice cream.

I’d still say our pie a la mode debut was a success!

Yes, They Really Serve Waffles

And we really served pies!
June 2010

The Waffle Shop is a neighborhood restaurant that produces and broadcasts a live-streaming talk show with its customers, operates a changeable storytelling billboard on its roof, and runs a take-out window that sells food from countries engaged in conflict with the U.S.  The shop is a public lab that brings together people from all walks of life to engage in dialogue, experimentation and the co-production of culture. The project functions as a classroom for students from Carnegie Mellon University, an eatery, a TV production studio, a social catalyst, and a business. Our customers are our funders, audience and participants as we film during open hours, inviting interested patrons to express their unique opinions and personalities.

In June, The QT Pi(e) Project hosted a talk show at The Waffle Shop.  We invited our Pie Luck participants to come and talk about their thoughts on local foods.  We polled the audience’s pi memory and interviewed a few audience diners about their food sourcing beliefs.

We also wore ridiculous ties to look “professional!”

Cookspeak was the regularly scheduled segment before our tv time slot.  The host, Tom Totin, is an experienced cook who invites guest to talk about a wide variety of food stories.  For this particular episode, he interviewed a former, real life astronaut!  Space ice cream definitely entered the conversation.

QT Pies for sale!

That concluded our bit of Sunday morning fame.

Once again, for the whole QT Pi(e) story, check out the blog:


The Ice Cream Parlor

June 2010

I had been keeping an eye open for an ice cream maker in all my flea market wanderings, and finally, I spotted this old timey gem!  I was more than a tad skeptical an $8 ice cream maker would in fact make ice cream, but the vendor gave me his word and told me I could return the following week if it didn’t churn out satisfactory desserts.

There’s no need to justify having an ice cream source in your life, but specifically, the QT Pi(e) Project was in need of some mode.  When I spotted this marvelous, vintage machine, the pies and ice cream were one step closer to happily ever after.

So we took the little lady for a whirl and put a ReadyMade ice cream recipe to the test as well.

Our ice cream supply needed to be just as local as our pies, so we used pure maple syrup, from just west of our border, as our sweetener.

No need to return the new ice cream queen!

The Recipe
Adapted from ReadyMade Magazine

For Creme Fraiche:
2 c heavy cream
2 T buttermilk

For Creme Fraiche Ice Cream:
1 1/4 c nonfat milk
2 1/2 c cream
1/2 t salt
1 cup pure maple syrup
7 egg yolks
1 c crème fraîche

Creme Fraiche:
Place heavy cream in a bowl or large jar. Add the buttermilk, which will act as the culture. Partially cover the jar or bowl and let it sit at room temperature until mixture has thickened to approximately the consistency of yogurt.  Stir it gently a couple of times over the course of the process so you can keep tabs on how it’s doing. You’ll notice that it thickens in clumps at first, and then more broadly. Depending on the temperature of my house, it takes between 12 and 48 hours to thicken properly. When it’s ready, give it another good (but gentle) stir, cover, and refrigerate for at least a day before using.

Creme Fraiche Ice Cream:
Mix the milk and cream in a saucepan and heat until nice and hot before adding the egg yolk extravaganza.

Whisk milk and cream in a heavy-bottom saucepan with the salt and half the sugar maple syrup. Whisk egg yolks in another bowl with remaining sugar maple syrup.

Turn the heat to medium-low and bring cream mixture up to just before a simmer, whisking frequently. Ladle a quarter cup of the cream mixture into the egg yolks and beat thoroughly, then pour the egg mixture into the cream mixture. Switch to a spatula and run it along the bottom of the pan constantly until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Set a metal bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice water. Strain the cream mixture through a fine sieve or a colander lined with cheesecloth into the smaller bowl and stir. When cooled, whisk in the crème fraîche. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate for 2 hours. Freeze per your ice cream maker’s instructions.

Sprout Summer Social

June 2010

The Sprout Fund, the nonprofit behind The QT Pi(e)Project, invited us to present our project at its annual summertime open house.  There were refreshments, music and mingling-so much mingling that by the end of the night I felt hoarse from so much talk about pies!  We set up one of the legendary bicycles behind the QT Pi(e) delivery effort and adorned it with our photos and recipe cards and sold pies.  Though it rained in true Pittsburgh fashion, there was lots of fun to be had under the big tent!

Above photo credit Joey Kennedy Photography.

Baum Grove Bake Sale

May 2010

Erin, my partner in pie, her mother and sister had signed up to sell their art at The Friendship Flower & Folk Festival.  It seemed like the perfect place for the first ever QT Pi(e) Bake Sale!

We prepared a new booklet to accompany the pies:  a hand stamped cover and a printed fold out.

I used my latest wine experiments to tweak the original QT Pi(e) recipe.

