Strawberry Rhubarb Pie.

I’m pretty sure that I never had a strawberry rhubarb pie in my entire life until now.

That seems crazy, right? Does that seem crazy? I have this memory of my childhood where I would always hear about strawberry rhubarb pie but always felt somehow shy about it because I had never had it before. It’s possible that I had it once and didn’t like it – I had a lot of pie growing up that I didn’t like, usually because it was over-sweetened or had terrible pastry. As you know, my grandmother Marnie was the pie chef extraordinaire, and I don’t remember her ever making strawberry rhubarb pie in my time. I mostly just remember her peach and pumpkin pies (incidentally, my favourites, if you were wondering).

Preparing fruit filling to macerate in the fridge overnight.

Preparing fruit filling to macerate in the fridge overnight.

Well I have to say – I’ve been missing out. Because this, THIS PIE, was amazing. Yes, the crust got soggy in the 30 hours of summer humidity between when it was baked and when it was served, but it didn’t matter. The sweetness of the strawberries was cut so perfectly by the tart rhubarb, it had the perfect sweetness level for my taste, and the filling had the perfect consistency.

Maceration Station.

Maceration Station.

Consistency wise, this is because I ventured into new thickener territory – and I don’t think I’m turning back. People who bake fruit pies know that you need a thickener in your filling – otherwise your fruit + sugar filling is far too soupy, and will run all over your plate instead of staying within the confines of that pastry you worked so hard on. In my experience, most recipes call for flour or cornstarch as the thickening agent. Generally I don’t use either of those. When I started trying to hone my pie skills in 2009, I started with peach pie, and I thoroughly read the Cook’s Illustrated America’s Test Kitchen information about what they found made the best pastry, and their recipe for the best peach pie. I abandoned their pastry recipe some time ago (it uses vegetable shortening) but stuck with their thickening agent of choice for peach pie – potato starch. But recently I’d been reading a lot about tapioca starch, and how superior it is. So I tried it! And I’m definitely a fan. Just so you know.

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Remember a few weeks ago when I realized that making a galette on a ROUND pan made so much sense? And remember a few years ago when I realized that putting tinfoil around the crust to prevent burning is a lot easier to do if you put it on the pie BEFORE it goes in the oven, so that you don’t burn yourself? Well, with this strawberry rhubarb pie, I figured out another thing that should have been obvious: cutting designs into your top crust is a lot easier if you do it before you put that crust on your pie. I mean, if you are going to be doing really elaborate cut-outs, maybe not, because then it may be difficult to transfer your top crust without it breaking, but really otherwise this makes so much more sense. I can only assume these little things are part of why making a pie-a-week-for-a-year results in better pie making. Learning!

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie – from Smitten Kitchen, barely adapted, so she gets almost full credit here

  • 1 double-crust pastry recipe
  • about 1 1/2 pounds of rhubarb, trimmed and sliced (3 1/2 cups)
  • about 1 pound of strawberries, hulled and sliced or quartered (3 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca (mine is called “instant tapioca”)
  • 2 TBSP butter, cut into little cubes
  • 1 egg beaten with a bit of water, for glaze
  • coarse sugar, to sprinkle on top (optional)

Combine your chopped strawberries, rhubarb, and brown sugar in a bowl. Let macerate in the fridge overnight. Remove from fridge, add in the white sugar, lemon juice, salt, and tapioca.

Roll out your bottom crust, put into pie plate. Chill in fridge for 30 minutes. When the 30 minutes is up, roll out top crust, cut decorative slits in it. Pour filling into bottom crust – you can discard some of the accumulated liquid, but let some of that go into the pie still. Dot the top of the filling with butter pieces. Place top crust on the pie, trim edges, and crimp to seal. Brush with egg and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Add tinfoil around the crust edge to prevent burning. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then reduce temperature to 350 and bake for another 25-30 minutes, removing the tinfoil for the last 10 minutes or so.

N.B. This pie leaked for me, resulted in a sugary rhubarb mess on the bottom of my oven. It may be good to protect your oven if you’re worried about this, by putting a cookie sheet under the pie or on the rack below.

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