My husband Peter doesn't like cake. But he does love pies. So when I asked him what kind of pie he would like for his birthday, he said his favorite is strawberry-rhubarb. My heart sank. Where am I going to find rhubarb in Tokyo in April? I've never seen rhubarb sold in the regular Japanese grocery stores so I ventured over to our neighborhood international grocery store, Nissin. And lo and behold, rhubarb was sitting there on the shelf, bright red and wrapped in plastic, just waiting for me. This stalk was shipped over from Holland.
Now that I had my ingredients, I turned to the other problem at hand. I am not good at making pie crusts. In the latest Fine Cooking magazine, there is a gorgeous cover photo of a lemon meringue pie and a recipe for the pie crust. I decided to try it as a top crust for a Shepherd's Pie I made about a week ago. The crust was delicious and flaky, by far my best effort! I felt confident. Rolling out the dough, it felt good, not too sticky and not too dry and I was able to flute the edges thick with dough. However, checking on the pie during baking, the edges were too heavy and thick and they drooped down onto the baking sheet. The final product is not too pretty, but the pie filling recipe was the 1997 blue-ribbon award winner at the Iowa State Fair and quite delicious albeit a bit runny.
Since I had bought too much rhubarb, I had enough to make another pie and decided to tweak the recipe so that it wouldn't be as oozy. For the second go-round, I increased the amount of rhubarb to 3 cups and the strawberry to a generous 2 cups; decreased the amount of sugar to 1 cup; decreased the amount of flour by 3 tablespoons and replaced it with cornstarch. I also made a lattice top crust so that more of the juices would evaporate during baking.
This turned out a bit prettier and less runny. I probably should have covered the edges with foil during baking, but honestly, I don't mind the blackened crust.
Happy Birthday to my Sweetie Pie!
For crusts, recipe adapted from Fine Cooking:
340 g all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
170 g chilled butter
114 g chilled vegetable shortening, cut into small cubes
4-6 tablespoons chilled water
In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients together. Add in the butter and shortening and cut in with a pastry blender. Add the cold water by tablespoons and mix in with a fork until the mixture holds together when bunched in your hand. Form into two equal rounds and cover each round with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.
Roll out both rounds of dough and set one round aside. Place the other in a slightly buttered 9-inch pie plate and trim the sides so that there is no overhang around the edges. Set aside while you prepare the filling.
If making a lattice top crust, with a knife or pizza cutter, slice the dough into 16 strips, 1/2 inch or 1 cm wide. If some of your dough is not long enough, just press the short pieces together to form a long strip. If you have extra dough left, which I did, I made a simple twist with two strips and used that as my decorative edge.
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups thinly sliced rhubarb
2 heaping cups hulled and thickly sliced strawberries
28 g butter, cut into small cubes
2 teaspoons milk
Sugar for dusting top crust
In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients with a whisk to get rid of any lumps. Add in the rhubarb and strawberries and mix to thoroughly coat the fruit with the sugar/flour mixture. Pour the filling into the prepared pie plate, dot the top with the cubes of butter and cover the filling with the dough round or with strips of dough if doing a lattice top. For a lattice pattern, place 8 strips of dough in a vertical pattern over the top of the filling. Fold up and over a halflength of every other strip and then place 1 strip of dough horizontally just at the fold. Fold back the vertical strips over the horizontal strip. Next, fold up every other vertical strip that wasn't folded over previously and place a horizontal strip at the fold. Fold back the vertical strips and repeat the process until 4 horizontal strips are placed. Turn the pie and repeat with the other half and the remaining 4 strips of dough. Brush the edge of the bottom crust with milk and press edges of pie crusts together or if using the decorative twist, place the twist on top of the bottom crust and press slightly to adhere. Score the top of the crust with a sharp knife (not necessary with a lattice top) and brush the top crust with the milk. Sprinkle sugar lightly over the top. Place pie on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated 400°F/200°C oven for 50 minutes, until crust is golden and filling is bubbling.
Let pie cool for at least one hour before serving.