It’s not a crime not to eat some rhubarb pie in spring but, honestly, it ought to be.
Rhubarb is one of the season’s sweetest gifts. These crisp, tart stalks that look like ruby-red celery start appearing in the farmer’s market in my suburban Washington neighborhood this time of year. They get snapped up in a hurry by eager bakers, but to the uninitiated they are a bit of a mystery. That’s because rhubarb looks so much like a vegetable — it is in fact a vegetable– and is so lip-puckering sour that someone who’s never tried it before can’t help but wonder how it would fit in with sweets, where it is most often used.
Well, I have an easy solution to make you a believer: put some rhubarb where your mouth is.
Something magical happens to rhubarb when it is subjected to a high temperature in an oven: it melts into that warm, gooey goodness you have craved all through the cold days of winter. Mix some sugar and some spice into that goodness, and you have a food you will likely get addicted to.
My rhubarb pie is very basic: the way I like it best. I just toss the sliced rhubarb with some sugar and vanilla (the sweetness of the vanilla is a perfect complement to the sour rhubarb. Nutmeg would be nice too). And then I bake it up in a classic pie shell with a lattice top crust that bakes up all flaky and crisp.
Be sure to let your pie cool thoroughly before you cut it– a rule of thumb for almost any fruit pie. This is because the fruit juices continue to thicken and gelatanize as the pie cools down, and if you cut the pie when it’s still warm you will likely find your plate flooded with still-runny liquid. Not a great pie experience, by any means.
I’ve been super busy at work, which you’ve likely guessed from my slow pace on this blog. I’m trying to cook more on the weekends so I can share more recipes with you, and I also hope to take advantage of this harried lifestyle to bring you more quick and easy recipes you can make on weeknights for your family.
So keep an eye out. I’m still around.
For the pie shell:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
8 tbsp vegetable shortening, cold and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
8 tbsp vegan butter sticks, like Earth Balance, cold and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/4 cup powdered or confectioner’s sugar
1/4 tsp salt
For the filling:
5 cups thinly sliced rhubarb (slice lengthwise, into little rounds. I needed 5 longish stalks of rhubarb for 5 cups)
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups turbinado sugar
1/4 cup tapioca starch
To make the pie crust, place all the ingredients except water in a mixing bowl. Using a fork or a pie-cutter, cut the butter and shortening into the flour. You should have a coarse mixture with fairly large– about pea-size– pieces of butter and shortening in it.
Drizzle the water a little at a time into the flour and mix rapidly with a fork until the dough comes together. Be sure to keep all your ingredients as cold as possible.
Divide the dough into half and wrap each half tightly in plastic wrap. Shape each half into a disc with the palms of your hands as you wrap it. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to 2 hours.
To make the filling, place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Set aside for at least 15 minutes.
To roll out the pie crust, take one of the discs of dough from the refrigerator and roll into a disc large enough to fit into a 9-inch pie plate with some overhang.
Fit the dough into the pie plate, pressing the dough into the corners, and place in the refrigerator while you roll out the top crust.
Roll the other disc of dough into a circle that will fit on top of the pie plate with a slight overhang. Using a pizza cutter or a knife, cut the circle into long strips.
Pour the filling into the bottom crust, mixing one last time before you pour it in.
To form the lattice, place half the strips across the pie, at roughly 3/4th-inch intervals. Fold back alternate strips and place a strip across those already in place. Unfold the alternate strips, fold back the remaining strips, and place another strip across the pie. Continue doing this until you’ve used up all the strips of dough.
Place the pie in a preheated 425-degree oven and bake 30 minutes. Then slide a baking sheet under the pie and continue baking for another 35 minutes or until the juices are bubbling through the lattice top.
Remove to a rack and cool the pie thoroughly before eating. This takes some time– about 4-5 hours– so be sure to plan accordingly and avoid the temptation to cut the pie before it has cooled.
Frankie the cat appeared on our street last summer, a wide-eyed kitten who likes to hang out with her mom, Georgia. On warm days, she likes taking a drink out of the bird dish. Athough I always leave out a bowl of water for the cats, maybe the smells all those cardinals and finches leave behind just makes the bird dish more irresistible?
Frankie is semi-feral: she resists domestication, but she is friendly enough that she will approach those of us who feed her and even rub herself against our legs. My neighbor, Heather, has built her and her mom a little home on her porch, and we had both cats spayed to prevent more homeless little kitties. Frankie and Georgia now have the best of both worlds– or so they think. By daytime they hang around in our or one of our neighbors’ front yard, and by night they snuggle on Heather’s porch. They always put a smile on our faces.