Monday, March 31, 2008

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

I'm not usually much for landmarks or numbers, but I noticed the other day that Peabody had posted a special blog noting her 100th post (years ago of course, but it happened to be on Irish Cream Cheesecake and I was looking for recipes using Irish Cream.) Out of curiosity I looked at my numbers and realized that I was on post number 148. At first I didn't think too much about it, but then I realized that I had the perfect way to commemorate 150 blog posts -- by baking Strawberry Rhubarb Pie since that was the recipe that got me started on all of this.

I wasn't sure about the food blogging thing when I started. I figured I would post a few recipes then get bored and quit. The funny thing is that blogging about the stuff I bake actually makes me want to bake more, plus it drives me to bake things I wouldn't necessarily try otherwise. When I blog about a recipe it helps me figure out what I really liked (or didn't) about a particular recipe, and it makes me start thinking of ways I could improve on any given recipe. And because I don't want a lot of repeated recipes on the blog, I end up searching for new recipes and new techniques to try.

I also figured I wouldn't have that many readers -- I mean, there are literally hundreds of great food blogs out there on the internet, so I figured my blog would be read by my friends and family and that would be about it. The great thing about it was that when coworkers asked me for recipes I could always point them to one spot without having to remember to bring various recipes in to work or to write things out for people. For the most part my friends and family are my primary readers, but I'm occasionally surprised by the positive comments I get from complete strangers who happen to like my blog, and of course always thrilled to discover that my blog got a mention somewhere else on the internet. I'm not sure how long I will keep blogging, but I suspect I will continue for at least another 150 posts. :)

Now, back to the Strawberry Rhubarb Pie...

I didn't use the same recipe that I used the first time -- instead I used the recipe from my book Bubby's Homemade Pies. I didn't think this pie was quite as pretty as the first one since the first one had you brush an egg wash on before baking which gave it a nice golden glow. With this one you just sprinkled some sugar onto the top. I did do a proper lattice crust on this one though, so that's a first. However, when I finally pulled it from the oven, the middle was awfully liquid still. Cooling it helped some, but it was still really runny -- more pie soup than pie filling.

The crust also was not quite the success I was hoping for. The bottom crust was slightly tough and crispy and the top crust was crispy on the edges and kind of soggy (from the pie soup) in the middle.

Since I know that part of my problem with pie crust is that I don't work fast enough cutting the butter into the flour I put the bowl of flour into another bowl with an ice bath which bought me some extra time (it also created a pool of ice water all over my counter and on the floor... but whatever.) I also noticed that according to Bubby the crust is supposed to be slightly tacky when you get all the water mixed in so I kept adding water until I got an ever so slightly tacky mess without it being sticky. I thought I did much better with this crust as opposed to some other pies I have attempted -- but once again I was just fooling myself. I don't know what it is about pie, but I just can't seem to get it right.

Bubby's All Butter Pastry Pie Dough
8-10 inch double crust or 12-inch single crust

5 to 6 tbsps ice cold water
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
11 1/2 tbsps cold unsalted butter

Measure the water for the crust (with a bit of extra water in the measure in case you need a touch more) and then add ice cubes. Chill it in the freezer.

Measure out the flour (unsifted) by leveling off dry measuring cups, and add the flour to large bowl. Add the salt to the flour and give it a quick stir to combine evenly.

Use cold butter, measure out the amount you need, and then coat the cold, solid stick with the flour in the bowl. Using a dough scraper or a long butcher knife, cut the butter lengthwise in half, and then lengthwise in quarters, coating each newly cut side with flour as you go. Dice the butter into 1/4 inch cubes. Break up any pieces that stick together and toss them all to coat them with flour. If it is warm, chill briefly before continuing.

Using a pastry cutter, press the blades through the mixture bearing down repeatedly like you would to mash potatoes. Repeat this gesture until the largest pieces of fat are the size of shelling peas and the smallest are the size of lentils. Rechill if necessary.

Add water one of two tablespoons at a time, quickly tossing the mixture with your hands after each addition to distribute the water evenly. Work the dough as little as possible.

Continue adding water a little at a time until there are no floury bits left -- just little comet-like cobbles that don't quite cohere. To test the dough for consistency, lightly pat together some dough the size of a tennis ball. If the ball crumbles apart or has lots of dry looking cracks in it, the dough is still too dry; let it bread apart. Add a drop or two more water to the outside of the ball and work it just a little. If it holds and feels firm and supple, mop up any remaining crumbs with the ball. IF they pick up easily the dough is probably wet enough.

For a double crust divide the dough into slightly uneven halves and shape each half into a ball. Cover each ball tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least half an hour to relax and slow the gluten development.

For the Pie Filling:
3 cups strawberries, halved or thickly sliced
3 cups (1 1/2 pounds) rhubarb, cut into 1/2 to 1/3 inch pieces
1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling on top of the crust
4 1/2 tbsps all purpose flour
1 tsp orange zest
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbsps unsalted butter cubed

Roll out the pastry and line a 9-inch pie tin with the bottom crust. Roll out the remaining dough for the top crust. Rechill the pastry if necessary.

Preheat oven to 450.

In a large bowl, combine the strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, flour, zest, and salt. Mix the ingredients briefly by tossing them as you would a salad. Scrape the fruit into the pastry-lined pie tin. Dot the fruit with the butter and cover it with the top crust. Trim and crimp the crust; chill the pie for 10 minutes in the freezer (CRAP! I knew I forgot a step!!!). Cut vent slits if not using a lattice and sprinkle the top crust lightly with sugar.

Bake the pie on a lipped baking sheet for 10 minutes, or until the crust looks dry, blistered and blonde. Turn the oven down to 375, and bake for at least 30 minutes more, or until the crust is golden brown and visible juices are thickened and bubble slowly through the slits in the top crust.

Cool the pie completely before cutting it, at least a few hours. Serve it at room temp.


LyB said...

Congratulations on your 150th post! The pie looks excellent, I love strawberries and rhubarb together, great combination.

biscuitpusher said...

The filling tastes great, but I sure wish I could figure out how to get it to set up properly and how to make a good crust. Practice may make perfect, but I haven't even managed good yet... oh well, guess I have to keep trying. *sigh*

bravo-ing jubilant sugarstarved said...

( 150 (blog entries) - 6 (entries ben hasn't eaten) ) * (2.15 servings eaten / blog entry) = 309.6 servings of melissa goodness since... last september thereabouts? Hmmmmm... that's enough generosity and crazy amounts of sugar to get a body through almost any tough stretch imaginable! Keep it comin'!

Anonymous said...

i'm happy :)
yes, a bit runny, but it tastes really good. as for the crust, you're too critical! kudos on doing a real rather than fake lattice!