Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (And Perfect Pie Crust)

20120924-082949.jpg This weekend was a good one - just the right amount of lazy sleeping in, chilly nights, sunny days, hot coffee, biking around Boston, and as always, good food. After an entire week of eating out, it was nice to have a quiet Sunday dinner at home with some lit candles and a strawberry rhubarb pie to officially say goodbye to summer. Half the strawberries were previously frozen from a strawberry-picking adventure in Maine, one of my favorite memories from the summer.

I have yet to attempt the lattice top, for many reasons. As you can probably tell from the picture, I'm still getting the hang of making a pretty pie crust, although I feel confident that it tastes pretty dang good.

For the Crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 cup ice water

For the filling:

  • 2 cups trimmed, cubed rhubarb
  • 2 cups hulled halved strawberries
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

1 egg beaten with water for brushing onto the crust

Now, pie crust is one of those elusive things that I googled endlessly before even trying to attempt. There are so many opinions on it: use butter, don't use butter, use shortening, use a combination of both, use a food processor, etc. etc. However, I found that simple is best. My recipe calls for just butter, and I use a pastry blender for more control over the size of the butter bits. Here we go.

Making your pie dough:

In a very large mixing bowl, combine your dry ingredients, and whisk together. Get the butter out from the refrigerator and dice into small 1cm pieces. Dump these cubes into the bowl (see first picture) and begin working them into the flour with the pastry blender (see second picture). You'll know when to stop when the butter pieces are pea-sized, but don't fret if they are not completely even.

Take your cup of very cold water and throw two ice cubes in, so it remains very cold. Pour about 1/4 a cup of this water into your bowl and work with the pastry blender again. You'll start to notice little shags of dough forming. Pour another 1/4 a cup in, mix, repeat one more time. When the mixture looks like it could start to stick together on it's own (see third picture), stick your hand in and start to work the dough together, but try not to knead! The warmth from your hand will melt the butter, which is what we don't want, so work quickly. Pack the dough into a ball (see fourth picture).

20120923-165011.jpgUsing a pastry cutter or knife, divide the dough into two equal parts, and wrap them in plastic wrap. Put them into the refrigerator until you're ready to roll them out.

Rolling out pie dough:

As someone who doesn't have a cold marble rolling surface, I like to avoid stickiness by covering my table with wax paper, taping it underneath so that it doesn't move around. Then, flour your working surface and rolling pin. Take your dough out of the refrigerator and lay it on your wax paper. slowly start to roll it out, little by little. If you work too quickly, you'll notice the edges start to crack, which makes for some awkward shapes. For the bottom crust, I always roll it out much larger than I think, because inevitably, I roll it out way too small.  Flour as needed. When the dough is large enough, I carefully transfer it to my pie dish, mold it to the bottom, and refrigerate this while I roll out the top.

Assembly:

Repeat the above steps for the top crust. When it's ready, spoon in your filling, lay the top crust on, and pinch the sides together to seal. Cut some vents in the top with a sharp knife, brush your egg mixture on the top, and bake in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes. Voila!