23 May 2007

First of Many

In my house, I am designated pie maker. It is a duty I accept readily, having been bred for it starting at the tender age of about ten. Somehow, pies were deemed a simple thing for a young child to help make, and I learned quickly, eventually taking over pie duty in the stretches of summer months. One summer, we went to a pick your own berry farm, and after laboring all afternoon in the sun, we bought some extra berries to supplement our harvest and ended up coming home with enough blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries to fill a bathtub. As the berries threatened to take over the kitchen, I had to go to all the neighbor’s houses to collect enough pie pans, and then I went to work. The neighbors who were kind enough to donate a pan got a pie baked in it in return.

I came to rhubarb pie relatively late, having grown up in an area devoid of any Swedish immigrants (click here to find out why “Linnaeus said that the introduction of rhubarb to Sweden was his proudest achievement”). However, these days we look forward to rhubarb-strawberry pie as the first sign of spring and a happy harbinger of many pies to come. In fact, it's become one of my favorite fruit pies, second only to blueberry. The strawberries at the market have been particularly glorious this year, and provide the perfect compliment to the tart rhubarb.

I will say the one secret to my pies is a good homemade crust. Unfortunately, many people are intimidated by pie crust, or choose to rely on pre-made ones, which is sad. Homemade crusts are very easy to make and are deliciously flakey and buttery. Just make sure you follow the directions and chill the crust as directed. These days, pies are so familiar, I barely measure anything, relying more on taste, eye, and instinct. It’s an instinct I suspect will be further honed, as this is only the beginning of the season.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

2 1/2 cups rhubarb stalks cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups strawberries, stemmed and sliced
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch or tapioca
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of grated orange peel
Unbaked pastry for two-crust 9 inch pie (see below)

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Have your pie crust fitted into the pie pan and chilling the fridge (see below). Combine the filling ingredients in a large bowl, stirring to combine. Let sit for 10-15 minutes.
2. Pour filling into prepared pie crust. Top with a lattice crust, crimp edges as desired.
3. Place in the oven, check the pie after 30 minutes to make sure the edges aren’t browning too much, cover them with foil or a pie shield if necessary. Bake for 50-60 minutes total. The juices should be thickened and bubbling when the pie is done. Cool on a rack.

Pie Crust
I still make my crust by hand, but you can use a food processor if you prefer. Yields pastry for a 9 or 10 inch double crust pie.

2 1/2 cups flour
1 pinch salt
2 tbl sugar (optional)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cold
1/2 cup shortening
4-6 tablespoons ice water

1. Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Slice the butter into little bits and add to the bowl, add the shortening to the bowl in little spoonfuls. Using two knives or your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. You don’t have to over do it, you want a few pea-sized bits of butter.(You can also do this in the food processor). Sprinkle about 4 tablespoons of ice water over the mixture and use a spatula to gently push the dough together. You can add a little more water if necessary, you just want the dough to come together, don’t knead it too much.
2. Divide the dough into two balls, flatten them slightly into disks, dust them lightly with flour and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough until chilled, at least half an hour or up to two days.
3. Roll out the dough: If the dough is very cold you may want to let it sit for about 5 minutes on the counter before you roll it. Roll the dough out with a rolling pin, only adding a little flour to the work surface if necessary to keep from sticking. Roll to about a ten inch circle. Fit the dough into a pie pan, trim and crimp the edges, then refrigerate or freeze until ready to use. Roll out the second round of dough, refrigerate until ready to top your pie, or use as desired.



MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Let's see here ... yes I have four empty pie pans ... guess I'll need to get them right over for a couple of those rhubarb strawberry pies, then you can save the other two for when the blueberry comes in!!!

Peabody said...

And, I never make pie. Mostly because my husband is not a pie eater. Strawberry and rhubarb, always a good combo.

Mercedes said...

Tanna- wonderful, I'm on my way!

Peabody-that's tragic, not a pie eater ,can there be such a sad thing?!

Patricia Scarpin said...

I think your pie looks amazing, Mercedes!
I wish I had that huge amount of berries laying around too. :)