Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

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Pie is my favorite dessert. I taught myself to make it because I love to eat it, and now I think making it is almost the best part.

Pie isn’t especially hard to make. But it does reward good ingredients, and even more importantly, I think, patience. Pie crust can smell fear, and if you sweat it or stress it, well, that’s just no way to make a pie. But if you take your time, have good fruit, and lots of butter, it’s very hard to go wrong.

I have made pie crust without a pastry blender or a stand mixer, just my hands. I’ve underseasoned, thrown in random dashes of lemonade, and come out with a big, beautiful, baroque top crust that resembled an ocean wave. It doesn’t matter — pie shows that you care, and almost everyone loves eating it.

This pie was made for an office birthday celebration. Pie is great for that, because it benefits from an overnight rest so the juices can set.

Pie Crust
Adapted from the brilliant book Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe, by Joanne Chang

1 3/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg
3 tablespoons whole milk

Blend flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture until a coarse meal is formed, with a few pea-sized lumps of butter.

Whisk together egg and milks. Gradually add it the butter mixture, stirring with a spoon to blend in the dry parts.

Form into two balls and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill for at least an hour (overnight is helpful).

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Adapted from Martha Stewart

1 lb rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 lb rhubarb, hulled and sliced
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, orange juice, cinnamon and salt, and stir gently to combine.

Roll out one pie crust on a floured service and put it in your pie plate. Add filling and arrange the fruit nicely, cut side of the strawberries down. Hiding the cut sides of the rhubarb will make your pie brighter and a little more uniform in color. Dot with butter.

Roll out second pie crust on a floured surface and cut into thin strips. Weave a lattice pattern, starting with the center cross and working outward.

Trim any excess dough, seal edges and crimp around the outside using a fork.

Brush the top crust (going over each section of exposed lattice) with a beaten egg, then sprinkle with a little sugar. Do not skip this step, because there is nothing, nothing sadder than an otherwise beautiful pie without a properly browned, glossy top crust.

Songs in the Key of Rhubarb

Today I’m serving up a simple compote, courtesy of the always-brilliant Smitten Kitchen. It pairs beautifully with some leftover lemon curd, made at a class at one of my favorite local bakeries, Two Tarts. It also helps disguise a rather disappointing cake, which I won’t call out, but it suffices to say that even in the presence of the magic words “Greek yogurt,” I’ll be sticking to butter-based pound cake types, rather than oil. Luckily the curd and the compote are fragrant, because this cake smells a little bit like French fries.

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Rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, lemon…and the finished compote.

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Another fantastic photo from my office kitchen. This cake looks like it would be good, doesn’t it?

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Sunday serving suggestion: store-bought madeleines, compote, curd, blob of fat-free yogurt you accidentally bought that is unsuitable for baking.

PS: Stevie Wonder makes excellent baking music.

And so it begins

Cake

Lousy photo taken in office kitchen. Nice cake plate, though.

Here is Entry Number One. True to the spirit of the challenge, I went to the grocery store for chocolate chips for this fabulous banana bread, when I discovered it: the first rhubarb. Only about 10 stalks to choose from, pale in color, but the rhubarb exists, and therefore it must be baked.

This early specimen would need some help in the flavor and sweetness departments. Inspired by this cake, I decided to sneak in a middle layer of rhubarb and top it with what remains of some nearly-forgotten raspberry freezer jam.

I pre-roasted the rhubarb slices with a tablespoon of orange juice and a sprinkle of sugar until softened and a beautiful bright pink. It’s currently disappearing rapidly in my office kitchen. Apparently, I have won two new rhubarb converts today.

Rhubarb & Jam Tea Cake

Adapted from Sneh Roy of Cook Republic.

1 large stalk rhubarb, sliced
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 10 inch springform cake pan.

If pre-roasting, toss the rhubarb slices with a teaspoon of sugar, a tablespoon of orange juice, or other desired seasonings, and bake at 325 for about 10 minutes, until softened and bright pink.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Beat the butter with an electric mixer for a minute or two until smooth. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, beating after each addition to incorporate. Add the flour mixture and milk, and beat until smooth.

Spread a thin layer of the batter into the prepared cake pan. Top with rhubarb slices. Carefully spread the remaining batter over the rhubarb and smooth the top.

Drop small spoonfuls of jam on top of the cake and use a wooden skewer to swirl.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool thoroughly before turning out onto a serving dish.

 

Rheum rhabarbarum

I think rhubarb is the finest of the fruits (after tomatoes, peaches and cherries, but it’s only March – let’s not get greedy here). The task is simple: as many rhubarb creations as I can make, from the time stalks first appear in the grocery stores (for me, last night at 8:30pm) until they run out or I can no longer stand it. Whichever comes first.

I welcome joiners, recipe suggestions, constructive feedback, and pre-softened sticks of unsalted butter.

To the ovens!