words by Lia Pietrolungo; photos by Paul Mangus
Spring is officially upon us in all of her glory, and has brought with her the long-awaited consumption of all things strawberry-rhubarb – my weakness, my sustenance, my absolute favorite.
With finals week behind me (good riddance!), I felt a sense of emotional exhaustion that needed to be kicked in the rump immediately. Baking is the number one thing that helps me to reset, relax, and revive my frazzled nerves – even if it’s the cause of said frazzled nerves. After a long semester, I found my happiness in the creases of my rhubarb and strawberry stained hands… and in a big ‘ole slice of pie.
Unfortunately, I missed out on the farmer’s market this week, so I purchased my ingredients from The Mustard Seed. I frequent the Seed, so I felt good supporting a local, family-owned business.
I settled on a baker-friendly, flaky crust for the pie that has just the right amount of crumble to it. The cake flour helps to create a flakier, more tender crust, while using both butter and vegetable shortening ensures a flavorful crust that holds up beautifully in fruit pies
There are a few different ways to make a pastry crust: by hand, in a food processor, or in an electric mixer. I typically make mine by hand and use a pastry blender or my fingers to cut in the solid fats. It’s absolutely up to you how you’d like to go about this.
Strawberry-rhubarb pie is the perfect marriage of sweet and tart. The perennial rhubarb is tangy on its own, but adds a delicious bite when combined with sweet strawberries. A buttery crust balances out the acidy of the pie filling, while tapioca gives the filling body and sturdiness. A scoop of vanilla ice cream really seals the deal with this pie.
For the crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1 tablespoon granulated or coconut sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
¼ to ½ cup ice water
- Preheat your oven to 400°F.
- In a large bowl, whisk together both flours and the salt.
- Incorporate the shortening using a pastry cutter or your fingers. You’ll want the mixture to resemble small peas. Place in refrigerator if the shortening is too soft.
- Using the pastry cutter, incorporate the butter. You’ll want larger bits of butter along with the smaller ones. This ensures a flaky finished product since more steam will be trapped in the pockets that the butter creates as it melts while baking.
- Add a few tablespoons of the ice water and toss to dampen the flour mixture. Add additional water a few tablespoons at a time until it comes together in doughy-yet-crumbly chunks. It is ready if it holds together when you squeeze it in your hands.
- Turn the dough out onto parchment paper, waxed paper or a lightly floured surface. Separate the dough and form it into disks. Wrap each disk in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for an hour or overnight.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and allow to warm until it’s soft enough to roll but still cold.
- Turn out onto parchment, waxed paper, or a lightly floured surface. Roll out to desired thickness and diameter for your pie pan. The bottom crust should be a bit larger in diameter than the top crust.
- Fold the rolled dough in half, then in half again. Transfer the triangle to the pan and unfold. Fit to the pan.
- Refrigerate for twenty minutes until you are ready add the filling. This ensures that the fat remains cold for a flaky crust.
For the filling:
3 cups fresh rhubarb stalks, in half-inch thick slices
4 cups hulled and halved strawberries, quartered if large
¾ Cup coconut sugar
1.5 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
¼ cup quick-cooking tapioca
*Optional: pinch of fresh, grated ginger, orange zest, and/or a dash of cinnamon
- Combine rhubarb, sugar, lemon juice & zest, and ginger/cinnamon (if using) in a large bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes or so, until the juices collect in the bowl.
- Toss in the strawberries and tapioca.
- Pour the filling into the chilled pie shell and smooth the top of the mixture. Make a lattice crust, or cover with the top crust and crimp the edges with a fork. If you use the latter method, be sure to cut slits into the dough to let the steam escape as the pie cooks.
- Using a pastry brush (or a clean paint brush if you don’t have one for pastries), lightly wash the exposed pie dough with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake for 30 minutes, or until juices are thick and bubbling. Once the pie is ready, allow it to cool before serving. Or, eat it while warm with a scoop of ice cream. Either way, gobble it up and enjoy every last bite !
Lia likes to keep a glass of water by her bed at night. Her cat, Heathcliff, likes to knock over her glass of water in the middle of the night.