Friday, March 26, 2010

Strawbery Rhubarb Pie

I've been searching for signs of spring all over the place and my heart skipped a happy beat when I found rhubarb at the grocery store this week. Right above it were strawberries on sale, 2 pounds for $5. SO not local this time of year, but a craving is a craving.

And then a dilemma...I love, love, love my grandmother's pie crust recipe. Seriously, for me the best part of the pie is the crust (and homemade pie is my favorite dessert). But the recipe for the easiest, flakiest, crispest pie crust I've ever tasted is made with butter flavored Crisco.

Here's the problem: I've sworn off fake food and it doesn't take a food detective to realize that "butter flavored Crisco" is fake. They admit their falsehood right on their label, so I don't have to read the fine print to know this is on the list of foods I don't want to eat.

I decided to try an all butter crust recipe I found at the Land 'O Lakes website. My experiments with using all butter in biscuits have gone just fine so I had pretty high hopes.

The pie dough didn't come together like I hoped. The whole cold water, stir with a fork thing sounds great in theory, but I've never been able to pull that off with the amount of water they recommend. Even after refrigeration, the dough was stickier than I was used to.

Still, I persisted and the filling made me happy, happy, happy.

These pies smelled simply fabulous while they baked. The scent of butter that filled the house made the teenagers drool all over themselves in anticipation, and the crust looked extra flakey.

I thought I had found my answer - UNTIL I tried to cut the pie. That crust was seriously tough. Even my sharpest knife struggled to get through it. It took me five slices to get one photo that was even close to pretty.

So, I'm asking for your best pie advice and your best pie recipes. What on earth did I do wrong and how can I make an all natural pie in the future?

The Recipe:

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

In my family we like our pies a little tart, so if you prefer a sweeter pie increase the amount of sugar.

Make your own favorite recipe for a two crust pie.

2 cups of rhubarb, washed and sliced into 1-inch pieces.
2 cups strawberries – leave smaller berries whole and cut larger berries in half or thirds
3/4 cup sugar (1 cup if you like your pie sweet)
1/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons butter

1. Roll out bottom crust and place in pie plate.
2. Put rhubarb, strawberries, sugar and flour in a bowl and mix well. Pour into prepared pie crust. If there is extra flour and sugar that hasn’t been absorbed by the juice of the fruit, sprinkle it evenly over the top.
3. Cut the butter into small pieces and disperse on top of the fruit mixture. Roll out top crust and cover the fruit.
4. Cut off excess overhang (should be about a half an inch all the way around) and fold top crust under bottom crust and pinch together. Crimp the edge by making a V with your left thumb and forefinger and pushing the dough into the V with your right forefinger.
5. With a knife liberally poke vent holes in the top of the crust in a pleasing design, making sure the whole crust is covered.
6. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 – 50 minutes. To check if pie is done, slide a knife into one of the vent holes. Fruit should be tender.


Deb in Hawaii said...

I have no advice--pies are out of my league so I make soup! ;-) Bummer it is tough because the pie and the crust look perfect!

Christo Gonzales said...

I love this pie - you are enticing me to make one - it would be my first - your crust looks so flaky and the filling so oozy and chunky - deicious

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Have you considered using lard in pie crust? That's what was used many years ago by homemakers, to great success. and it's natural!

vanillasugarblog said...

little bit of cornstrach would have stopped the runs of the juice. did i just say runs? lol
that crust came out perfect though. i've given up on spring, you know we never have it here on cape cod.
how are those chickens? you should see my neighbors chickens, the male is stunning, it has feathers on its feet!

Michele said...

Have you ever tried the organic palm shortenings on the market? Tropical Traditions and Spectrum both make a very good shortening. Makes a very flaky pie crust. I miss my grandmother's rhubarb custard pie! Now I'm going to have to dig out the recipe and make pie this weekend.

Alison said...

Funny how you have to import the strawberries, and I import the rhubarb (and pay dearly for it--$15 a pound!) But sometimes you just have to have strawberry rhubarb pie. Yummy....

