Robert's Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie
The perfect treat for a Sunday afternoon or anytime
Several of my friends make great pies and I love to eat them, but I rarely make them myself. Don't ask me why...maybe I will get inspired someday and start baking them. In the meantime, my friend Robert made this delicious rhubarb strawberry pie and he was kind enough to post it on my blog. Thank you, Robert, it was fun watching you make the pie while I took the photos. Robert is not a newcomer to my blog. He and I made tomato sauce with tomatoes from his beautiful garden last summer.
But before Robert tells us how he makes his pie, I would like to share a great day I had in Berkeley with my girlfriend. We went to Berkeley for a book reading of Nancy Vienneau 's new cookbook Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook. It is a book that assembles seasonal recipes from a group of people who come together to share their love of food. It's a great idea and sounds like a lot of fun. I love the book and will make some recipes from it. Nancy has a great blog called good food matters. Go visit her website.
Before we went to the book reading, my girlfriend and I had a glorious dinner at Alice Water's café, Chez Panisse. It is an experience one should not miss when in the Berkeley area. Her food is clean, prepared with finesse, yet not pretentious. I had a piece of halibut cooked to perfection in a sorrel broth with fresh spring veggies. My girlfriend had the mushroom lasagna made with morel mushrooms. We also found a great bakery that had the best croissants I have had in a long time, and the bread was also outstanding. FOURNÉE is run by hard working people making fantastic products. All in all we had a great time. It's nice to run away for a day.
by Robert Lee Kilpatrick
Pie-making in America goes all the way back to colonial times when the English and Dutch settlers brought recipes to the New World. Each Thanksgiving, we are reminded of feasts held in New England by the native tribes and the Pilgrims, with pumpkin pie high on everybody’s list of treats – then and now. A common phrase is, “as American as apple pie.” I can testify from personal experience that it’s very easy to eat your way across America if you eat pie. My family came to St Simon’s Island in Georgia in 1720, so we have been baking pies for a very long time. One of my favorites is the combination of strawberries and rhubarb. This pie is easy to prepare and ideal for a beginner.
There are two main components to all pies: crust and filling. This is true weather the pie contains fruit, or is savory (meat or fish-based). I always begin by preparing the crust because it requires about an hour in the refrigerator to cool once the dough is made. During this time, I prepare the filling.
Pie Tips: here are a few useful tips that will make the experience of pie-making fun and easy. Firstly, always check to be sure that you have all the ingredients called for in a recipe, and multiply quantities depending on the number of pies you plan to make. A last minute dash to the market can really foul up timing. Secondly, put all ingredients within easy reach while cooking. Thirdly, review and understand the recipe before you start; be aware of what you are doing and what times and temperatures are needed. Lastly, don’t be afraid to experiment. Recipes are there for a reason: they are a record of what has worked for others, over time. But you may like to try something new, once you have mastered the basic recipe. For example, you can paint the top of a pie crust with milk, or egg white (sprinkling sugar or not), or leave it plain. It all depends on what you prefer.
Crust (Double) for any pie
In a mixing bowl, I place 3 cups of all-purpose flour. I prefer to use King Arthur flour from Vermont. Mix in 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt. Mix thoroughly with a large spoon. Then add ½ cup (1 stick) of cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch pieces. Blend the butter into the mixture either by hand or using a food processor. Then add ½ cup vegetable shortening, cut into pieces. I always use unsaturated shortening, which is healthier for your body. Then slowly, I mix in ½ cup cold water and work the mixture by hand (or using a food processor) until a large dough ball results. It may be necessary to add a few tablespoons of water, or several pinches of flour to achieve the desired consistency. This is a trial and error process and with experience, it just gets easier. Making good pie crust is truly an art rather than a science.
Divide the dough into two pieces, one slightly smaller than the other. Wrap individual pieces in cling film and refrigerate for a minimum of 60 minutes. Place the smaller dough ball on top of the larger dough ball for ease of use later. The larger dough ball will be used as the base of the pie, and the smaller one will form the top of the crust.
If you are going to go to all the trouble to bake a homemade pie from scratch, always use the best ingredients possible. In the case of fruit pies, ripe fruit is preferred, and therefore while fresh-picked ripe fruit is ideal, frozen ripe fruit is better than so-called fresh fruit that was picked unripe for ease of transport, or fruit that has been sitting around too long.
