I’ve wanted to bake with rhubarb for awhile. The thing is, I always remember rhubarb in September when the summer is almost over and rhubarb season has long passed. The one time I did notice rhubarb at the farmer’s market it was mostly green and I got nervous because I thought it was supposed to be mostly red. So I’ve let forgetfulness and fear stand between me and rhubarb.
But this year, my lovely friend Anna came to the rescue! She got me some rhubarb from her family farm, Star Hollow Farm, which means I can be sure it’s in season and I didn’t have to worry about choosing which stalks of rhubarb to get.
I’ve been curious about rhubarb in part because I’d never had it before and also because it pairs well with strawberries, which are my absolute favorite fruit. But honestly, I’ve also been drawn to rhubarb because I really like Garrison Keillor and A Prairie Home Companion. I get the bebop-a-reebop song stuck in my head because it’s just silly and happy. If you know what I’m talking about, thank you for being a part of my nerdy community. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a video. The song isn’t until about 4:50, but you should watch the whole video because it’s a great example of Garrison Keillor’s storytelling and the great sound effects of the show.
Anyway, I was so happy with the way this pie looked and tasted. I didn’t know what to expect because I had never made this pie before, but I was really please and impressed with myself. I went to work and brought a big piece to share. And I made my coworkers look at pictures of how pretty it was. Excitedly, I told my coworker I made a pie. He was skeptical.
Me: I made a pie this morning
Him: What do you mean you made a pie?
Me: I made a pie.
I mean seriously, when I say I made a pie, I flipping made it! When someone says they made a pie, the first question should be what kind, followed by can I have a slice? But, after some questioning about if I made the crust, and did I brush an egg mixture on top, he seemed sufficiently satisfied that I had in fact made a pie.
And you can make one too. People seem intimidated by pies – especially crust – but it’s not a crazy mystery. It’s not too hard and it took me about an hour and a half total time (maybe less), which includes the 40 minutes of cooking time. One thing more before we get started, this pie is super juicy. It oozes out delicious goodness, but because of all the liquid it doesn’t hold the pie-slice shape very well. It doesn’t bother me because it tastes good. And all the juice goes really well with vanilla ice cream. So don’t feel discouraged if it looks like a ruby-red lump on your plate because it will be heaven in your belly. So, if you’re interested let’s get baking so you can make impressive, beautiful, delicious, and old-timey pie worthy of Garrison Keillor song.
3 cups strawberries – chopped in quarters if larger, in half if small
3 cups rhubarb – chopped in ¾-1” pieces
1 cup sugar
¼ cup + 1 tbsp cornstarch
¼ tsp salt
[Note: I made two pie crusts; one for the top and one for the bottom. If you only want to make one crust, then use the numbers in the parenthesis. If you’re making both then use the numbers not in the parenthesis.]
2/3 cup + 2 tbsp shortening (1/3 cup + 1 tbsp)
2 cups all purpose flour (1 cup)
1 tsp salt (1/2 tsp)
4-9 tbsp cold water (2-5 tbsp for 1 crust)
1 egg white
1 tbsp butter cut in small pieces
1. About 10 minutes before you want to start baking, put a cup of water in the freezer.
2. Preheat oven to 400°.
3. Mix the flour and salt in a medium bowl.
4. Cut the shortening into the flour. If needed, mix gently with hands. You want the particles to look like small pea-sized clumps. [When adding the shortening do not just dump it all in and then mix it with a spoon. Cut the shortening usually means using a pastry blender to cut up the shortening into clumps. If you don’t have a pastry blender, add the shortening then use two knives. Hold the knives in an x and cut the shortening into small pieces.
5. Add 1 tbsp of cold water to the mixture. Mix with a fork or your hands. [I have better control and can tell when it’s “finished” when using my hands. The problem with using your hands is that it can warm up the dough too much.]
6. Repeat the above step, adding water 1 tbsp at a time until the flour is moistened, and dough has formed. The bowl should be pretty much clean and most of the flour should be incorporated in your ball of dough. I usually need to add 4 tbsp of water.
7. Gather dough into two balls (if you’ve made enough for two). Generously flour a work surface. Flour your rolling pin. Be generous with your flouring!!! You don’t want the dough stuck you the counter, rolling pin, or your hands. Seriously! The dough can get too warm and flouring really helps it stay together.
8. Roll out both of your dough balls so that it is about 2” larger than an inverted pie plate.
• The dough ball that will be your top can be rolled out on a piece of parchment paper. Once it’s rolled out to your desired size cover it with another piece of parchment paper. This is done so it keeps its shape until you’re ready to use it.
9. Place one of the rolled out crusts into the pie plate. I like to fold the dough in quarters, place in the pie plate, and then unfold the dough, and finally press it into shape. What’s great about making your own dough is that it’s really malleable. If you rip it, or if you have one side that’s too short, you can tear a bit from somewhere else and patch up your problem area.
10. Place the pie plate crust and the parchment crust in the fridge while you prepare the inside of your pie.
11. In a large bowl mix your chopped strawberries and rhubarb
12. In a small bowl mix the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Mix until there are no lumps.
14. Remove pie plate from the refrigerator. Gently pour the fruit mix into the pie plate.
15. Dot the fruit with your small pieces of cut butter.
16. For the top you have options:
• Cut a few slashes in the rolled out crust dough. This is to vent the insides. You can make the cuts pretty and decorative if you want. Then place the dough on top of the fruit mixture. Press the top of the crust to the edge of the pie pan (so it seals with the bottom crust.)
• You can cut strips of dough and make a lattice (which is what I did). I’m not crazy about crust so I made big strips with big spaces between (you can make a tighter weave). My way looked pretty, but it didn’t hold its shape well when I cut a piece. Anyway, cut some strips (whatever size you like) and weave them together.
17. Once you’ve assembled your top you also have some styling options:
• You can use a fork and press the tines down all along the sides of the pie plate. This will bind the top and bottom crusts and also make a nice design
• Remove overhanging crust dough and roll it into a long “snake.” Put the snake around the on the edge of the pie plate. Pinch the dough to make a zig-zag pattern. This will make a “crimped” looking edge to your pie. (This is what I attempted to do, but it didn’t zig-zag as much as I hoped).
18. Put your egg white in a small bowl. Add a few drops of water. Whisk until a little foamy.
19. Brush egg white mixture on to tops of the crust.
20. Place pie plate on a baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes. Or until the crust is golden and the juices are bubbling.
21. Isn’t it the most gorgeous pie?! If yours is gorgeous, GO YOU! Hold yourself back and let cool for about an hour before serving
Messy Level: Medium-High. When I turned around to look at the kitchen, I was a little shocked by the mess. The messiness comes from making the dough. Shortening is greasy and sticky and gets on everything. And flour is just messy. It gets into every nook and cranny of my kitchen – but to do this right you need a lot of flour so I just have to accept it. And finally, the pie is super juicy. You really need the cookie pan under the pie plate because juices will drip over. And, once you let it cool and cut it, there will be delicious juice everywhere. Don’t be afraid to get a spoon and slurp it up.