Nothing says “spring” like rhubarb pie, especially after the ##$$&*$&$%(%^&U! winter we’ve had here in D.C. And even though this alluring fruit popped up uncharacteristically early this year, it couldn’t have come a second too soon. When I spotted the reddish green stalks at my wonderful little market last week, I practically burst into tears. The winter’s really over! It’s spring!
That’s why this month’s Pie of the Month Club selection had to be rhubarb pie. Not strawberry rhubarb (sorry, Tina); straight-ahead, unvarnished, man-up-and-endure-the-tartness rhubarb. The biggest blast of spring I could muster.
Now don’t let that scare you. I do put enough sugar in there to fend off any major attack of the puckers. But I will acknowledge, freely and fully, that my rhubarb pie teeters on that delicious, dangerous knife’s edge of sweet and tart. In my book, just perfect. (My biggest rhubarb pie fans are applauding here; you know who you are, Shaiy, Charlie, and Michele…)
So I’ll cut to the chase and walk you through the recipe. Because you can’t tarry. You’ve gotta go. You’ve gotta go now. Or tomorrow, at the very latest. Go get yourself a couple pounds of rhubarb and make a rhubarb pie. (Okay, if you must, throw in some strawberries. But only as a Chapter 1 to your full induction into the real society of rhubarb lovers. Next time, take it straight.)
This is one of the easiest pies around, so take a breath here. The recipe’s below, starting right from rolling out your dough. But since my photos focus on the filling, I’ll walk you through that part here.
With your crusts rolled out and chilling, cut up your rhubarb into pieces of about
3/4 inch to 1 inch big. Drizzle the lemon juice or artisan apple cider vinegar over the rhubarb pieces. Measure out all the dry ingredients and heap them on top, but don’t mix them in yet.
When you are ready to put the pie together, get the two crusts out of the refrigerator and lay one in a 9-inch pan, easing it in and trimming the edges.
Now it’s time to mix the filling. Give it a few turns with a big spoon. You’ll probably see that the dry ingredients aren’t clinging to the fruit at all. They form a big pile of something that looks like powdery snow, and it keeps falling to the bottom of the bowl in a big heap.
Now if you spooned this filling into the pie crust, what would happen to all that powdery stuff? It would likely form a gooey mass somewhere in your pie when the juices from the fruit start running out in the hot oven. What you want is for the sugar, flour, nutmeg and salt to be in a pretty uniform mix that clings to the fruit. Juicier, wetter fruits (think apricots, strawberries) make this happen naturally. But rhubarb needs a little help.
So call me crazy, but give it a little moisture; just enough to get the dry ingredients to go from being powdery to looking a bit damp-sandy, and coating the rhubarb. I do this by running my kitchen faucet in a thin stream, wetting my fingers, and shaking droplets of water into the mixture just until I get to that damp-sandy stage (no further!). See if you can tell the difference in the look of the mixture in the photo below, compared to the powdery one above.
Once you get to damp-sandy, you can pour the rhubarb mixture into the bottom crust and complete your pie. All those directions are in the recipe below. Enjoy your rhubarb Ode to Spring!
- Dough for a double crust 9-inch pie, preferably CurvyMama's standard butter-and-lard dough
- 2 pounds rhubarb, sliced into pieces about 3/4" to 1"
- A squeeze of fresh lemon or a splash of artisanal apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/3 c. white sugar
- 1/3 c. flour
- Two dashes of Kosher salt
- About 1/8 tsp. of freshly ground nutmeg, or a few rasps on the microplane of whole nutmeg
- 1 egg white
- Sugar for sprinkling
- Roll out the two disks of dough for the crusts. Ease one into a 9-inch pan; trim so the edges extend just beyond the pie tin. Put this in the refrigerator, along with the rolled-out top crust, to keep cool while you make the pie filling.
- Put the cut-up rhubarb in a large bowl. Sprinkle the lemon juice or apple cider vinegar over it. Measure out the dry ingredients and heap them on top of the fruit, but don't mix them in until you are ready to assemble and bake the pie.
- When you are ready to do that, give the filling a stir. If the dry ingredients don't cling to the fruit, and fall instead into a heap at the bottom of the bowl, wet your fingers with water so you can shake droplets over the mixture just until it loses its powdery texture and takes on a damp-sandy look. Don't add any more water than is necessary to reach this stage; just enough to get the sugar/flour mixture to cling evenly to the rhubarb.
- Take your crusts out of the refrigerator. Spoon the fruit filling into the bottom crust. Lay the top crust on the fruit. Trim, roll and crimp the edges of the pie. Make a few decorative vents in the top crust.
- Preheat the oven to 425. Put the pie in the freezer while the oven is coming fully up to temperature, about 15-20 minutes. When the oven is preheated, take the pie out and brush it lightly with egg white. Sprinkle it with sugar.
- Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 375 and bake another 45 minutes or so, until the pastry is deep golden brown and you can hear the fruit filling bubbling inside.
- Allow the pie to cool completely to room temperature -- probably 6 to 8 hours -- before slicing. It will hold together better this way.