Ever since I was a little girl I have loved the tart fruitiness of rhubarb. My mother would make a delicious compote with rhubarb and raspberries every summer as a refreshing treat. What I never understand is why bother to use rhubarb if you are going to change its personality by adding excessive amounts of sugar? This is a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie that honors the fruit with a clean freshness and tart fruity punch. It allows the rhubarb to shine with the strawberries adding extra color and fruitiness.
What is rhubarb?
Well to start with, it’s actually a vegetable – not a fruit. But then tomatoes are really fruits and not vegetables. I will leave those arguments to botanists and pedants. What is important, though, is that we only eat the stalks. The leaves contain high levels of oxalic acid which is poisonous. This perennial rhizome is easy to grow in most northern climates and its beautiful rosy stalks are wonderful in baked goods but can even be eaten raw with a bit of sugar or salt.
Why this rhubarb pie?
I looked at a LOT of recipes. Rhubarb pie is pretty basic and does not contain a lot of ingredients so how different can they be, right? How much sugar to use, whether to use flour, cornstarch or tapioca as a thickener, how long to bake and at what temperature and whether to add any other fruit are all things that varied from recipe to recipe. Of all the recipes I checked out, this was the only one that used lemon zest. For me, that was the deciding factor, although I do think that orange zest would also work. The point is that one change, made the pie sing and really brought out the fresh rhubarb flavor and tartness. So this Strawberry Rhubarb Pie does not taste like some generic fruity mush as so many rhubarb pies that I have tried do. I did make a few tweaks of my own to the original recipe.
I love a good crust and I am more into wonderfully short, crumbly crusts than flakey crusts- perhaps because that is what I grew up with. My mother was a wonderful cook and baker and I learned early on that if the crust was too easy to manipulate then it probably wasn’t the kind of crust that I like. But this is very personal. So use whatever double crust you like here – even store-bought. If I am being honest, I tried a different crust for this and neither my husband nor I loved it. It LOOKS great, but for my next pie, I am going back to one of my tried and true.
Many rhubarb and other fruit pies use a lattice top and I think they are beautiful. But I found that it is also fun to use a cookie cutter and to place the cut-outs over the top instead. What is important here is the filling.
Let’s talk thickeners
For me, there is nothing worse than a gummy filling. But fruit pies do tend to give off a lot of juice so some thickener is needed or you will end up with soup. This recipe calls for Minute Tapioca. It leaves a very clean taste and allowed the filling to thicken without becoming gummy. Individual fruits may vary in their liquid content but generally speaking, rhubarb and strawberries contain a lot of liquid. I found that the amount of thickener used here allowed the juices to bubble up but once fully cooled, the filling held together nicely. Some people use flour or cornstarch instead of tapioca. I achieved good results with the tapioca in this recipe so I am sticking with it. If the thought of tapioca is icky or you simply don’t have it easily accessible, use an equal amount of all-purpose flour or cornstarch instead. A little of the juices will bubble over which is totally normal for a fruit pie. So unless you want to be cleaning up a mess in your oven, be sure to have a pan underneath. And you MUST use a deep-dish pie plate for this recipe! There is a lot of yummy filling and anything more shallow simply won’t work.
Really good quality vanilla ice cream! ‘nuf said.
So this 4th of July, maybe consider making a strawberry rhubarb pie instead of blueberry. But don’t wait for a holiday to make this luscious dessert.
For other rhubarb recipes:
Yield: 8 servings or One 9-inch deep-dish pie
1 unbaked double pie crust
2 Tablespoons crushed bland cookies (digestive biscuit or graham cracker for example) OR almond meal
1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into about 1/2-inch thick pieces
1 pound of strawberries, hulled and sliced in half if small or quartered if large
1/25 cups granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons Minute Tapioca
Zest of one large lemon
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Line a deep dish pie plate with pastry. Fold about 1.5 inches of the overhang under and smooth or decoratively crimp, if desired. Trim off any excess beyond that. Spread the crushed cookie crumbs over the bottom of the crust. This will help prevent sogginess.
In a large bowl combine the strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, zest and tapioca. Using your hands or a spatula (Okay, or a large spoon), gently stir to combine. All of the sugar will not perfectly combine with the fruit at this point. Not a problem. And while it may look like a lot of sugar, it is exactly the right amount.
Pour the mix into the crust, mounding it slightly.
Depending on what you are doing with the top crust, either lay the lattice or dough cut-outs over the top and lightly press the edges down. If you are using a single sheet of dough over the top, then make 4 deep slits in the pie crust to allow the steam to escape. This isn’t necessary with the lattice or cookie cutter top.
Beat the egg and lightly brush over the entire crust. This will give a nice shine, but it also may cause some over-browning. More on that in a bit! Sprinkle some coarse sugar over the egg if desired. It will lend some sparkle. ANd who doesn’t need a little sparkle these days?
Place the pie plate on a baking pan with a rim. You can use a sheet of parchment on the pan to make clean-up easier.
Bake on the bottom rack for 15 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking for 45 minutes more or until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden. Check on the pie and lightly cover with a sheet of foil if the top seems to be browning too quickly. I should have covered mine a couple of minutes sooner. Don’t worry if some of the liquid bubbles over. That is pretty traditional in a fruit pie, but it is also why you want a pan underneath.