Sunday, June 18, 2006

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Experiment

Master Chow enjoyed a strawberry-rhubarb pie that I made a couple years ago, using a Nick Malgieri recipe. One of the ingredients was Cointreau, and while I liked the faint orange taste, the filling was very runny and not as concentrated in strawberry and rhubarb flavor as I would have liked.

I have since discovered that all strawberry-rhubarb pies are runny the first day, and do much better after an overnight stint in the refrigerator. You could add tons of thickeners to avoid this problem, but that affects the taste of the filling.

A couple weeks ago, on a day entirely too hot to work with pastry, I decided to make a pie with the strawberries in my fridge and some fresh rhubarb that I had picked up at our local farmer's market. I used a pate sucre crust (sweet crust) that refused to behave, and I decided to experiment with the filling.

Well, the taste was amazing: Sweet, with a concentrated jam-like flavor, but with many distinct chunks of fruit. And it froze well, too. So, here is what I did, but please keep in mind that measurements and baking times are approximate, and will vary from oven, batch of fruit, and location.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

Pie crust - I used only a single crust for this pie.
8-10 cups (total) of fresh rhubarb and strawberries. Slice the rhubarb into 1/2-inch chunks, and slice the strawberries.
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon orange oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For Pie Filling:
Combine rhubarb and strawberries in a big bowl. Combine sugar and flour and mix in with fruit mixture. Let sit for at least two hours, while you make pie dough, or putter about doing other things.
Pour the fruit into a sieve or collander, and catch the juices in a bowl. Reserve the fruit in a large bowl and set aside.
In a separate bowl, make a slurry by mixing 2 tablespoons of juice with the 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. Place the fruit juices in a pot on LOW heat. Add the scraped vanilla bean pod and seeds. Add the cornstarch slurry, and cook over low heat, mixing often, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and add the 1/4 teaspoon orange oil. Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then remove the vanilla bean pod.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Pour mixture over reserved fruit. Mix thoroughly, then pour into your crust (which should be in your pie plate, please!). Dot top with 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
Bake for 10 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional hour or so. Pie is done when golden brown and juices bubbling from pie appear thickened and clear.
Pie will be best the next day. I also recommend placing the pie on a Silpat or parchment-lined jelly roll pan to catch all the juices that will overflow.

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