I strongly advocate cooking seasonally, because you can obtain ripe fruits at the best prices, and Farmers’ Markets provide a wealth of choice. Fresh rhubarb and strawberries are not always available, but then they are in the spring and summer. In the right season, this pie cannot be beat.
Always use organic produce if you can get it. There are many reasons for this, but principally because organic fruit and vegetables do not contain poisonous chemicals.
I begin by taking stalks of fresh rhubarb, washing and peeling them. Then chop the stalks into ½-inch pieces. You will need 2 ½ cups of chopped rhubarb. Note that this is a good time to chop more rhubarb that you need and put the chunks into bags and pop into the freezer for use when fresh rhubarb is unavailable. Rhubarb freezes well. Set aside. Take a bowl of fresh strawberries, wash them thoroughly, and remove the green tops. Cut in half and place in another bowl. The best strawberries are not the largest in size. When you cut them, they are red throughout, and do not have a hollow white core. Smaller berries are bred for flavor, not weight.
Mix the strawberries and rhubarb together in a large bowl. Add 1 ½ cups of sugar and mix. Then add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, ½ teaspoon fresh lemon zest (by scraping the skin of a lemon), ½ teaspoon lemon juice, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Stir well and set aside.
Bringing it Together
After an hour, remove the dough balls from the refrigerator and set on the workspace. Start with the larger of the two balls. Remove the plastic cling film and discard. Place the dough ball on a piece of waxed paper. Flatten the ball into a flying-saucer shape and then take a rolling pin and roll it out. I prefer rolling pins that have a non-stick coating. If you have a wooden rolling pin, you may sprinkle a small amount of flour on the dough as you work it, so that the dough does not stick to the pin. Roll the dough as thinly as you can, while retaining the integrity of the dough. Bring a pie pan forward and grease the inside lightly with shortening or butter to prevent the crust from sticking, once baked. Lift the crust and wax paper, and place it over the pan as centered as you can, with the wax paper facing up. Set the dough into the pan, but do not force it in with your hand. Remove the wax paper and set aside. The rolled dough should extend beyond the edges of the pie pan. Place four small pieces of unsalted butter on top of the filling.
Gently pour the filling into the dough cavity. The weight of the filling will press the dough down into the pan. Spread it out evenly. Trim the crust to about ½ inch over the edge of the pan, and set aside all the extra dough. Roll the second, smaller dough ball as before, using wax paper, and place on the top of the pie, wax paper on top and peel it away. Discard the wax paper. The top of the pie should be centered, cut the edges of the dough about ½ inch over the edge of the top of the pan.
Now for the difficult part, until you get the hang of it. Take each of the overhanging pieces of dough and tuck them together underneath, folding the dough towards the pie, leaving a small space between the edge of the crust and the edge of the pan. Do not allow the dough at the edge to fold over the pan, or you will not be able to remove the piece once it’s baked and cut. Fold the edge of the crust under all the way around the pie. Take a fork and press down on the edge of the crust all the way around. Using the fork, puncture the top of the uncooked crust 5-6 times to allow gases to escape. Paint the top of the crust with either milk or egg white. Sprinkle with sugar, and bake.
Preheat the oven to 425˚ and cook the pie for 15 minutes. Decrease the temperature to 375˚ and bake for an additional 45-50 minutes, or until the filling starts to bubble. Place pie pan on a drip tray to catch any contents that bubble over. Place the pie down low in the oven. You may have to turn the pie 180˚ for even cooking halfway through, depending on your oven. Once or twice, quickly open the oven and inspect for any signs of burning.
Remove from the oven and let the pie cool. Enjoy the fragrance that will fill your kitchen. After about an hour, serve the pie with a small amount of vanilla ice cream. The pie will be warm, but not too hot. The taste, smell and appearance of a freshly baked pie is worth all the bother that you have gone through.
Here are some related recipes from previous posts:
Click on the name to get a link to the recipe
Rhubarb Strawberry Hazelnut Crisp
Marzipan Fruit Tart
WELCOME TO SUNNY COVE CHEF
Thank you for visiting my blog. My two passions are cooking and traveling. Traveling exposes me to a wide variety of food and experiences. I walk around cities looking for markets, restaurants, bakeries, shops, you name it, and if it is related to food you will find me there, tasting, smelling, talking to vendors, and having a great time.