As a pie-maker since age 16, I couldn't resist Anne Dimock's book Humble Pie: Musings on What Lies Beneath the Crust when first published last year. Over the winter, I slowly nibbled through the chapters, savoring every page, considering apples and blueberries and rhubarbs, wondering if I might ever — ever ever ever — attain Pie Queen status.
But it took timing — her Straight-Up Rhubarb Pie being published in the New York Times Sunday Magazine and a big supply of Canadian Red rhubarb (many many thanks to my Auntie Meryl!) — to help me deliver three perfect rhubarb pies in all of two weeks.
The first pie, we groaned with pleasure. The second pie, we ate in silent appreciation. The third pie, we laughed over with new cooks (my nephews, ages 16 and 14!) and new friends (N and V!). This pie has sooo much going for it.
It's all about the rhubarb. It's adorned with nothing more than sugar, cinnamon and butter, thickened with no more than flour.
The rhubarb:sugar:flour:cinnamon proportions are perfect. For every cup of sliced rhubarb, use 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon flour.
The recommendation of Penzey's Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon is worth heeding: amazing. (2010 update: This big cinnamon is now the only cinnamon I buy, it's worth going out of your way for.) A quarter teaspoon might not seem like a lot: but thanks to Anne Dimock, it's perfect.
The all-shortening crust is easy to work with and there's plenty of it, especially good for new pastry makers.
Best of all, the crust moves straight from mixing bowl to oven, no chilling except while prepping the rhubarb. This makes it FAST to get to the table: my estimate is about 90 minutes plus time to cool. All-shortening (let alone lard) crusts are out of favor now but they are delicious. I figure, if you're indulging, indulge all the way.
This is my LAST rhubarb pie recipe. Never say never, they say. But I shall go out on a limb here to say that I shall never use another recipe for rhubarb pie. (Well, except for one, my favorite rhubarb custard pie. But that, as they say, is a different pie altogether.)
"It was the most delicious rhubarb pie, so easy to make and got rave reviews!" ~ Erika
"The pie came out PERFECT! Happy Birthday Pie to Me!" ~ Dale
PERFECT RHUBARB PIE
Time to table: 90 minutes plus time to cool
Makes 8 "city" slices and 6 "country" slices or 12 'Matthew' slices
2007 Update: This crust is beautiful and the instructions explicit so I'm sharing both Anne Dimock's's recipe and techniques. [Brackets indicate my own added tips.] But both new and experienced pie bakers will find tips, tricks, tools and useful techniques in my photo tutorial about how to make flaky tender pie crust.
6 tablespoons ice water [a few ice cubes in a glass with cold water]
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon [table] salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2/3 cup vegetable shortening [Crisco] plus 2 tablespoons
Preheat the oven to 425F. Fill a glass with the ice water.
Before measuring, fluff the flour with a fork to leaven it with air, then measure out the 2 cups. Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl and fluff with a fork. Cut the shortening into the flour mixture with a fork [my choice] or pastry blender. Stop as soon as the sheen of the shortening disappears and the mixture is a bunch of coarse pieces. Sprinkle a tablespoon of the ice water at a time over the dough, lifting and tossing it with the fork. When it begins to come together, gather it in your hands in a ball and then pull apart into two pieces: if it crumbles, it's too dry and needs a teaspoon or two of more water. [I find that while you don't want a goopy dough, more water is far better than less.] Gather the dough into two balls, one larger than the other for the bottom crust.
Anne specifies two steps for rolling out the crust.
Step One: Flatten the larger ball into a disc, rounding any rough edges [do round the edges, it helps create a circle during rolling]. Dust both sides with flour. Then working quickly, roll out the dough [with a flour-dusted rolling pin] from the center a bit but don't yet roll thin.
Step Two: Use a knife to remove the flattened disc from the counter. Dust it with flour again and put aside for a moment. Dust the work surface with flour, then place the disc in the center. Working quickly and from the center out, roll out the dough until it's quite thin and is 1 - 2 inches larger than your pie dish.
Place the rolling pin a third of the way in from one of the edge. Roll the crust onto the pin, then into the pie pan. Lightly arrange the crust into place. Place in the freezer while prepping the rhubarb.
5 cups sliced [fresh] rhubarb [I removed the strings, then cut into about 3/4 inch pieces]
1 1/4 cups sugar
5 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon [do invest in the Penzeys!]
1 1/2 tablespoons butter [in tiny pieces]
Toss the rhubarb pieces with sugar, flour and cinnamon. Arrange the rhubarb in the bottom crust. Dot with the butter. Roll out the top crust. Using your fingers, dab the rim of the bottom crust with ice water. Arrange the second crust on top. Trim the edges, then crimp the edges together to seal. With a sharp knife, cut several vents in the top crust.
Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350F and bake 25 - 30 minutes more [my first two pies took a good 15 - 20 minutes more] until a bit of pink juice bubbles from the vents. Let cool before slicing. Serve with good vanilla ice cream.
You will have scraps of leftover pastry: this is good! Cut the odd-shaped pieces into bite-size sections and transfer to a baking sheet. Don't reroll -- that will make the pastry tough. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes at 350F. Eat while hot!
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
The third pie did "ooze" more than preferable (perhaps because I dabbed more than the specified 1 1/2 tablespoons butter?)
The first two pies took considerably longer to bake than specified but that might have been my mother's oven since the third, baked in my own oven, did not.
The crust is pale, enough that the next time, I might brush it with milk before baking. But then again, why mess with perfection?
NUTRITION NOTES Since my very first pies, I've been a less-is-more, one-crust pie maker: even the best of crusts seemed to add unnecessary calories. THIS pie is worth the indulgence of two crusts. Trust me. If you can't trust me, to absolve any lingering guilt, remember that this is in fact a vegetable pie.
Don't forget the ice cream!!
~ Strawberry Rhubarb Smoothies ~
~ Custard with Rhubarb Sauce ~
~ Rhubarb Bakewell Tart ~
~ more rhubarb recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture
~ Roasted Rhubarb ~
~ Rhubarb Jelly & Rhubarb Jam in One Hour ~
~ Country Rhubarb Cobbler ~
~ more rhubarb recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade