Gardening is a matter of your enthusiasm holding up until your back gets used to it, so someone once said. After this week, that is just how I’m feeling!
Does anyone else ponder the beauty of gardening the way I do? As I worked in my yard recently, it made me think of Audrey Hepburn’s quote on the subject: “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”
I guess it isn’t unlike buying wrapping paper the day after Christmas, assuming I’m going to be here next year to use it. When I plant and move and rearrange and change things in my garden and flower beds, I am constantly telling myself, I can’t wait to see this next year. The hope, of course, being that I’m (God willing) still here next year to enjoy all of it!
My rhubarb plant is a perfect example of the hope every gardner has in her heart. I planted it years ago, then neglected it as I was away every day building and trying to sustain a restaurant. Then, after the restaurant fell apart, I came back to my garden. It was there, just waiting for me like an old friend.
That poor rhubarb plant was undernourished and overly dried out. But I gave it some love – in the form of compost and daily water – and now, a few fast-flying years later, it rewarded me with beautiful chartreuse-green to barely-pink stalks of sweet-tart perfection.
What else can I do but make a rhubarb pie to honor this gift of early spring?
Keep it simple, let the flavor of the rhubarb itself shine through. I don’t add much to the filling but sugar, salt, butter and a pinch of ginger. I’m normally not much of a fan of that flavor, but I find the earthiness is a perfect foil for the tart rhubarb.
Please, please, please: DO NOT buy pie crust from the refrigerated section of the grocery store. Making your own is a little temperamental perhaps, but so worth the effort. And it’s like riding a bike, once you get the hang of it, you can practically make one with your eyes closed. Don’t worry, I’ll walk you through it.
Stay safe out there everyone. Spring is (almost) here and the quarantine may be coming to an end soon (fingers crossed, anyway!)
Since you can’t leave the house, why don’t you just get into the kitchen and make a rhubarb pie?!? Let me know how it goes. 😉
Rhubarb PieCourse: Eggs, Cereal and Baked Goods, Sweet TreatsCuisine: American, DessertDifficulty: Medium
Rhubarb is one of my favorite things. It’s the first to come around after a long, cold winter to remind us that sunshine and warmer days aren’t far behind. This pie tastes like springtime on a fork!
- Pie crust
12 oz all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 oz unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
3 oz solid vegetable shortening (preferably Crisco), chilled
3-1/2 oz ice cold water
- Rhubarb filling
2 lbs trimmed and cleaned rhubarb, cut into 3/4″ pieces
3/4 cup granulated sugar***
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground ginger
- For baking pie
1 egg, separated
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp (or more to taste) coarse sugar (Sugar In The Raw)
- For crust:
- In large metal bowl, combine flour, salt, sugar, butter and shortening. With fingertips, quickly work flour into fat. The mixture will go from very dry with clumps of butter to almost the texture of wet sand with all the flour looking ‘wet’ and only pea-sized pieces of butter left in lumps. When it’s ready for the water to be added, it will just barely hold together when squeezed in your palm.
- Using a fork, pour all the water in at once and gently lift the flour mixture quickly, while spinning the bowl, to get the water incorporated. Once it’s starting to hold together, dump out onto a cutting board or the counter and, using the heel of your hand in light, quick motion, push it to “smear” the flour into the butter. (Aka: Fraisage) But a few things: even though it feels good – DON’T overwork the dough. Make sure it stays cold. And work quickly!
- This is where I diverge from EVERY OTHER PIE CRUST RECIPE. I don’t refrigerate it before I roll it out. Yeah, you heard me right. If you are able to work quickly and lightly with your hands, you can dust the dough with just a touch of flour and roll it immediately after mixing (to about 1/8″ thickness). Divide dough into two discs, one just a little larger than the other, which you will use for the bottom crust. The smaller disc will be for the top crust. It’s so much easier to deal with at this time than after it’s gotten cold. BUT, you must let it rest in the fridge or freezer for at least 2-3 hours (or preferably over night) before you fill and bake it. Otherwise it’ll retract just like those Shrinky-Dinks we used to bake in the oven in the late 70’s.
- Once the pie dough has been thoroughly chilled, you’re ready to fill and bake.
- For pie:
- Preheat oven to 400˚F.
- In large bowl, mix together rhubarb, 3/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, salt and ginger.
- Separate egg white from the yolk in small bowl. Whisk white until frothy. Remove pie shell from fridge and brush the bottom and up the sides with egg white.
- Fill pie crust with rhubarb mixture, dot with 2 tbsp butter. Mix egg yolk and white back together with a tbsp of water. Using same brush, lightly coat edges of crust with egg wash (it acts as a glue for the top crust so the juices don’t leak out during baking). Cover with top crust, and pinch edges to seal. At this point you can make a decorative border or just use a fork dusted in flour to press edges together.
- Coat top of crust with a light coating of egg wash (DON’T brush the edges – they already tend to brown too fast and the egg wash will hasten the process).
- Coat top of crust with coarse sugar. Then cut slits in top crust to allow steam to escape during baking. If you try to cut the crust first and then brush with egg wash, it’ll be problematic. Believe me…I’ve had to learn that lesson first hand. 🙄
- Place on parchment or foil lined baking sheet and bake in 400˚F oven for 15 minutes (to help set bottom crust) and then (without opening the oven door) reduce heat to 350˚F and let bake for another 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Yeah, you heard that right too. I hate, hate, hate undercooked pie dough. When the pie is finished, the juices will be gurgling thickly from the holes in the top of the crust, the fruit will be soft, the edges will be dark golden brown, and the bottom will be cooked through. Just make sure you’re checking every 45 minutes or so (more often toward the end) to make sure it’s not browning too quickly. If so, just tent a piece of foil over the top – don’t let it touch the middle of the crust – so it doesn’t burn.
- One more family tip – Grandma and Mom always did this and it’s become my (and Noah’s!) favorite part of pie making. When you cut the trimmed edges from the pie dough, place them directly onto a small sheet pan and bake in your preheated oven at 400˚F for about 12 minutes, or until golden brown on the edges. Then eat hot out of the oven with jam or jelly. It’s like your little present for getting through this whole process and baking something delicious for your family. You deserve it!
- About the pie crust: you must work quickly and it’s best to have cold hands (even if you have to run them under the faucet to cool them off before starting). My baking teacher once told me that warm blooded people were bad bakers for this very reason. The most temperamental part of the pie crust process is knowing when to add the water. Too much water is the enemy of ‘flaky’, but too little and the dough won’t hold together when you’re trying to roll it out. If you add the water before the flour-fat mixture starts to take on that texture of wet sand, you’ll need too much for the dough to hold together. If you overmix and there are no pea-sized bits of fat left in the flour, there won’t be any layers left to puff up and create the ‘flaky’ as it bakes.
- ***My variety of rhubarb is wayyyyy sweeter than some you get from the grocery store. When I use 3/4 cup of sugar in combination with the lemon juice, it creates a perfect balance of sweet-tart deliciousness that my family likes. If you have store bought rhubarb, or your plant is an heirloom variety that is more on the tart side, or you just like really sweet pie, you can increase the sugar up to as much as 2 cups.
- Let pie cool at least a few hours before cutting if you want it to set and make pretty slices. If you can’t wait, I totally understand, but know that the filling will be really runny.
- This pie is best eaten the day it’s made. But will still be delicious, kept at room temperature, for at least three more days.