Sunday, May 06, 2012

Rhubarb pie.

Let's talk about rhubarb.
I know there are some people who don't like rhubarb like my father, an ex-boyfriends father (do you sense a trend here?!) and those who don't know what they're missing.

The other day, I walked out of my usual, overpriced supermarket that sometimes carries vegetables and fruits of the more exotic kind (kohlrabi! endive! berries! (yes, it's a sad state here.)) with a bundle of ruby rhubarb for an outrageous price.
I reached home, opened my cookbooks and found half a dozen rhubarb recipes I wanted to try instantly.

Apparently, I hadn't considered my husbands plans for the rhubarb. Turned out he wanted something a little more traditional.

In an attempt to make use of my cookbooks I avoided the Internet and found a pie I was willing to make, albeit hesitantly:
1. I was thinking compote! Jam! Cake! Syrup!
2. The crust had vegetable shortening in it. No butter, just shortening. I have never made anything with shortening and I have an unreasonable dislike against something I have never used.

I thought I was an all-butter-kind of girl in the baking department but I am not too sure anymore. This pie I made was the first one that didn't shrink on me. Every shortcrust pastry I have ever made before using butter instead shrank. No matter the claims.

(The only reason we have shortening in the house in the first place: My husband made seedy balls for birds in the winter and shortening was the closest thing to lard. Otherwise that stuff would have never entered my kitchen.)

Rhubarb Pie

And the taste? I put a piece of pie into my husbands lunchbox. He called three times during my French class making me wonder if something might be wrong. He only called to tell me that this pie was the best he'd ever eaten. A wonderful pie. Crust and filling. Not too sweet.
Wonderfully balanced and with a flaky crust.

So here, for those of you not frightened by shortening, with an abundance of rhubarb (lucky you!) and with people around them who appreciate a proper piece of pie:

Straight-Up Rhubarb Pie
Adapted from the Essential New York Times Cookbook

For the Crust:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
about 6 tablespoons ice water

For the Filling:
5 cups sliced rhubarb (1 1/2 to 2 pounds) (MM: I only bought one pricey bundle which weighed in at almost exactly 1 1/2 pounds (775grams) and I found this amount perfect.)
1 1/4 cups sugar
5 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons butter (MM: I am sure I doubled this amount because I eyeball butter that gets dotted on.)

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).

2. Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl and fluff with a fork. Cut in the shortening with a fork or a pastry blender just until the sheen of the shortening disappears and the shortening pieces are about pea sized. Sprinkle a tablespoon of water at a time over the dough until it comes together - it's better to err on the side of too wet than too dry. (MM: I needed the full 6 tablespoons.)

3. Gather the dough into 2 slightly uneven balls - the bigger for the bottom, the smaller for the top. Flatten the larger ball first with your hands then begin rolling it out from the center towards the edges. Roll until the diameter is about 2 inches larger than that of a 9 inch pie pan. Roll the crust onto the rolling pin and unroll it into the pie pan. Press it in place and place it in the freezer.

4. Make the filling by blending the sliced rhubarb with the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a large bowl. Pour it into the crust lined pie pan, distributing it evenly. Dot with the butter.

5. Roll out the top crust. Dab the rim of the bottom crust with water to create glue, then place the top crust over the rhubarb; trim, seal, and cut several steam vents.

6. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes or until a bit of pink juice bubbles from the vents in the crust.

7. Place on a rack to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

This pie keeps surprisingly well for up to 5 days in an airtight container at room temperature. 

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