Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

 In the great cake vs. pie debate, I've always sat squarely on Team Cake.  Don't get me wrong, I won't turn down a warm piece of apple pie with a scoop of ice cream on top if someone else is making it.  But when it comes to how I want to celebrate my birthday or special occasion, there better be a big tall cake with a hefty dose of chocolate.  Not so for BFF Jill.  For her birthday, she wanted pie.  Fruit pie.  If cake is my comfort zone, fruit pie is the middle seat on an airplane wearing spanx that are one size too small.

When I brought up my baking plans to some friends, I learned that a lot of people are serious about their love for pie.  And then I made this strawberry rhubarb pie with a lattice-topped crust, and now I'm confused.  Why have I spent the last 26 years avoiding homemade pie dough?  And why did it take this long for me to eat my first rhubarb?  And what's so great about cake anyway?  Ok, maybe I'm getting carried away, but I assure you that this pie is a summer classic, and a huge crowd pleaser.  And I'm thinking a lot about pie.  More on that later...  But for now, let's talk about pie dough.

Some people fear baking with yeast, but until recently, nothing scared me like pie crust.  Recipes always call for perfectly chilled ingredients, and there just seemed to be too many places it could go wrong.   You could start with butter that was too warm, or you could add too much water, or you could overmix, or your dough could stick to the board, or you could breathe too loudly or vote for the wrong Idol contestant.  So what's a pie novice to do?  Relax.  This crust was surprisingly fixable, and the best advice about pie crust I read was "make a lot of pie".  That said, this attempt went really well.  Get yourself an iced tea and have at it.
You could use a metal pastry cutter to mix in your butter, but mine is kinda broken and John hates washing it, so I opted for the food processor.  I adore this Cuisinart because it's big enough to make a full batch of dough, and it's quiet as a mouse.

Mix flour, sugar, and a bit of salt.

And put some ice water in a measuring cup.  Your ingredients will need to be COLD!
 Again with the cold...  Cold butter, and some cold shortening (I imagine you could get by with all butter, but I haven't tried it).

Now you don't want to over-mix this, so just hit pulse a few times until the butter incorporates and the dough looks like coarse meal.
See these pea-sized lumps?  Stop mixing when the dough is at this point.
Now we pulse in the ice water, 2 tablespoons at a time, until it just barely comes together.

I may have been a bit overly cautious with the water, but I stopped when the dough looked like this.
  As you can see, it's still really crumbly, so I added a bit more water and kneaded it in.
 Then gather the dough into a ball (it will still be somewhat flaky)...
And cut the ball in half.  This will be your top and bottom crust.
Wrap the dough in plastic, and smash it into a disk.  Refrigerate for at least an hour, and up to a day.
Now we can get going on the filling.  The filling is as easy as the crust is tricky.  Chop up some rhubarb...
And some strawberry.
 Here's where it gets fun.  Brown sugar, white sugar, cornstarch, and a bit of salt.  Gently stir it all together and let it sit for a bit.
 Once your dough is good and chilled, it's time to roll it out.
 I'll confess, mine was falling apart a bit here, so I put some cold water on my fingers and worked it in until it held together.  It took me a few tries before it rolled out without sticking to the rolling pin, so don't freak out if it doesn't go perfectly the first time.
When it's time to put the dough into your pie pan, roll it around your rolling pin like so.
Then gently roll into your pie dish.  Doesn't this look picture perfect?
 Why no it doesn't.  But like many pie dough mishaps, it's fixable.  Roll out the second disk, and use a bit of the dough to patch areas where the dough doesn't reach the top of the dish.
 See?  That wasn't so bad.
Check out your fruit filling.  It looks like this.  All juicy and gooey and beautiful.
 Put it in the pie crust.
Now roll out your second disk of pie dough, and use a pizza cutter or a roller with a scalloped edge.  Roll out seven strips and place them across the pie going in the same direction.  Now let's make the lattice.
 Now peel back every other strip, and place one strip perpendicular to the rest.  Then unfold, and peel back the opposing strips.  Sound confusing?  Check out a nifty tutorial here.
I took a few more strips of pie dough, and wrapped them around the edges.  Then pinch around the perimeter of the crust to make a pretty scalloped edge. We want a nice golden crust, so whisk an egg yolk with a bit of water.
Brush the egg wash over the top of the pie.  I also sprinkled the top of the pie with sugar, but it browned a bit more than I would have liked, so I'd probably skip that step next time.
 Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, and your gorgeous finished pie will look a little something like this.
So bakers/bloggers...  Anyone interested in a little summer pie project?  Maybe we have a pie assignment every couple weeks, and then blog and compare our experiences?   Shoot us an email at if you're interested!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Barely adapted from Bon Appetit April 1997, via
For crust
3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
7 tablespoons (about) ice water (I started with 6 tablespoons, and added a bit more when I rolled out the dough)

