The Strawberry Rhubarb Pie that Almost Wasn’t

The title of this post says it all.  I set out to make a strawberry rhubarb pie for Memorial Day, and very nearly had a pie-related meltdown in the process.  I had never attempt strawberry rhubarb anything before, so I did my research.  I found a filling recipe and a crust recipe that looked compatible and fairly straightforward.  Hmm, isn’t it funny how sometimes things are SO not what they seem?

The filling came together beautifully.  However, the pie crust dough was another story (that I will get to in a moment).  The filling ended up sitting for about 10 or 15 minutes while I wrestled with the pastry dough, and in that time span released so much juice that I knew I could not pour all of it into the (now tamed) pastry-lined pie pan.

Meanwhile, the pastry dough.  Insert animal-like growl of rage here.  This pastry dough was nearly the end of me, and I am not ashamed to say I shed an angry tear over it, while standing in the middle of my kitchen wearing my pink flowered apron.  Here is the problem with the dough recipe as originally written: cake flour, or more specifically Softasilk cake flour, cannot–CANNOT–withstand the necessary rolling out process for making a pie crust.  Not even with a thorough refrigeration period.  My theory is that cake flour simply doesn’t have the structural capabilities of regular flour.  Thus, my pastry dough did nothing but tear, rip, and stick to the counter.  In the end, I ended up managing a quick enough roll-and-place maneuver that most of the dough got into the pie pan in some sort of evenly thin layer.  There were holes and cracks aplenty, though, so I had to perform pastry surgery, fitting in little pieces of dough here and there.  The unbaked, unfilled pie crust was not at all attractive.  At this point, I very nearly threw both it and the waiting fruit filling into the trash.  The ingredients for this pie cost me almost $12!  With that in mind, I said to myself, “Self, we’ve come this far…let’s just bung the rest of it together, throw it in the oven, and see what we get afterward!”

And that is what I did.  At this point, the filling went in.  I scooped the fruit in and most of the juice.  I just used my best judgment, and when I felt like enough of the released juices were in the pie pan, I stopped pouring.  I would say about 3/4 cup of juice was left over in the bowl.  Useless, but tasty when licked off the back of the spoon.

Now, we encounter the problem of what the dickens to put on top of this pie.  By this time I had decided that I was absolutely, IN NO WAY, attempting lovely little lattices to weave across the top.  No sirree Bob.  Employing some quick thinking, I decided to roll out the dough and use a drinking glass to cut circles out.  The circles went somewhat symmetrically on top of the pie (I was going for a bit of a floral shape), and the pie went (FINALLY) into the oven.

I baked it for about 45-50 minutes.  I kept an eye on it, and when the filling looked somewhat set, I took it out of the oven and let it cool completely (which took probably 3 or 4 hours).  During this cooling period, I basically ignored it and tried not to obsess over what it was going to look like when I finally cut into it.

I must add here that I also used a new pie pan for the first time, a stoneware plate from my grandmother.  The new pie plate plus the frustration of the recipe led me to have very low expectations for the final result.

Friends, I am happy to report that this pie was quite possibly the best pie–all pies previously consumed by me included–ever.  While I was most skeptical about the crust, the end result was a delicious, sweet, flaky crust that was not at all soggy.  I think my gut instinct re: the amount of juice in the pie as well as the wonderful heat conductive properties of my new pie plate were the primary causes of the delicious crust.  The filling was, in a word, perfect.  Tart, sweet, with soft but not gloopy fruit.  Just enough texture to tell the difference between a berry and ‘barb (rhubarb, get it?).

I am posting the recipes below as I made them.  If you try this recipe, please let me know how it works for you, and what tweaks you added.

P.s. I have since made a second fruit pie with a variation of the following pastry recipe, and I think I have completely cured this dough of its utter unmanageability.  🙂

Classic Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie

Adapted from For the Love of Food
3 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
3 cups rhubarb, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
5 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 – 2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon butter

In a large bowl, mix together all filling ingredients except butter.  Set aside until ready to use.  For best results place in prepared pie crust and bake within 20 minutes.

Sweet Pastry Crust
Adapted from Life’s A Feast
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
14 Tablespoons butter, chilled
2 large eggs, beaten

Combine flour and sugar in medium bowl.  Using a pastry cutter, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse sand.  Vigorously stir in beaten egg until a dough ball forms.  Cut the dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other.  (The larger dough ball will become the bottom crust).  Wrap and chill until ready to roll out.

Preheat oven 425F.  Oil or grease your pie plate.  Rolled larger ball of chilled pastry dough into a large circle, about 2 inches larger than the top of your pie plate.  Working quickly, place pastry into pie plate, smoothing wrinkles and filling in cracks or holes with extra dough.  Trim the edges of the crust to just over the edge of your pie plate.  Using your fingers, make a decorative edge.  Or, just use a fork to pressthe crust lightly against the edge of the pie plate.

Using a fork, lightly prick the bottom and sides of the crust.  Pour filling mixture into prepared crust.  If your filling as released a lot of juice, scoop the fruit into the crust and then add the juice just until your pie plate is nearly full.  Do not overfill with juice!  Dot top of filling with the 1 Tablespoon of butter.

Roll out the second ball of pastry.  Cut into strips for a lattice, or other shapes such as circles.  If using circles, arrange them over the top of the filling so the edges touch but so there are enough vents for steam to escape.  If doing a lattice crust, weave alternating strips across the top of the filling.

Place pie in center of preheated oven.  Bake at 425F for the first 25 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 375F and continue baking for another 30 minutes.  Pie is done when crust is golden brown and the filling juices are bubbly and thickened.  For best results, allow pie to cool completely to room temperature before serving.

4 responses to “The Strawberry Rhubarb Pie that Almost Wasn’t

  1. Nom! What did you do to tame the dough?

    • Mostly, I just put it in the fridge for a few minutes, then rolled it out REALLY quickly and threw it in the pie plate. It didn’t go in in one piece, I had to use some extra dough to repair a lot of holes and stuff. But once it was finally in there, I just trimmed the edges and put the filling in.

      I will post my adapted version of the pie dough recipe soon. It turned out MUCH better, and may become my go-to pastry recipe! 🙂

  2. Awesome! I was wondering if it being made with cake flour is why it was so brittle. Lower gluten content equals less body. On the other hand, it equals more tenderness. Maybe a 50/50 ratio would be ideal?

  3. Yeah, I think you’re exactly right, which led me to make the changes I did to the pastry recipe in a subsequent pie adventure. 🙂 I will post them soon, but I will give you a hint…I actually used NO cake flour, and even made it a bit healthier! 🙂

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