Last night I dreamt about rhubarb. What does that mean?
I took it as a sign that I should show you how to make my favorite pie. Any dream interpreters out there can speak now or forever hold your peace.
Great! Pie it is.
Once upon a time there was someone named “The Pie Lady” in my hometown. She lived in Nyack, New York on the Hudson River in a little house and if you called her up, she would make you a pie. You could usually pick your favorite, assuming it was in season, and she would tell you when you could come and get it. Late Spring time was my favorite, because she made Strawberry Rhubarb pie. The first bite of that first strawberry rhubarb pie still haunts me. And the pie lady has disappeared, and that haunts me too.
Once upon a time there was also a lady named Kate McDermott. She lived in Washington State and taught pie classes. She has a website called Art of the Pie, and spent three years with her husband Jon Rowley perfecting the recipe for the perfect apple pie. I know I keep saying this, and it’s probably getting annoying, but you can read more about her in my book when it makes its way from across the world on a flatbed ship. At least that’s how I’m told it will arrive.
The point of all of this, is that I took the memory of The Pie Lady’s rhubarb pie, and the technique that Kate instilled in me last year, and recreated my favorite pie. There’s something about the tang of the rhubarb and the sweet of the strawberries that fits my sensibilities–a little sweet, a little tang.
If you take Kate’s class, she will tell you the secrets of perfect pie baking, down to the very type of flour and butter to buy. Since I’m a use-what-you’ve-got kind of gal, I used the Gold flour in my cabinet.
Leaf lard is really the key to the perfect crust. It’s not always easy to find, but if you have a farmer’s market in your area, you can ask a pig farmer for some. He will either render it for you or give it to you to render yourself, which is quite easy. I have instructions on lard rendering here. Kate orders hers from a farmer in Pennsylvania and it keeps in the freezer for a long time.
The woman who took care of me when I was very young, also makes incredible pies. I was eating one of her strawberry rhubarb pies while I was in New York last week and she too uses lard.
Lard is the answer to all things.
Also…cold butter, cubed.
Then you mix it quickly with your hands, the best tools in the kitchen. You want to work it into a sandy consistency, with lumps of fat and butter ranging from walnut to pea sized. The lumps are what make the crust flaky.
Then a few tablespoons of water. The amount you need will vary depending on the humidity. If it’s very hot, you’ll want to work fast so your dough doesn’t become too wet.
Gather it together. Add more water if it’s still too dry. You want it to be pliable but not sticky.
Turn your dough into two disks.
Wrap them individually and put them in the freezer for about 20 minutes.
Now, for the fruit filling. I went overboard on the strawberries. I bought so many that I made strawberry shortcake, fruit leather and strawberry vinegar in the same week. It’s a nice problem to have though.
Strawberries simply get sliced sideways.
Rhubarb gets trimmed of the nasty end bits, split lengthwise…
…then cut into about one inch pieces. Like below, not like above. Above was too small.
Comme Ça. As my kitchen mates in Provence used to say, as I stared at them blankly…
Tapioca. To avoid excess runniness. Though a little ooze is excellent.
Flour. To ensure moderate ooze.
I took a facebook poll and went for allspice. But you could use nutmeg or cinnamon or someone geniusly suggested cointreau.
Mix it all together.
Remove your disks from the freezer.
Bang them with a rolling pin on a well floured surface…
…and begin to roll the first one out. Use lots of flour, don’t be afraid of the flour. Also use a cutting board to roll onto so you can rotate the dough easily.
Feel free to patch the crust if it doesn’t fit into the pie dish the way you want. No one will know. Once it’s baked all the wobbly bits disappear.
Drop in the fruit mixture. You want a nice mound because it will bake down. And I like height with my pies.
Cover with disk #2.
Trim the edges of the top layer about 1 inch over the sides, fold it under and with a pastry brush, wet between the layers.
Push them together with your thumb to make nice ridges.
Make vent holes. These are important so the fruit steam has somewhere to go. It also looks nice when you get artistic about it.
A little egg white…
…also adds some ideal shine.
Like the ooze? I like it.
Then you can take extreme light photos with your pie.
Or just eat it.
I have too much pie now for one girl. Come over and have a piece! Or if you can’t get here before I eat it all, at least tell me: What’s your favorite pie?
p.s. I just found out that “The Pie Lady” is making a come back! Apparently she got overwhelmed with the demand and had kids to raise, so she moved further north, away from the hustle and bustle of Nyack… and now her kids are helping her make pies again! I will no longer be haunted by her absence. Hurrah.
"Strawberry Rhubarb Pie"
"Strawberry Rhubarb Pie"
- 6 cups strawberries tops removed and sliced
- 4 cups rhubarb split lengthwise, and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 pinch of allspice or 1 tablespoon cointreau
- 3 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 egg white
- 1 recipe double-crusted pie dough chilled
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Combine the strawberries and rhubarb in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients except for the egg white and mix well.
- Remove the dough disks from the refrigerator or freezer and roll the first one out on a cutting board, using lots of flour, until the circle is the size of your pie dish. Drape it over your pie dish. Trim it as needed, and patch it if need be using a bit of water and extra dough scraps.
- Add the filling and repeat the process for rolling the second dough disk. Roll it until it is about an inch larger than the pie dish. Drape it over the fruit. Trim the edges and tuck them under.
- With a pastry brush, wet between the two crusts and press down with your thumb or a fork to seal it.
- Beat the egg white in a bowl and brush the top of the pie. Cut vent holes in the top and on the sides. Place the pie in the oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F for about 35 minutes more.