Recipe: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Author & Photographer: Claire Schultz

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This was supposed to be a straightforward guide to fruit pies. They’re an art form I’ve spent years trying to master, coming within arm’s reach of the perfect pie, but never quite there . I grew up with a superabundance of summer fruits-- peaches from a farm stand, fresh-picked strawberries, blueberries my dad brought home in shoeboxes. I learned to gently fold a flaky dough, to add just enough sugar to showcase the fruit, but not so much that it was cloying. I learned to judge every pie I came across, to refuse store-bought supermarket pies, to be in charge of the pumpkin pie every Thanksgiving so my Kosher, gluten free cousins could have something edible at the table. I learned that fresh fruit is better, but frozen will work in a pinch (or on a budget). I learned that a lattice top is easy but always impressive, that your knuckle is the perfect tool for a ribboned crust, that you need to let the pie set for a while, and it’s always better the second day. I learned that nothing compares to a homemade crust, and that it’s really not hard at all, despite what everyone says. I learned that I love pies.

However, even in the sweltering hot days of midsummer, I have always made my pies in an air-conditioned kitchen, with an excess of fresh fruit and the aid of a good rolling pin and a pastry blender. I haven’t tried using an untested vegan butter substitute (it was on sale!) in the middle of an asphalt-melting heat wave with nothing but the oven’s vent fan and a whining cat to keep me company. I was excited to perfect another strawberry rhubarb pie--the under-appreciated queen of pies--to display a neat lattice top, to win over the non-believers. 

But then my crust melted. 

Even though I stuck it in the freezer several times, kept the dish chilled, and used a mixture of fresh and frozen fruit, it simply wouldn’t hold together. It didn’t help that I was using an awful patterned plastic rolling pin and that the pea-sized chunks of butter in the dough had melted into nothing. So I patched the bottom crust into the dish as best as I could, crimped the edges with a fork, and abandoned the lattice altogether. I still recommend learning how to do it--it’s the best topping for a pie, and so incredibly easy, as long as your dough holds together. 

Still, I managed to get a decent pie out of it all. It’s not my best, and the rhubarb stubbornly refused to soften, but good all the same. Worth sharing, and hopefully you can learn from my mistakes to create your own perfect pie. 

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This recipe can be adapted to just about any fruit, but you might need to play with the amounts of sugar and cornstarch, and tailor the spices to taste.


Servings: 1 (8-10 inch) two-crust pie
Preparation Time: 1-2 hours
Cook Time: 50 minutes 

Ingredients:

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For the Crust:

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 2 tsp sugar

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into pieces

  • 6 tbsp ice water

For the filling:

  • 5 cups fruit, fresh or frozen (about 3 cups strawberries and 2 cups rhubarb)

  • 2-3 tbsp cornstarch

  • 1/2-1 cup sugar

  • pinch salt

  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Instructions: 

1.In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar.

2. Slowly work in the butter until the dough is roughly the texture of cornmeal, with some medium-large lumps. Try not to overwork or melt the dough, or it will lose its flaky pockets of butter.

3. Add the ice water, 1 tbsp at a time, until you can work the dough into a fairly smooth ball. If it’s too dry, add more water; if it’s too wet, add more flour.

4. Divide the dough into two discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for about 30 minutes (or 10 in the freezer).

5. Hull and slice the strawberries into halves or quarters, depending on the size. 

6. String the rhubarb by peeling the dark red outer skin off by hand, like you would a cheese stick or celery stalk. Slice into half-inch pieces.

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7. In a large bowl, mix together the berries, rhubarb, cornstarch, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and lemon juice. Let the filling stand for about 20 minutes, until juicy and slightly thickened. 

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8. Preheat the oven to 450 F.

9. Remove the pie crusts from the fridge and roll them out on a floured surface. Again, be careful not to get them too warm, and roll until the crust is fairly thin (about ¼ inch thick) and roughly 10 inches in diameter. 

10.Carefully transfer the bottom crust to the pie dish, and add the filling. Don’t pour in the juices at the bottom of the bowl, or your pie will be very runny*--though still delicious.

11. If you’re using a whole top crust, place it on top of the filling and cut criss-crossing slits, roughly 2 inches across, in the center. If you’re making a lattice, cut the rolled-out second crust into strips and lay them across the top of the pie, weaving alternately over and under. Press the edges of the top and bottom crusts to seal, trim the excess dough, and crimp all around with a fork or your fingers. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle a little sugar on top.


12. Bake the pie at 450 F for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 F and bake for another 40-50 minutes. If your edges are browning too quickly, you can tent the rim with tinfoil.

13. When the crust is golden brown and the fruit soft, let the pie cool for at least half an hour before serving so that it has time to set. (If you want it immediately, I definitely won’t judge you, just be ready to use a bowl). Serve with ice cream, whipped cream, or all by its beautiful self. 

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Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything, which taught me everything I know: The filling recipe isn’t online, but the Flaky Pie Crust is (http://www.howtocookeverything.com/recipes/flaky-piecrust).


*Tip from the editors, typically tried with apple pie, but might work with anything! Add in a few tablespoons of butter to the sugary juice and put it in the microwave for 40 or so seconds, then mix and let cool a bit. It'll turn into a loose caramel-like consistency, and you can mix that back in with your fruit for a "juicy" but not runny pie.

Melanie WangComment