Strawberry-Rhubarb Birthday Pie

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A dear friend turns the big 3-0 this week and we are having a surprise "girls only" celebration this evening before the real party later this week.  I have known B since we were in elementary school and we've been friends through very bad haircuts (both of us having "boyish" cuts at some point - thanks, Mom), countless sports teams and boyfriends, and the ups and downs of life.  The celebration tonight is a surprise and I knew that only B's favorite dessert would suffice.  Thus, I emailed her Dad and was told that B loves strawberry-rhubarb pie.

This was music to my ears.  I LOVE rhubarband love cooking with it.  My love affair with rhubarb began when we were living in London and I discovered that the Brits have rhubarb yogurt.  Amazing!   When I was unable to find this in the States, I started making my own rhubarb compote to add to plain yogurt.  I typically just slice the rhubarb, add a little bit of sugar and water and let it stew on the stove until the rhubarb is soft.  The recipe I've linked to calls for 1 1/4 cups of sugar -- I prefer my rhubarb tart rather than sweet so I add less sugar initially.  You can always add more sugar later.

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Ready for the ovenI digress... thankfully both fresh rhubarb and strawberries were available at the grocery store (otherwise frozen would suffice) and the pie is now baked and waiting to be eaten tonight.   The recipe I used is a combination of a Bon Appétit recipe for Lattice-Topped Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie and the only pie crust recipe that I use from Cook's Illustrated for Foolproof Pie Dough (access to the Cook's Illustrated website requires a subscription, but the recipe has been posted online here).  A side note about this pie crust - I always make it using a food processor and it really is foolproof.  Even better, I often make several batches of dough at a time and freeze them for future use.  It is so easy to whip together a pie when the dough for the crust is already made.

Before you start baking, here are a few tips, most of which relate to improving the presentation of the pie:

  • Pie crusts (particularly the edges) are likely to burn in an oven for this long.  For this particular pie, after the first 20 minutes of baking at 400°F, I removed the pie, covered the edges of the crust with aluminum foil to prevent burning and returned the pie to the oven.  If the middle of the pie crust starts to brown too quickly, loosely cover it with foil as well.
  • I use a fluted pastry wheel to make the edges of my pie uniform and pretty (in theory).
  • Martha Stewart has some amazing tips and ideas for making a pie crust stand out.  I stuck with the lattice-top and fluted edges for this one, but one of my favorite ways to make a pie special is to use a cookie cutter to cut out pieces of the dough which are then layered on top of the pie to create a crust.
  • If you make a fruit pie and don't use an open crust (e.g., lattice-top), you may want to use a pie bird (also called a pie vent, pie whistle, pie funnel or pie chimney) to allow air to escape from the pie.  A pie bird is a hollow ceramic device that allows steam to escape from the pie to prevent the pie from boiling over.  Additionally, there are some adorable pie birds available... my husband bought me this one for Christmas and I also have this one from Anthropologie.  I see a collection in the making!
  • Another way to add some flair to your pie is with a decorate pie dish.  A sweet friend gave me this one from Anthropologiefor Christmas and I received the classic Emile Henry Auberge Pie Dish as a wedding present.  Emile Henry sells beautiful pie dishes in a wide range of colors hereSheila's Art shop on Etsy has some lovely ceramic options.

Lattice-Topped Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie (adapted from Bon Appétit and Cook's Illustrated)

Yield - 1 pie that serves 8

For crust

  • 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/4 cup cold vodka
  • 1/4 cup cold water

For filling

  • 3 1/2 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices trimmed rhubarb (1 1/2 pounds untrimmed)
  • 1 16-ounce container strawberries, hulled, halved (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Make crust:

Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.  Let dough soften at room temperature prior to rolling.

Make filling:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine all filling ingredients in large bowl. Toss gently to blend.  I reduced the amount of sugar from 1/2 to 1/4 cup.  You should add or reduce the sugar depending on how tart you like your pie.

Roll out 1 dough disk on floured work surface to 13-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter flass pie dish. Trim excess dough, leaving 3/4-inch overhang.

Roll out second dough disk on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round. Cut into fourteen 1/2-inch-wide strips. Spoon filling into crust. Arrange 7 dough strips atop filling, spacing evenly. Form lattice by placing remaining dough strips in opposite direction atop filling. Trim ends of dough strips even with overhang of bottom crust. Fold strip ends and overhang under, pressing to seal. Crimp edges decoratively.

Transfer pie to rimmed baking sheet (my pie bubbled over and I was thankful for the baking sheet so that I didn't have to clean my oven today).  Bake pie for 20 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 375°F.  Bake pie until golden and filling thickens, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.  Transfer pie to rack and cool completely.

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