The Friendship Flower & Folk Festival had seemed like a great spot for our first QT Pi(e) Bake sale, but we hadn’t factored in whether it would be a warm enough spot.  The winds were quite brisk, the sky was quite gray, and the crowd was quite meager.  Nonetheless, we were there to tell our pie stories and meet some new faces.

We met a man who gives hugs and brightens days.

We also met a very familiar carpenter face who helped promote our pie business.

The wind won for a spell.

Most artists had cleared out by the time the wind knocked down our displays.  Then the organizers began to deflate the moon bounce.  It was time to call it a day.


The QT Pi(e) Project


The QT Pi(e) Project
Project Statement

On “Pi Day” (3/14/10), small pies were delivered via bicycle, to homes in various Pittsburgh neighborhoods, which included some portion of the number π (3.1415) in their address.  The pie packaging included maps comparing the origin of the conventional “Cutie Pie” ingredients versus the local ingredients (Allegheny County) of the delivered “QT Pi(e)s” and a reference to π.  The packages were photographed at the locations and documented for a blog.  The project was funded by a Seed Award from The Sprout Fund.

What is unique or innovative about this idea?  What was the inspiration for the project?  What influenced my thinking about the project?

When I travel in urban contexts, I like to have my picture taken in doorways whose address matches my age as a way of marking my time spent on that journey.  In my daydreams about having my own bakery, I envisioned having it at a 314 address and calling it QT Pi’s, a play on math, my baking and my initials (Quelcy Trenae).   Rather than wait for the fateful day of finding the location and having the funds to start a bakery, I arrived at the idea of making the project a community oriented, concept art project with a tasty educational aspect.

I come from a line of farmers and have seen my father struggle to promote locally raised, free-range, beef cattle against market standards that protect and encourage factory farms.  Food politics have influenced my reading, my shopping, my eating, my cooking and baking, but rather than preach about it, my goal is always to encourage people to develop food convictions through their own choices.

We all deserve to pick up an apple and eat it without wondering what pesticides will linger in our bodies and affect our health later in life, but this requires drastic changes to how we have been living.  There needs to be a return to traditional values and notions of community in place of massive, cheap production.  Delivering pies to doorsteps hearkens an era of milkmen and borrowing the last bit of flour from a neighbor to finish a recipe for homemade bread for the family to eat while gathered around a table, not a television.

However, a pie on a doorstep is not enough.  Including resources such as a local food guide helps to instill the message.  Hence, I opened my idea to my friend Erin Pischke for her interest in mapping, information sharing and for her ideas stemming from her days living off the land as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala.

I also enlisted the participation of my friend and photographer Adam Browning to document our efforts in an artistic way.  Adam also knows the city well as a cyclist.  Rather than deliver with a vehicle for his sandwich delivery job, Adam has taken to the bicycle and taken a stand for alternative transportation.   Finally, we found an eager assistant in Edgar Martinez, who volunteered to aid in the biking endeavor.

These are my friends, and they are people who think creatively as well eco-consciously.  For these reasons, I have sought their participation to make my idea a reality on various doorsteps in Pittsburgh and maybe one day in other cities as well.

What issues in the Pittsburgh region are the focus of the project?  How does the project address these community issues?

The project uses a quirky play on math and words to drive the concept of local eating.   The pies allow the taste buds to be convinced that local ingredients are not only more wholesome but equally, if not more, delicious than their conventional counterparts.  A homemade pie represents an American tradition, but America has lost touch with its traditions, agrarian roots, and the mental/physical/spiritual/communal aspects of eating.  A typical carrot has to travel 1,838 miles* to reach the dinner table while only 22% of Americans own passports.**  Our food is traveling more than we are!

As the relationship to land and agriculture has diminished, obesity and diet-related diseases have increased; excessive packaging has contributed to excessive waste issues; extensive transportation of food fosters oil dependency; nutrients in foods have diminished due to pesticide use, early harvesting and lengthy shipping times; and the demand for cheap foods has led to factory farms and hormone-pumped meat sources.

Many journalists and food activists have suggested a return to local eating as a way to reverse these effects.  For the Pittsburgh region, this means promoting awareness and taking advantage of the tremendous agricultural resources available.  Groups like Grow Pittsburgh, Slow Foods Pittsburgh and PASA have established a strong link between the country mouse and the city mouse.

The QT Pi(e) Project’s continued aim is to promote awareness of both the local resources (such as the farmers markets and local foods available in eating establishments and grocery stores) and the larger resources that have informed my knowledge of these issues.  The printed packaging materials delivered to doorsteps relied on mapping to draw awareness to the issues of local eating.  Maps compared the origins of conventional pies to the pie project, highlighted farmers’ market locations, local eating establishments and community gardens, as well as shared links to other informational resources.



To see more about The QT Pi(e) Project, click here.