Friday, March 2, 2012

deep dish straight-up rhubarb pie

Do you have a grandma? If you do, go hug her. Now. I don't care if she's busy, or you're busy... just go hug your gran. Because grandmas are SO AWESOME. Seriously. Who else hides candy in the sofa for you?* Who else lets you eat popsicles for lunch, to the frustration of your parents? Who else makes perogies from scratch that are so margariney (yes), crispy and saltilicious? Your grandma does. Okay, well... my grandma did.

Of course, I had two AMAZING grandmas - Grandma Woods and Grandma Martens. Today I am talking about Grandma Martens because rhubarb pie was a Grandma Martens thing. 

She introduced me to straight-up rhubarb pie. In fact, all I ever knew was straight-up rhubarb pie, until I was old enough that I became aware of what things were being sold where. Most rhubarb pies that you buy are tempered with apples or strawberries. People fear rhubarb on its own. Guys... be brave. Do something different. Trust in my grandma and let the rhubarb be the star. She won't let you down. I promise.

*Yes, she actually did this. It wasn't old sofa candy.

Alright, now that we've got the rhubarb thing sorted out, I want to talk to you about the wonders of tapioca as a thickener. I always used cornstarch to thicken my pies because I didn't know any better. I was never entirely satisfied though - cornstarch does leave behind a powdery flavour. It can be hidden well enough in things like stirfry sauce, and it won't make your pie gross or anything, but if you use tapioca, you won't get that flavour. I read somewhere that tapioca is a "cleaner" pie thickener, and that description is exactly right.

Tips: One thing I would note is to avoid doing a lattice top pie with tapioca as it can leave some visible granules. If you are not serving to company, or you don't care, go ahead. I'm firmly in the "I don't care" camp unless baking for company (and, of course, I am obsessed with making lattice-top pies). Another thing to note is that with tapioca, most of the thickening happens after the pie comes out of the oven. You won't be able to just dig into this pie. Your third tip is this: if you are using frozen rhubarb as I did, brush the bottom crust with an egg yolk. It helps to keep the bottom from getting soggy while baking. I didn't do this.

Now... to the pie. This is not my grandma's recipe. From what I gather, many of her recipes for things died with her. This recipe is adapted from Joy of Cooking. And yes, I burned my crust! I am a pie-burner extraordinaire.

deep dish straight-up rhubarb pie

2 1/2 cups all purpose or cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup (or 2 sticks) frozen unsalted butter, grated
6-7 tablespoons ice water
extra granulated sugar for sprinkling

six cups chopped rhubarb
1/4 cup minute tapioca
1 cup granulated sugar

  • Crust: In a medium bowl, combine first three ingredients. Add butter to flour mixture. Work it until its texture resembles coarse meal. 
  • Add ice water gradually and form into a ball. Divide dough in two and shape into two disks. Wrap them in cellophane and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  • Filling: Combine tapioca and sugar. Toss with the rhubarb.
  • Putting it all together: Preheat oven to 350ºF. Roll out one of your disks 12" to 14" and lay in the bottom of a deep dish pie plate. Put the filling in the pie and roll out the second disk for the top. After putting the top layer over (however you do it), crimp the edges of the crust to hold things together and make them look nice.
    • I recommend doing a standard vented pie crust when using tapioca as a filler, but if you want to do a lattice top, here's a good video demonstrating how.
    • Sprinkle your crust with sugar, then bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until you can see the juice bubbling up from inside and the crust is a nice golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to rest until completely cooled.

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