Thursday, July 7, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

I fell in love with strawberry rhubarb pie a long time ago.

I don't remember when or where it happened.  I just remember that it did.  And I've long carried these happy childhood memories of that strange and delicious pie.  Strange because I had no idea what rhubarb was and it didn't sound like something you'd put in a pie.  It was different than any pie I'd ever tasted before.  And it was good.

Somewhere along the way, I forgot how much I loved this pie and I went years without tasting its happiness.  But I finally remembered and I started requesting it as my birthday "cake."  Because I don't really like cake anyway and what better way to celebrate life than with this pie I've loved since childhood?

My mom baked it for me first

Then my dad, never having baked a pie in his life, baked it for me, too.

And even though my next birthday's still half a year away, I decided it was time for me to bake it for myself.  I pulled out my trusted cookbook The New Best Recipe and somehow I managed to make my very first fruit pie.  And it was good.

Isn't it beautiful?




It didn't turn out perfectly.  In fact, it turned out rather juicy.  Sauteing the rhubarb, using 3 tablespoons of arrowroot, and adding 4 additional slits to the top crust were supposed to be the ticket to taming all that moisture.  But I've never worked with this particular pie dough before and I've also never made a double-crusted pie from scratch.  The dough was a challenge to work with and, in the end, I didn't get the slits open far enough.  Several of them sealed up during the baking, thus keeping too much moisture inside.

Next time I think I'll try the recipe for "lattice top pie dough" since it's a little drier and easier to work with--something a pie-dough novice like me can really appreciate.  I'll either make a lattice top crust, allowing the moisture to easily escape the pie, or I'll just stick with eight well-opened slits and add another tablespoon of arrowroot to the filling.

What I really enjoyed about this recipe was the fact that I could actually taste the rhubarb.  In fact, the pie tasted fresh.  It tasted like summer.  I think the strawberry rhubarb pies I've had in the past have relied too heavily on sugar, dulling the fruity freshness that came through marvelously in this version.

I know strawberry rhubarb pie isn't everyone's favorite (though I don't quite understand why), but if you share my love for this heavenly dessert, here's a great recipe for you to try.  I've included both versions of pie dough (basic and lattice top), so you can choose whatever you think will work best for you.

Happy pie baking!


Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1-1/2 pounds rhubarb, ends trimmed, peeled if the outer layer is especially fibrous, and cut into 1-inch pieces (5 to 6 cups)
1 cup (7 ounces) plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 recipe Basic Pie Dough (see below) and flour for dusting the work surface
3 tablespoons arrowroot
Pinch of salt
1-1/2 pounds strawberries, hulled and quartered (about 5 cups)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons grated zest from 1 orange
1 large egg white, lightly beaten

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until smoking.  Add the rhubarb and 1/4 cup of the sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until the rhubarb has shed most of its liquid but is still firm, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a large plate and refrigerate until cool.
  2. Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator (if refrigerated longer than 1 hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable).  Roll the dough on a lightly floured work surface or between 2 large sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap to a 12-inch circle.  Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate by rolling the dough around the rolling pin and unrolling it over the pan.  Working around the circumference of the pan, ease the dough into the pan corners by gently lifting the edge of the dough with one hand while gently pressing it into the pan bottom with the other hand.  Leave the dough that overhangs the lip of the pie plate in place; refrigerate until needed.
  3. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position, place a rimmed baking sheet on it, and heat the oven to 500 degrees.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together 3/4 cup of the sugar, the arrowroot, and salt.  In a large bowl toss together the strawberries, cooled rhubarb, vanilla, and orange zest.  Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the top and stir to combine.  Spoon the fruit evenly into the pie shell and pack lightly.
  5. Roll out the second piece of dough to a 12-inch circle; place it over the filling.  Trim the edges of the top and bottom dough layers to 1/2 inch beyond the pan lip.  Tuck this rim underneath itself so that the folded edge is flush with the pan lip.  Flute the edge or press with tines of a fork to seal.  Cut 8 slits in the dough top.  If the pie dough is very soft, place in the freezer for 10 minutes.  Brush the top of the crust with the egg white and sprinkle evenly with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.
  6. Place the pie on the hot baking sheet and lower the oven temperature to 425 degrees.  Bake until the top crust is golden, about 25 minutes.  Rotate the pie from front to back and reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees; continue baking until the juices bubble and the crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes longer.  Cool the pie on a wire rack until room temperature, 3 to 4 hours, before serving.

Basic Pie Dough

2-1/2 cups (12.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting work surface)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, chilled
12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
6-8 tablespoons ice water

  1. Process the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor until combined.  Add the shortening and process until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds.  Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture; cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs, with butter bits no larger than small peas, about ten 1-second pulses.  Turn the mixture into a medium bowl.
  2. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of the ice water over the mixture.  With a rubber spatula, use a folding motion to mix.  Press down on the dough with the broad side of the spatula until the dough sticks together, adding up to 2 tablespoons more ice water if the dough will not come together.  Divide the dough into 2 balls and flatten each into a 4-inch disk.  Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 2 days before rolling.

Pie Dough for Lattice-Top Pie

This crust has a firmer texture than the basic recipe, making it easier to work with when creating a lattice top.  This leaner dough also keeps its shape better in the oven so the lattice looks more attractive.

3 cups (15 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
7 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
10 tablespoons ice water

Follow the recipe for Basic Pie Dough.  Divide the dough into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other--if possible, weigh the pieces; they should weigh 16 ounces and 14 ounces.  Flatten the larger piece into a rough 5-inch square and the smaller piece into a 4-inch disk.  Wrap separately in plastic and chill as directed.


{All recipes taken from The New Best Recipe by America's Test Kitchen}

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