You know it’s springtime when the Rhubarb starts showing up in the grocery stores. I like to think that Rhubarb Pie is one of those southern staples that everyone’s grandma made for them when they were a kid, but apparently that is not the case. Or maybe those kids just weren’t paying attention to the stuff their grandmas were putting in the pie, because I witnessed a surprising number of people who seemed to have no idea what it was. When I walked into my Publix the other day, the rhubarb was in the cold counter right in front of the door where they usually display the “Great Deal!” meat (ie, the meat that is going to expire about 45 minutes after you buy it) and the seasonal fruits and veggies that are on special. The kind folks at Publix had obligingly cut the stalks into small lengths and packaged them up in 1 pound increments, but they had forgotten to tell people what it was. The packages just read “Publix Produce Department” and a price, and I watched several people pick it up and put it back down again with that facial expression that says “I should probably recognize this, but I don’t, and I don’t want to ask someone at the risk of sounding clueless. Oh look! These steaks are only $4.99, and they’re only a little green!” So home I went with my rhubarb, gleefully planning my pie (and possibly some jam? We’ll see.) and thanking the kind folks at Green Giant for not finding a way to package it in a can, making it instantly recognizable to the masses, and thus securing me a steady supply for the length of the season. Don’t judge me. The good produce goes quick around here, and if I’m the only one who knows what it is, then there’s no danger of them selling out before I’ve had my way with it (insert evil laugh here).
Anyway, everyone (or maybe just me. See above.) knows that rhubarb and strawberries were made for each other. I mean, they’re like soul mates. So it was destiny that strawberries were on sale too, and from Florida no less (yes, I’m aware that’s not technically local, but really it’s only a few hours from here, and that’s much closer than California or Mexico, so again, don’t judge me. A girl’s just gotta buy non-local, out of season strawberries sometimes.) so I stocked up on them too and ran right home to begin construction on my piece de resistance. Except I had a pie crust Fail. Such a large Fail, in fact, that I didn’t even photograph the soggy, wet, sticks to everything in a 2 foot radius, pie crust that I first made. I have a basic pie crust recipe that pretty much always works for me, so I usually just ignore the ones that come standard with most pie recipes. This time however, in a spate of rhubarb inspired excitement, I decided to set aside my time-tested favorite in favor of a new kid in town. In my defense, it was pretty close to my standard one, with just a few changes. For instance, I’ve never seen vanilla extract added to a pie dough before. It also wanted like 11 tablespoons of butter, which seemed a little excessive to me for just a single crust recipe, but who am I to argue? I mean, someone obviously tested this recipe and it worked right? Since it is from a well respected publication, right? Um, no. Don’t be fooled. If you think 11 tablespoons of butter is too much for a single-crust pie dough, you’re right. It is. It will only make a shaggy, sticky mess, and not a pie dough that can be rolled out (Fail), placed in a pie pan (Fail) and made to resemble something similar to a golden and flaky crust (Major Fail). Do I sound a little bitter about it? It’s just that I was so excited about the shining example of a pie that was soon to be issuing forth from my oven, and this stupid crust fiasco forced me to make another dough which needed to chill for a couple of hours and by this point it was like 11:30 pm and I had to wait until the next day to bake my masterpiece. But I’m totally over it.
Long story short, I made my standard pie crust, it turned out beautifully (duh), and the pie was just as wonderful as I had hoped. It was tangy, but sweet, the strawberries and the rhubarb perfectly complimenting each other, and since I used a crumb topping, the tendency of strawberries and rhubarb to be soft and runny was perfectly balanced out by the crunchy oats and brown sugar on top. It was just what I needed to make this early spring we’re having around here (74 degrees outside while I made the pie. In March.) even more perfect. So go. If you see an unidentified pinkish, stalky thing in your produce department, buy it. Make a pie. And tell someone next to you what it is so they can make one too.
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cooking School
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter chilled and cut into small pieces
4-6 tablespoons ice water
1 beaten egg (for glaze)
2 tablespoons rolled oats
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.
- With machine running, add 4-5 tablespoons ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Form dough into a ball. Flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.
- Roll dough out into a 10-11 inch round ( I know that’s a broad range, but it really depends on how deep your pie pan is and how much overhang you want for crimping your edges. I usually just roll it out until it looks like it will fit.) I do this on a lightly floured countertop, but you can do it between two sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap to eliminate some mess. Place dough into 9 inch pie plate and trim overhang. Crimp edges decoratively if you desire.
- Refrigerate dough for 30 or so minutes, preheating oven to 350° while dough is chilling. Line crust with aluminum foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake in center of oven for 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights. Brush bottom and sides (not edges) with beaten egg, and sprinkle with the oats. Bake until crust is golden, about 20 more minutes. Cool completely on rack. (I hardly ever let my crust cool completely. I’m usually too impatient. I’ve never noticed any detrimental effects, but if you have the time it’s probably not a bad idea.)
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Crumb Topping
Adapted from The Bon Appetit Cookbook
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons rolled oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 pound rhubarb, sliced 1/2 inch thick on sharp diagonal (3 1/2 to 4 cups)
2 1-pint baskets strawberries, hulled, halved
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
- For topping, combine 2/3 cup oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom in processor. Add butter and cut in until crumbly. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons oats. Set aside. I didn’t bother with the processor for this, I just used a pastry cutter, which worked fine, and also eliminated all those dishes.
- For filling, mix rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom in heavy large saucepan. Let stand 30 minutes. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer until juices thicken, about 3 minutes.
- Pour filling into prepared crust. Cover with topping. Bake 20-30 minutes (I baked mine for 27) until topping is golden and juices bubble. Cool on rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.