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The Perfect Rhubarb Pie

June 7th, 2009 · 55 Comments

rhubarb pie

I always say my favorite pie is rhubarb (without strawberries), but when I happened to think about it recently, I couldn’t remember the last time I had baked or even eaten a rhubarb pie. And with the ultra short rhubarb season upon us, I knew I had to get baking!

So, I was thrilled when a friend asked me to make dessert for his weekend dinner party. I would have 7 people eagerly awaiting a sweet finale. Then the challenge was finding the right recipe.

I almost gave up on the pie idea. I searched for rhubarb pie recipes on every Web site, looked through past magazine issues and browsed my recipe archive (cut out recipes I put into binders), but nothing looked right. Then I toyed with making a crisp, cake or even rhubarb shortcake, but all seemed inferior to the perfect pie I was already tasting in my mind.

rhubarb pie side view Then I remembered a sweet tweet (from Twitter.com) I had followed to Michael Ruhlman’s blog when he posted about rhubarb pie. . . I love reading food blogs, but I don’t usually make recipes (or at least I don’t write about recipes) from other blogs. I figure, if a recipe has already been blogged about then I don’t want to re-blog it – there are plenty of good recipes out there to go around. But this one was irresistible.

And it turned out more amazing than I could ever have imagined – guess it has been too long since my last rhubarb pie. The crust is simple, flaky and delicious (from Ruhlman’s new book, Ratio, it’s a basic 3-2-1 crust recipe, with 3 parts flour, 2 parts butter and 1 part water). But the simple filling is what makes this pie great – not too sweet, thick but not gummy and subtly spiced. It’s basic, simple and completely perfect.

lattice crustCheck out Michael Ruhlman’s blog post for more tips and step-by-step photos for putting together a lattice-topped upper crust.

Perfect Rhubarb Pie
Recipe adapted from Michael Ruhlman’s blog, Notes From the Food World

15 ounces flour (about three cups)
1 teaspoon (or a bit less) salt
10 ounces cold butter, diced
5 ounces ice water (or less, as needed)
12 ounces sugar (1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (I went with this amount, but it’s a little much. I liked it, but I’ll probably scale it back a bit next time, especially if I’m baking for picky eaters.)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (I love the flavor of ground cloves in this pie!)
1/3 cup cornstarch (this turned out to be the perfect amount)
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, small diced (about five cups – At first I just sliced these, but I think it’s good to give them another rough chop, so they’re diced instead of sliced. Basically, they need to be about 1/3 inch cubed.)

For the crust:
In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt, then you need to work the butter into the flour until the butter is in pea-sized chunks. You can do this by rubbing the butter in with your hands, cutting it in with a pastry cutter or mixing lightly in a food processor. (I used my hands and probably under-worked it – you don’t want to over work it or your crust will be tough.) Mix up your ice water and add it slowly, in increments, mixing dough between each addition. You want to add as little water as possible – just enough to make the dough stick together.  When the dough holds together, divide it into two halves (one maybe slightly bigger than the other) and form into disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and let the dough rest in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes and up to a day.

Making the pie:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

On a floured surface, roll out the larger disk of dough (leave the other in the fridge) until it’s a little less than 1/4th of an inch thick and large enough to fit into the pie plate. Lay the dough into your pie plate. (Tip: Using your rolling pin, roll the dough up onto the pin, place it on top of the pie plate and unroll the dough into the pie plate.) Leave about an inch of overhang. Patch any rips with excess dough and set aside (if your kitchen is warm like mine was, I suggest putting the pie plate with the crust into the fridge so the butter in the crust stays solid. For the lattice top crust, roll out the other disk of dough to the same thickness and cut out 9 or 10, 3/4-inch wide strips the length of the pie plate.

Once the dough is ready and waiting, mix together the sugar, spices and cornstarch.  In a large bowl, add the sugar mixture to the rhubarb and mix until it’s evenly coated (Tip: If you mix them together too early, the sugar causes water to leach out of the rhubarb and makes the filling too runny.) Pour the rhubarb mixture into the pie plate.

Assembling the lattice topping (Fun!):
Place five strips of dough horizontally at even intervals across the pie (Tip: place the longest one in the middle first and then two on each side).  To work the vertical strips in, fold every other strip (the first, third and fifth strips) all the way back and lay one strip of dough vertically across the horizontal strips.  Fold the horizontal strips back, then fold the remaining two strips back (the second and fourth strips) as far as they can go (to the first vertical strip). Lay a second vertical strip an equal distance from the first one, then fold the horizontal strips back. Repeat this process until the top of the pie is covered with a lattice top.

Ready to bake:
Place pie on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and bake until fruit is bubbling and the crust is golden brown. Rhulman’s recipe says this should take 1 to 1 1/4 hours, but mine only took 50 minutes. Just keep an eye on it. You should rotate the pie halfway through baking and cover the outer crust with foil or crust protectors if you notice it browning too quickly. As you see, my crust got a little overly toasted in places.

And here’s the hard part:
Allow the pie to cool completely before slicing in.

Tags: baking · dessert · recipes · weekend project

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