Friday, May 06, 2005

Heresy! Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

The Volk family, contrary to what many people expect, is quite orthodox. Our orthodoxy, however, rears its ugly head in the kitchen, as opposed to the church. Of course, given our penchant for eating, it may be that the kitchen is our church. Anyway, my mother is consistently appalled every time I tell her that instead of making a pure rhubarb pie, unsullied by the presence of any other fruit or fruit-like ingredient, I have made my lovely wife a strawberry-rhubarb pie. Last night, I broke with orthodoxy yet again, and prepared yet another heretical dish. Today, I've decided to share the recipe.

Don't be scared away by any perceived difficulty. Pie making is pretty simple and easy. Even better, when you're done, you have that most excellent of desserts: Pie! Thus, if you're feeling wary, supress those feelings, buy the ingredients and make the damn pie.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

6-8 stalks rhubarb, sliced
3 c. strawberries, sliced
1-1.5 c. sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2-3 tbsp. cornstarch

2 c. flour
2/3-3/4 c. shortening (I use Earth Balance)
1 tbsp. sugar
5-6 tbsp. cold water

Preheat oven to 400.

Prepare the filling by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl and letting sit. Cornstarch is a thickener, so if the fruit is very juicy or you like a really thick pie, add more. I prefer a less sweet pie, so I use 1 cup sugar. However, rhubarb is very tart, so you might prefer to use more sugar.

You could use premade crusts. I've found that most are too salty for my taste. They're better for quiches in my opinion than fruit pies. I'll assume you're making crust.

The key to good crust is keeping ingredients cold. Don't handle it too much, don't let it get warm. Begin by cutting the shortening into the flour. If it's your first crust, stick with the higher amount because it will make it easier to work later on. When the shortening is fully cut in and the mixture feels kind of like meal, add 5 tbsp. of water. Mix with a fork in a circle. The dough will begin to come together. If it does not, add a little more water. Dough will either form a ball or a lot of partially formed dough masses. Turn onto a floured surface and squash together. Use fingers to knead very lightly into a ball.

Cut ball in half and form that half into a patty. Place on floured surface, and begin rolling out. Roll from the middle out, turning the round, so you get an even crust. Periodically, roll the edges, so they don't split. When the crust is flat and wide, lay the pie pan down on it and use a knife to cut a round crust about 2" larger than the top of the pan. Roll the round up onto the rolling pin and unroll it into the pie pan. Press it flat into the corners and pour in filling. Roll the second crust and lay over the top of the filling. Roll two crusts together and pinch them into the fluted edges of the pie pan. Form your thumb and forefinger of one hand into a "V" and push the crust with your opposing forefinger to make a fluted crust. Cut vents into top of crust.

Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Lower temp to 350 and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Cool and eat.

I don't really have any tips on this. The first four times I ever made crust, I was nearly driven insane with frustration. However, if you're prepared to waste ingredients, you'll eventually find crust making to be quite easy. Again, the key is cold shortening and COLD water. I my water in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to make it cold. It pays to have a couple of pre-made crusts on hand, just in case the crust fails and you get bat-shit angry.

Also, juicy pies can boil over pretty easily. I put a pizza pan on the rack below that which the pie is on. This catches spills and I don't have to clean the oven later.

Finally, if you have left-over crust, roll it flat, put on some pats of butter and cinnamon and sugar, and roll it up like a jelly roll. These make tasty treats that everybody likes.