strawberry rhubarb pie

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Ooooh weee. That was quite a break if I do say so myself. It feels like those carbomb cupcakes happened a lifetime ago. I’ve gotta start by saying that I sure have missed you. Not a single day went by where I didn’t think about this place. And I made several attempts to share things here. But nothing felt right. So it seemed like the only thing to do was take a time out.

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But being away for so long was beginning to stress me out a bit, similar to the way cutting class in high school and college would make me feel crazy. One day turns into five and then you find yourself scrambling for an excuse for your absence. I was starting to worry that I’d never find my way back here. But I love this space more than anything, so I knew I’d figure it out eventually.

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I don’t have much of an excuse for our little hiatus. I didn’t skip town or run into any trouble with the law. I did have a mean case of writer’s block. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a grand ole time. There were parties and dance parties and really great shows (Band of Horses and Beach House in the same week!) and brunches and nights out with friends – old friends, new friends, best friends, friends from out of town. I drank fantastic whiskey cocktails. I Instagramed. There were a few serious, not-so-fun moments thrown in there as well. To sum it up, life was just happening.

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If you’ve been tuning in here for a while now, you might’ve figured out that I have a thing for rhubarb. I wait all year for those gorgeous pink stalks to show up at the market. And when they do, I can’t contain myself. One year it was these ice pops, last year it was this boozy fool and a couple of batches of jam. This time around, all I really wanted was a good old fashioned strawberry rhubarb pie.

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I’ve made a couple of strawberry rhubarb pies in my time, and if I’m being totally honest, none of them were great. They were all a little too soupy, a bit too tart. So when I found a recipe that required sauteing the rhubarb, and macerating and draining the strawberries before baking, I was pretty sure I had found a winner. Plus, an all-butter lattice-top crust is always enticing.

I was totally smitten with this pie, but I was convinced that I would love it even more if I swapped out the allspice in the original recipe for vanilla bean. So I gave it another go. And it was just what the doctor ordered. Flaky crust, sweet-tart fruit and a dollop of whipped cream on top is a truly wonderful thing.

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strawberry rhubarb pie 

adapted just slightly from The Wall Street Journal Online

makes one 9-inch pie

for the all-butter pie crust:

2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces

8 to 10 tablespoons ice water, or more as needed, with a splash of cider vinegar

Stir dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Add butter to the dry ingredients and coat it using a spoon or spatula. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into the flour until mostly pea-sized pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; do not over-blend).

Sprinkle 4 tablespoons ice water over the mixture and cut the water in with a spatula. When water is fully incorporated, add more water, one to two tablespoons at a time, and mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining.

Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with drops of ice water if necessary to combine.

Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a flat disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably overnight. Wrapped tightly, dough can be refrigerated for three days or frozen for one month.

for the pie:

all butter pie crust 

2 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered

3 cups rhubarb, cut into ¾-inch pieces

2 tablespoons vegetable oil 

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

1 grind fresh black pepper

3 tablespoons arrowroot (or tapioca starch or corn starch)

1 to 2 dashes Fee Brothers rhubarb bitters (or Old Fashioned bitters)

1 teaspoon orange zest

1-1/2 teaspoons al-purpose flour 

1 egg

1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream

1 tablespoon raw sugar

Preheat oven to 425°F. Butter a 9-inch pie pan.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over strawberries. Let sit 1 hour.

Roll out one disc of pie dough into a 12-inch circle, about  1/8 of an inch thick. Place disc in pie pan and trim the edge, leaving 1 inch of overhang. Place in fridge to chill.

Roll out the second disc of pie dough and cut into 1-inch-wide lattice strips. Lay strips on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and place in fridge to chill.

Heat vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sauté rhubarb until it softens slightly, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, sprinkle with lemon juice and let cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together brown sugar, ¼ cup sugar, salt, black pepper and arrowroot.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer strawberries into bowl with cooled rhubarb, leaving behind most juices.

Add bitters, orange zest, vanilla, and dry mixture to fruit mixture. Stir gently with a spatula.

Sprinkle 1½ teaspoons flour and 1½ teaspoons granulated sugar into bottom of prepared pie shell and spread around with your fingertips.

Pour filling into pie pan, arrange lattice on top and crimp edges.

Lightly beat together egg and cream or milk and brush pie top with it. Sprinkle with raw sugar.

Place pie on a baking sheet and bake in the lower third of the oven for 15 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F, move pie to center rack and continue to bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until filling is bubbling and pastry is golden.

Allow to cool at least 2 hours. Serve with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Best served same day it is made.

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boozy rhubarb fool

I have an unexplainable fascination with rhubarb. Perhaps I spent time on the English countryside in a previous life. Whatever the reason, I always make sure to get my hands on some rhubarb this time of year.  So far this season, I’ve made two different batches of rhubarb jam – one with kumquats, one with cherries. But what I really wanted was a fool.

Rhubarb fool is one of those quintessentially English desserts. It’s very simple, featuring stewed rhubarb and softly whipped cream. It’s just what you want to eat in the summer. It’s light. It’s just sweet enough to satisfy a craving, but not so sweet that you feel sluggish afterwards.

This particular fool, or pud as the author calls it, features a few splashes of Pernod and brandy. Pernod is an anise flavored liqueur, similar in taste to absinthe but with a fraction of the alcohol content. It provides a bit of mystique to the rhubarb without being overpowering. What I was most pleasantly surprised by was the toasted breadcrumbs that serve as a topping for this fool. Crunchy, buttery, and just a bit sugary, it’s the perfect contrast to the delicate whipped cream and tangy rhubarb. You’ll want to put those crumbs on everything. And you should.

boozy rhubarb fool

adapted from Thomasina Miers via delicious magazine

serves 6-8

2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and chopped into 1-inch chunks

1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped

zest and juice of 1 lemon, or 1/2 orange

3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 3 tablespoons

1-2 tablespoons brandy to taste

1-2 tablespoons Pernod or other pastis to taste

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup stale breadcrumbs (preferably sourdough)

2 cups heavy whipping cream

Add the rhubarb, vanilla seeds and pod, and lemon or orange juice to a large pot over medium heat. Cook, covered, for 10-15 minutes until the fruit has softened. Add 3/4 cup sugar, brandy, and Pernod and gently stir. Remove and discard the vanilla bean. Set aside rhubarb to cool.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry the breadcrumbs in the butter along with a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon sugar, stirring constantly for five minutes or until the crumbs are golden and crisp. Set aside to cool.

To assemble:

Whip the heavy cream with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until soft peaks form.

Layer the rhubarb and whipped cream alternately in eight 6-8 ounce glasses or jars or one large glass bowl. Begin with a layer of rhubarb, followed by a layer of whipped cream, followed by a second layer of rhubarb, and top with whipped cream. Finish with a sprinkle of breadcrumbs and a few strips of zest. Serve immediately.

*note: The rhubarb and breadcrumbs may be prepared a day in advance. Refrigerate the rhubarb until ready to assemble. Store the breadcrumbs in an airtight container in a dry place. You will need to whip the cream and zest the lemon/orange just before assembling.