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MARGARET PROUSE: Strawberries and rhubarb are a match made in heaven

My strawberry rhubarb pie is shown with a pie bird from my late mother-in-law's kitchen. Margaret Prouse photo
My strawberry rhubarb pie is shown with a pie bird from my late mother-in-law's kitchen. - Margaret Prouse photo
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

Strawberries and rhubarb, both delicious on their own, combine to make a sublime flavour combination. The timing is dicey, with local strawberries coming on the scene near the end of rhubarb season, but frozen rhubarb can stand for fresh. The flavour duet is at its best in pie.

For me, this is the summer of the pie. I’m determined to get good at baking them.

Still on a quest for a buttery flaky pastry that works reliably, I tried, again, the Easy Pie Dough recipe published on seriouseat.com.

As I said last week, it employs an unconventional method.

The first time I tried it, I didn’t follow the instructions properly. Instead of pulsing until the dough began to collect in clumps, I lost my nerve when the pieces of butter became very small, and added the remaining flour too early. The resulting pastry was good, but not as tender as I wanted it to be.

On the second try, I did it exactly as directed (see below); the pastry was soft and easy to roll, and baked up flaky, tender and delicious. It is every bit as good as the vodka pie dough I referred to last week. You can save the vodka to make cosmos or vodka martinis. Here’s the pastry recipe.

Easy Pie Dough

Adapted from López-Alt, J. Kenji, seriouseats.com, 2011/07.

625 mL (2½ cups) [350 g/12.5 oz) all-purpose flour

30 mL (2 tbsp) sugar

5 mL (1 tsp) kosher salt

2½ sticks (300 mL/1¼ cups) unsalted butter, cut into 6 mm (¼ inch) pats

90 mL (6 tbsp) cold water

Combine two-thirds of flour with sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse twice to incorporate.

Spread butter chunks evenly over surface. Pulse until no dry flour remains and dough just begins to collect in clumps, about 25 short pulses.

Use a rubber spatula to spread the dough evenly around the bowl of the food processor. Sprinkle with remaining flour and pulse until dough is just barely broken up, about five short pulses. Transfer dough to a large bowl.

Sprinkle with water. Then, using a rubber spatula, fold and press dough until it comes together into a ball.

Divide ball in half. Form each half into a 10 cm (four inch) disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least two hours before rolling and baking.

After chilling the dough overnight, I rolled it out, and made strawberry-rhubarb filling for it.

I substituted an equal amount of tapioca for the cornstarch. The fruit produced a beautiful clear red sauce that burst the seams between top and bottom crust, and ran out around the edges, but I was ready for it, having placed the pie on a foil-lined pizza pan before baking.

As strawberries and rhubarb are both juicy, some people macerate the strawberries (marinate in sugar to draw out liquid) and drain off the juice for another use before making pie. I didn’t do that, but be warned that if you want a tidy piece of pie, you must give this one time to cool completely before cutting and serving it.

The pie, in a glass pie plate, took 45 minutes longer to bake than the recipe indicated, that is 20 minutes at 200°C (400°F) and 85 minutes at 180°C (350°F). I watched for the filling in the centre of the pie to bubble, as an indication that it was baked through. Perhaps I need to check the temperature accuracy of my oven. The longer baking time was not a problem, though, as the crust stayed a golden brown and did not burn. Picture posted on Facebook.com/islandgusto.

Fruit Filling for Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

From Anna Olson's “Sugar: simple sweets and decadent desserts”. Whitecap Books, Vancouver, 2004.

1 L (4 cups) chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb

500 mL (2 cups) strawberries, hulled and sliced

250 mL (1 cup) sugar

45 mL (3 tbsp) cornstarch

2 mL (½ tsp) cinnamon

1 mL (¼ tsp) ground ginger

Dash salt

Toss rhubarb and strawberries with sugar, cornstarch, spices and salt to coat. Fill pie shell with fruit.

Bake pie on a tray at 200 C (400 F) for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 180 C (350 F) and bake for about 40 minutes more, until filling is bubbling.


Margaret Prouse, a home economist, writes this column for The Guardian every Friday. She can be reached by email at islandgusto@gmail.com.

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