I'd second the suggestion for using lard, if you can find it.

Reeni said...

I am not the one to ask advice on pie crusts. I even went to a King Arthur pie crust demo and still could not make a good crust. I think they have a whole bunch of tips on their site. Your crust looks really flaky! I would of never known how tough it was. I never had rhubarb before - can you believe it? I need to change that.

pam said...

This is why I don't make pie crusts. I let some factory do it for me and I buy it all nice and neat and rolled up in a box. It works for me.

NKP said...

In a word - lard.
It's what our grandmas used and for good reason. Also it has been around for millennia as have other natural fats. I agree with you - it is the fake stuff that is going to kill us.
Great filling, good luck with your search for the perfect crust!
(My crust advice, keep all things cold - cube and freeze the lard and butter if you are using that too. A couple of quick pulses in the food processor with the flour, etc. and bring together. Quickly pat into a disk and wrap in clingfilm. Refrigerate 30-60 mins then roll out.)

Karen said...

I agree with the "lard" comments. My mother and grandmother would never use anything else and they made the most wonderful crusts.

JimK said...

"Just one little thing can revive a guy, and that is a piece of rhubarb pie. Serve it up, nice and hot, maybe things aren't as bad as you thought..." :)
I'm not an expert, but I believe that over-developed gluten in the dough can cause a tough crust. You might try handling the dough as little as possible (although I find this easier said than done). The alternative might be looking for a flour with less gluten. You might try a whole wheat pastry flour, or even better, a cake flour.

ames said...

my mum always made lard crusts though I find them rather rich - my current favorite crust is mostly butter with just a tad bit of shortening. My biggest piece of advice is to get a pastry blender - tough crusts usually result from overworking after adding the moisture. What I like to do is cut the butter into 1/2" cubes and then use the pastry blender to cut it into the flour like a mad thing, until it's like cornmeal with pebbles. Then you add the water and only toss it a few times until it's just moist enough to wad into a ball, then you chill it for 30 min before rolling it out. I also roll it out between two sheets of wax paper to avoid adding any more flour.

rambling 80s baby said...

I would try the recipe on Smitten Kitchen. She has the whole process broken down into 2/3 posts. I have had great success with that recipe

Lo said...


It's crazy. I found local Wisconsin asparagus at the market over the weekend. I have no idea which part of Wisconsin they got it from, but I was definitely happy to see my old friend. Now strawberries, on the other hand... we'll be waiting a while for those.

Karen said...

Too bad the crust was tough - it looks beautiful! I'm not a baker, so have no suggestions for you. I can't wait for our rhubarb in our garden this summer!

Leslie said...

Oh that stinks! I use Cooks Illustrate Pie crust.Foolproof Pie Dough
Cooks Illustrated, November 2007

Makes enough for one 9-inch double-crust pie

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into small bits
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

Healthy and Homemade said...

Your blog is amazing! I'm so glad you commented on mine, because now I can read yours =) This pie is gorgeous, and I've never actually had strawberry rhubarb anything before so I'll have to give it a shot!

Alicia Foodycat said...

I've pretty much given up on most pastry recipes. The only shortcrust that works for me is the rich French style that is about 1:1 flour and butter, bound with an egg and no added water. I've really decided though that I have a bread hand not a pastry had. The filling sounds brilliant though!

cb said...


Sorry. We've been desperately trying to find rhubarb in Chicago and no one seems to have it. In fact, I've been told by two stores that they aren't in season...something I find a bit odd. I grew up near a farmer's market in upstate NY and the rhubarb always found its way out the same time as the strawberries: and the strawberries found their way out this week.

My wife has an AMAZING recipe for strawberry rhubarb pie that she promised to make me this week, but we only have the strawberries! quelle trag├ędie!

Anonymous said...

if you dont want to use lard, then, mix the flour with 1 teaspoon of baking powder and make the dough the way you did it before. just add the baking powder...