For filling
3 1/2 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices trimmed rhubarb (1 1/2 pounds untrimmed)
1 16-ounce container strawberries, hulled, halved (about 3 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk beaten to blend with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)


  1. That whole "gotta be very cold" mantra... it's not entirely true. I use my hands to "cut" the fat into the flour, just smearing my thumb along my fingers, which would be much harder with super-cold fat. I have yet to fail with that method. Another side effect is that I usually use a lot less water than the recipe calls for, like sometimes by half. Once the dough is looking good, *then* get it cold.

    And I cheat a little by rolling the pastry between a couple pieces of waxed paper - it's a lot less messy, doesn't stick, and it is very easy to move the pastry into the pie plate.

    Your scalloped edges are beautiful! I'm jealous. :)

  2. Sign me up for the pie project!!

  3. Team pie!It was delicious...thanks for moving out of your comfort zone to make me a yummy birthday treat!

  4. pie looks great! i screw mine up often and patch the pieces together. oh, and all butter works just fine, but i usually use 1/2 butter and 1/2 shortening ;)

  5. This pie looks so yummy! My grandma has a bunch of rhubarb in her garden every year and I'm always looking for new things to make with it!

  6. I'm on team ice cream cake, but pie...we can get along! This pie looks stellar!

  7. You have me craving summer with this flavor combination! We have just started to see rhubarb in the markets here in NYC, so I absolutely cannot wait for the strawberries!

    For the crust, you definitely want to use a combination of butter and shortening, just like you did. Using all shortening yields a very flaky crust with no flavor. All butter results in a very flavorful crust, but no flakiness. The combination of the two is just right :o)

  8. Your lattice top is BEAUTIFUL! I love how you crimped the edges. Thanks for the great process photos. I love the iced green tea at Starbucks!

  9. My sister doesn't cook much but yet she does pie which I too am scared of for all your aforementioned fears regarding the dough. Also, I am just not that into pie. I think pie or cake or fine but my true love is cobbler or "crumble" as the brits like to call it-with ice cream. I saw a reciepe that involved rhubarb a few months ago but couldn't find any. Just saw it in the market the other day so guess it is rhubarb season. Time to make some cobbler.

  10. I'd love to join in on your Summer Pie Project! I sent you an email a few days ago! Let me know if you got it! Thanks!

  11. Thanks to all who wrote with interest in the pie project! Allison and I are getting together this weekend, so we will surely have details for you next week!

    @Stacy- got your email! Thanks!

  12. I really enjoyed this post and appreciate the detail!! Love the step by step photos. I found this post by searching for strawberry rhubarb pie and used your recipe for the pie filling. It was my first experience with rhubarb too! The only reason I couldn't use your crust recipe is I have Celiac and need to be gluten-free. I just used my own crust and then opted for a crumble topping like in Dutch apple pie. YUM! (Your lattice top crust is beautiful though!) I appreciate that your recipe for the filling was gluten-free and I didn't need to adapt it. I just made sure I had gf cornstarch. Thank you from my gluten-free kitchen in Colorado :)

  13. Oh, I have photos posted on my facebook page at: It hasn't made it to the blog yet!


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