As I have said numerous times on this blog, I am not a great pie maker. The problems usually begin with the crust and then spiral out of control when I introduce the filling. It is for that reason that I did not hold high hopes for this particular pie. (Hence, no "process" photos, not even a photo of a the whole finished pie.) We were simply hosting a small barbecue, there was rhubarb at the farmer's market, and I thought, oh, why not...I'll make a pie. It was not until I scooped out a few slices with my friend Jess and we each took a bite that I thought, oh my God, and ran inside to get the camera. "I must blog about this!" the neighbors heard me yell from my backyard.
And so, this blog post is a pretty simple one: I want you to make this pie. Here's how it works.
The pie is a riff off of the Rustic Rhubarb Tarts from the EXCELLENT book Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff. The book is not just an excellent resource for all sorts of great canning ideas, it also includes some off-the-charts recipes. (Plus the author has a pretty cool name.) And now that I have made her pie dough, I am officially a believer.
I grew up eating my Grandma Gerry's pie dough recipe, which is essentially Crisco and flour, so I have a soft spot for salty crusts made with vegetable shortening, but this one also uses a bunch of butter. So yes, you CAN have it both ways. To make the crust, you put 3 cups of flour, a 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, 1 cup of shortening, and a 1/2 stick of butter in a large bowl. Use a pastry cutter (or two butter knives if you want) to hack the fat into little tiny bits. When they're small enough, make a well in the center and add an egg, a tablespoon of vinegar, and a few drops of ice water. Start stirring it in with a fork. (I eventually ditched the fork and just mixed it all together with my hands.) But don't mix too much! Stop mixing the moment you don't see any more dry flour. It's going to be a bit wetter than you might feel okay about. That's alright. Just pull the extra dough off your hands and fingers, form a sort of ball with the dough, and then wrap it up tight in plastic wrap. Let it sit in the fridge for about half an hour.
Once it hardened up a bit, I took it out of the fridge and decided to roll it out between two pieces of plastic. To do this, you just unwrap the ball (keep the plastic, though!). Lay a second piece of plastic wrap on your counter, drop the dough ball on it, and then lay your other piece of plastic wrap on top. Smooth the dough down into a nice, flat, round disc, and then use a rolling pin to roll it out till it's the right size for your pie pan. Then peel the plastic off of one side, and use the other sheet of plastic to help you do a flip-and-plop into the pie pan. I love this method because you don't have to keep adding more flour to prevent the dough from sticking to the counter or your rolling pin, so all you get is that pure buttery/Crisco-y flakey goodness. If you want a top crust, double these quantities, ok?
Now on to the filling! I used two pounds of fruit (one pound of strawberries, one pound of rhubarb, all cut about 1/2" thick). If you like your pie with a lot of fruit, I think you could cram in another pound. Put the cut up fruit in a bowl with a cup of sugar and mix it all up. Let it sit in the fridge for 4 hours (or overnight). You will be amazed by how much water comes out of the fruit after it macerates. You do NOT want all that water to go in your pie! (There is a special place in hell for soggy crusts.) Instead, put a colander on top of a pot and dump your fruit into the colander, letting all of that juice drain into the pot. When it's all drained out, put the fruit back in the bowl and add a little vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, juice of half a lemon, and 3 tablespoons flour. Mix it all together then drop the fruit into your pie crust, dotting the top with a few nubs of butter. Then bake it for about 40 or 50 minutes at 400 degrees.
While it's baking, put that pot with the fruit juice on the stove, and cook it on high heat till it's reduced by half. (If you go too far and it gets really thick, just add some water.) When the pie comes out of the oven, drizzle the reduced syrup over the top of the pie. Magic, people. I'm telling you. Get thee to your farmer's market for some rhubarb and strawberries and MAKE THIS PIE!