This spring my mom was at our local garden store and asked me if I wanted her to pick up any seeds or starts. Yes, I told her. Two packages of rhubarb, please.
I guess I operate a bit backwards because at this point I still had not ever tasted rhubarb. Last year I told myself that I was going to try cooking something with rhubarb since I had never tried it before, but it is expensive and I was afraid of spending tons of money on something I wouldn’t like. I managed to put off my decision until post-rhubarb season, which effectively made that decision very easy for me. Of course, I then regretted that choice as many of my friends shared with me tales of their grandmother’s strawberry rhubarb pie or jam and how it’s their favorite thing ever. My response was, “Why don’t you share any with me?” And now, having tasted this particular pie, I know the answer:
because there were no leftovers to share
Now that I’m setting aside so many square feet for rhubarb in my garden (apparently these plants get rather large!), I bit the bullet and bought a bunch of rhubarb and proceeded to whip up my first ever strawberry rhubarb pie. I figured that if it was terrible, I’d rip out the plants and give them to someone else who would appreciate them more. And if I did enjoy the rhubarb then maybe next year I could save a few pennies at the market and just harvest my own rhubarb from my backyard.
And the verdict is…. I’ll be harvesting the rhubarb. This pie is delicious. I was surprised by this. I was afraid of the texture (rhubarb looks like celery, which I am not crazy about) and I wasn’t sure about the crumb topping and generally I had reservations about the entire baking process. But in the end, I was not disappointed. I was, in fact, delightfully surprised and eager to serve myself another piece, which is not something I do often.
Serve this pie with ice cream as the pie is slightly tart (in a good way) and the ice cream is the perfect balance for that.
And please note that the tapioca balls that you use should be instant tapioca balls. I found some unlabeled tapioca in my spice rack and they were not instant and, well, let’s just say that there were rocks in my pie. Learn from me and just buy the instant kind.
strawberry rhubarb crumb pie
from Pie, by Ken Haedrich
1 recipe single pie crust
3 cups fresh rhubarb stalks, sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
grated zest of one lemon
4 cups hulled and halved (quartered if large) fresh strawberries
1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca
cornmeal crumb topping
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup fine yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
If you haven’t already, prepare the pastry and refrigerate until firm enough to roll, about1 hour.
On a sheet of lightly floured wax paper, roll the pastry into a 13-inch circle with a floured rolling pin. Invert the pastry over a 9 1/2-inch deep pie pan, center, and peel off the paper. Tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it, and sculpt the edge into an upstanding ridge. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Combine the rhubarb, granulated sugar, lemon juice, and zest in a large bowl. Toss well to mix and set aside for 10 minutes.
Add the strawberries and tapioca to the bowl and toss well. Scrape the filling into the chilled pie shell and smooth the top with your hands. Place the pie on the center oven rack and bake for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the topping. Combine the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor and pulse several times to mix. Scatter the butter over the top and pulse until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Empty the crumbs into a medium-size bowl and rub between your fingers to make large, buttery crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Remove the pie from the oven and reduce the temperature to 375.
Carefully dump the crumbs in the middle of the pie, then spreadthem evenly over the surface with your hands. Tamp them down gently.
Return the pie to the oven, placing it so that the part that faced the back of the oven now faces forward. Just in case, slide a large aluminum foil lined baking sheet onto the rack below to catch any spills. Continue to bake until the juices bubble thickly around the edge, 30-40 minutes. If necessary, cover loosely with tented aluminum foil during the last 10 minutes to prevent the top from getting too dark.
Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least 1 hour before serving.
Serving suggestion: Serve with ice cream.