Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hi! It's Me......Your Grandma.....

..........And I made you a strawberry-rhubarb pie. 
Actually, it’s me, Courtney….but doesn’t strawberry-rhubarb pie seem like something your grandma would make?  Mine did.  She would always have a strawberry-rhubarb pie and a berry pie on hand.  I think that pie making is kind of a lost art….I’m bringing it back, kids…..

But first I have to complain about my computer;)  I know I told you last week that I was having computer issues.  The “issue” was so big, that my 2 month old computer has to take a trip back to the factory to get a new hardrive.  Lame.  So I am typing this on our old computer.  And when I say old… I mean old as in, I feel like I am sitting in my mom’s sewing/computer room typing on the Apple II E.  You know the one….black screen, green font?  And later when I print it will be dot-matrix and I will have to peel the sheets at the perforations?  And then I will print a banner on “Print Shop.”  And perhaps play “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?” or “Oregon Trail”.  And then shut it down, turn on the Atari and play Frogger.  Yeah, that old;)  Ok, ok…it is only 5 years old, but you get my point.  Somehow, I will forge on and make this computer work temporarily.

But back to the pie…..Rhubarb is a spring only thing.  As soon as I see it in the grocery store, I know that spring has sprung.  Rhubarb looks like red celery.  It has green leaves that you will hopefully never see……because the leaves are poisonous.  It really can’t be eaten on its own, as it is kind of sour.  Mixed with strawberries, it is fantastic. 

When I bought my rhubarb this year, I decided to do something that I have never done before.  I will now let it be known that I have never made my own pie crust.  Gasp!  I know that you probably expected more of me….and I apologize.  I just really hate anything that involves a rolling pin.  But I busted mine out anyway.  It turns out that if you have a food processor, making your own crust is really easy.  If you don’t, buy a pre-made one and skip to where I start making the filling…..this is like a “Choose your own adventure” story!
To make a pie crust, you need flour, a smidge of sugar, salt, orange extract, ice cold water and ice cold butter.  This is a basic “pate brisee”…..or it would be without the orange extract.  That is my addition;)  I put the butter in the freezer for about an hour, and then I dice it into pieces.  The chunks of butter are what makes a pie crust flaky.  If your butter is soft, it will blend too easily into the crust and you won’t get the flaky texture you want…..so icy cold butter is important.
I started by putting the flour, sugar, salt and butter in the food processor.  I use the “pulse” function instead of the on button.  This will help me get the mixture to the consistency of a course meal….like pea sized pieces of butter.  Then, I add the orange extract and about 2 tablespoons of the ice water.  I pulse the mixture, slowly adding ice water, until the dough comes together.  When you pinch a piece of dough, it should stick together.  This recipe uses about 6 to 8 tablespoons of ice water.  I use all 8 tablespoons because it is dry where I live.
Once the dough comes together, I dump it out onto a floured surface.  I kneaded it just enough to get it into a big ball.  I cut it in half because I will only be using half of it today.  This recipe is enough for a double crust pie, but my version only uses a bottom crust.  I will use a crumb topping instead of a top crust.  This dough needs to be put in the fridge for at least one hour.

Once it comes out of the fridge, I roll it out on the same floured surface.  I roll it just until it is big enough to fit my pie pan, which is 9 inches. 
Once it is in the pie pan, I trimmed the excess.  I baked the excess on a cookie sheet……so yummy sprinkled with cinnamon sugar!
If you are feeling fancy, crimp the edges with two fingers and your thumb to get a scalloped edge.  That’s it…..homemade pie crust.  And it really was easy!

Now for the filling…..And welcome back readers who bought their crust;)

I used strawberries that I had hulled and cut in half, rhubarb, sugar, orange extract and tapioca.  The rhubarb needs to be washed and diced.  I cut off the tough ends and peeled down any tough “strings” that I couldn’t cut through….just like with celery.
The tapioca is a dry powder-like substance that will thicken the juices of the pie.  I like this instead of cornstarch, which can make the filling gummy.  You find it right in the baking aisle.
Do you see how the rhubarb is green on the inside?  Weird.  I like to let this sit for 15 minutes to let the juices start to come out of the fruit.
Once the mixture has sat for 15 minutes, I pour it into the pie shell.  Pat it down to make sure it is even.
For the crunchy topping, I use flour, butter (cold again!), brown sugar, white sugar and pumpkin pie spice.
This mixture gets mixed with your hands.  So wash them and dig in…..You smoosh it together until the mixture is in pea sized chunks.  When it bakes, these pea sized chunks will get crunchy and delicious.
I sprinkled the topping all over the pie.  Now here is an important step…..I placed the pie on 2 pieces of foil that were laid perpendicular to each other.  This is because the edges of the pie crust will start to get to brown before the rest of the pie is baked.  About 30 minutes into baking, the foil can be folded over the edges so that the pie crust edges don’t get too brown.

The pie will bake at 400 for about 30 minutes…..then I bump the heat down to 350 and it bakes for another 20 to 25 minutes.
See how the top gets brown and delicious?  I really prefer the crumb topping over a pie crust for this pie.  I think the sugary sweetness goes so well with the tartness of the rhubarb.  I hope you try it, even if you buy your crust!  Or call your grandma and see if she will make it for you;)  But hurry-rhubarb is only around in the spring!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
1 pie crust (recipe to follow)
2 cups strawberries, sliced
2 cups rhubarb, diced
1 & ¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon orange extract
¼ cup tapioca
Crumb topping (recipe to follow)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, extract, and tapioca in large bowl.  Let sit for 15 minutes.  Pour mixture into a 9 inch un-baked pie crust. 
Top evenly with crumb topping.
Bake pie at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  Adjust heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for about 20 to 25 minutes, until top is brown and bubbly.
Let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

Pate Brisee (pie crust)
2 & ½ cups flour, plus extra for rolling
2 sticks butter, super cold and diced
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon orange extract
6 to 8 tablespoons ice cold water

Combine flour, sugar, salt and butter in food processor.  Pulse to mix.  Mixture will resemble a course meal when mixed.
Add extract and slowly add ice water, pulsing to mix.  When dough comes together, it is ready.
Place dough onto a floured surface and knead into a ball.  Cut ball in half.  Place both halves in fridge for at least one hour. (recipe above only needs one ball, or half)
Place chilled dough on floured surface and roll into 12 inch disk.  Place in pie pan and trim excess edges.

Crumb Topping
¾ cup flour
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
3/4th of a stick of butter, very cold and diced
Mix all ingredients with your hands until mixture is in pea sized pieces.

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