Pardon my dark edges, I got a little excited.
You know that funny “middle” time when spring is starting to turn into summer, but it’s not quite sure, and it’s still raining an awful lot and you’ve just put your tomatoes out, but then again, you’ve got loads of berries and you’re not wearing a jacket anymore and you think it might be summer because OH MY HOLY GOD IT’S ONLY THE BEGINNING OF MAY AND IT’S NINETY FREAKING DEGREES OUT WHY ON EARTH DO I ALREADY HAVE A SUNBURN IS SOMEONE TRYING TO KILL ME?!
Well, do you? Good.
You know what tastes like that time of year? This pie.
Friends, as I said on Twitter, it is a sign of the universe’s generosity that strawberries and rhubarb are in season at the same time. This flavor combination ranks right up there with the greats: tomatoes and basil, peanut butter and chocolate, pickles and ice cream, pain and suffering…what better way to celebrate nature’s bounty? And since my CSA box was taking the term “bountiful” seriously, I ended up with a whole lotta strawberries and rhubarb on my hands. Hey, I wasn’t about to complain. It was a good deal better than when the farmshare people were trying to kill me or drive me slowly insane by including stinging nettles in my box AND NOT TELLING ME WHAT THEY WERE OR HOW TO HANDLE OR SHOULD I SAY NOT HANDLE THEM.
I’m using my outdoor voice a lot today. I’ve also managed to develop multiple conspiracy theories in a very short span of time. I’m not paranoid, guys. I just think there may be multiple plots against my health and sanity. That’s all.
When I was in high school, I had an English teacher who told us, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t all out to get you.” Wise woman, she was. But I digress.
I’m always digressing.
The Boy says he enjoys it. But I digress.
Try this pie–you won’t be sorry. It’s best served warm, alongside a generous helping of your own self-importance and a sinking feeling that you’re being watched. I’d have it after you pull stinging nettle spines out of your hands, but before you rub aloe goo on your burned shoulders.
This season is going to kill me.
Stellar Pie Crust, and Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
First, make the Stellar Pie Crust/Pate Brisee (recipe makes 2 crusts, which is perfect for this recipe):
2 1/2 cups flour (I like a mix of 1 cup whole wheat and 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose white flour, but that’s up to you–my pics reflect the wheat crust)
2 sticks (1 cup) very cold butter cut into bitty pieces
1 teaspoon salt
4 to 6 Tablespoons ice water (I fill a measuring cup up to the halfway point with cold water and then stick it in the freezer for a few minutes)
Okay, so here’s the part where I work in yet another opportunity to use my fancy-pants food processor, but you can just use a plain old bowl and a pastry cutter. Dump the flour and salt into the food processor bowl and pulse it a few times to combine. Then toss in all the butter pieces and pulse it again until the mixture resembles various pea-sized clumps. DON’T OVERDO IT! The key to wonderful, tender, flaky pie crust is UNEVENLY distributing butter to make little fat pockets, and keeping those fat pockets chilly so they don’t melt down and, well, stop being fat pockets. At this point, start the machine running and quickly feed in ice water until the dough is just starting to hold itself together. Don’t add so much water that it’s sticky or damp. Grab a small handful of dough and squeeze it together–if it holds, it’s ready. Then divide the dough in half, wrap each lump in waxed paper, and stick it in the fridge. Give it a good hour or two before you use it.
And now, for the pie:
1 recipe of the Stellar Pie Crust
3 heaping cups sliced strawberries
4 cups thinly sliced rhubarb
1 1/4 cups sugar (I use raw sugar), plus a bit for sprinkling on top, if you like that sort of thing (I like that sort of thing, and used between 1 and 2 Tablespoons)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 egg yolk
1 Tablespoon cream
Take your pie dough out of the fridge and let it come up to temperature just until it’s loose enough to roll out. Keep it as chilly as possible. While you do this, toss the fruit, rhubarb, flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl and let it sit and marry on the counter. At this point, preheat the oven to 425F degrees. Flour the surface and roll out one disk so it’s large enough to lay into your pie dish. Lay it in the pan, use a paring knife to cut the excess dough from around the dish’s edges, and turn back to your filling. At this point, toss the fruit mixture around a bit more. The berries will have released some juices, allowing you to distribute the sugar and flour more evenly. Dump the filling ingredients into the pie dish, and stick the whole thing in the fridge for a moment.
Now roll out the other layer of pie crust. Make it a bit bigger than the bottom one, as when you weave the lattice strips in and out, you’ll use up some dough length. Using a sharp paring knife or pizza cutter, cut skinny strips of dough. Pull the pie out of the fridge and gently lay strips going in one direction across the pie (the closer the lattice, the more impressive the final look). Then begin to lay strips in the other direction (I like to lay the second set of strips at a diagonal to the first ones because I think it makes pleasant diamond-shaped holes, but you do whatever turns you on). As you lay this second set of dough strips, gently weave the top strips in an over-under pattern. When you’ve basketweaved all the strips, roll the strip ends over the bottom crust and tuck them under. Use a fork or your fingers to crimp the edges and make it all look finished. Stick the whole thing in the fridge for a few minutes. (Note–I am not trying to make you crazy with all this fancy fridge-work. I’m merely trying to ensure a tender, flaky crust for you. Yeah, that’s right. Bet you feel pretty bad about complaining now.)
In a small bowl, beat and egg white and some milk with a fork until it’s well-combined. Pull the pie out after it’s chilled for a few minutes and brush (honestly? I gave up on the pastry brush and used my fingers) the mixture over the lattice top and the crust edges. This will turn your pie crust a beautiful, shiny, golden color. You’re welcome! Now, if you like, sprinkle additional sugar over the top of the pie for sparkle and just the right hint of sweet crunch. Stick your pie onto a cookie sheet for easy removal, and pop the whole thing into the oven. Bake it at this temp for about 20 minutes, and then lower the oven to 400 and bake for another hour or so. Check it occasionally to make sure the crust isn’t browning too fast–if it is, just cut a large piece of foil and gently lay it on top of the pie. The filling will continue to cook but the crust will stop browning so quickly. Don’t judge your pie’s doneness by the crust color–you may end up with raw fruit. You’ll know the filling is done when you poke a knife into the fruit mix and it slides right through the fruit and rhubarb with zero resistance. After you take it out, let it cool for at least an hour, hour and a half before you eat it–not only will you avoid burning your mouth on molten hot berry lava, but you’ll also notice that the filling will gel and hold together better.
You can serve this warm, a la mode (yum!), but we just drizzled it with a few tablespoons of fresh cream. Oh, yes, yes, yes.
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