Wednesday, June 27, 2007

And more strawberries

I still had berries left after the yogurt experiments. Some we picked, some a donation from a dinner guest (also local, also delicious.) I have never been a fan of strawberry pie, as it usually seems to come with a gelatinous glaze and those kiwi-size berries that look vaguely unreal. But I'd been wanting to try a rhubarb recipe, and with all those berries about to start to turn, I conquered my suspicions.

I looked at a couple of different sources for a recipe, and none of them seemed exactly right, so I borrowed a bit from Mark Bittman, a bit from Gourmet, and even from La Martha. This is what I came up with.

A note about pies:

I grew up with a pie baker. My mother makes the best pie I've ever eaten, anywhere, any time. As a result, I make my own crust, which is not as good as hers, but is getting better, every year. This is not to say you should feel badly if you can't handle the concept of crust-- you're in good company, and let's be honest, we all have our personal food-prep phobias. For years, the only meat I could prepare competently was a roast chicken; I can't handle deep frying. If the thought of making your own crust makes you shiver, ok. But trust me when I say, you can handle it. Let me amend that-if you have a food processor, you can absolutely handle it. But the choice is yours.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

1-1/2 - 2 c. rhubarb, strings more or less removed, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
3-3-1/2 c. strawberries, washed, hulled and halved
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. flour
1 t. freshly ground (in a mortar and pestle) cardamom seed (tough pods removed)
1 t. freshly grated nutmeg

Combine all of the above in a non-reactive bowl, toss together, and macerate at room temperature for an hour or so while you get your crust together.

For the crust:

1 stick cold (refrigerated) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 stick cold (refrigerated) no-trans fat vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 - 1/4 c. unbleached all purpose flour
1 t. kosher salt
2/3-3/4 c. ice water
1 egg, separated, and the yolk lightly beaten

Put the flour, salt, butter and shortening into a food processor and pulse together until it resembles coarse meal.

Pour the water in slowly with the motor running and process just until the dough comes together.

Turn it out onto a floured counter and shape into a soft ball. If the dough is sticky, you can knead in just enough flour to make it easier to handle, but no more. Too much more flour and too much handling will make the crust tough.

Divide the dough into two pieces, place on and wrap with plastic wrap, and shape into 1 inch think discs. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

When the dough is chilled, roll the first piece out on a floured piece of wax paper until it's1/4 inch thick and large enough to fit the bottom of your pie pan. (I like to spray my pan first with canola oil spray to avoid sticking. It's not traditional, but it saves your pie.)

Fit the dough in, and trim the edges so there's a neat disc that reaches the bottom of the pan (I use a deep dish) and to the edge of the rim.

Paint the bottom of the crust with the egg white, and then pierce eight or ten times with the tines of a fork, across the bottom and around the sides.

If the fruit has exuded a great deal of liquid, you can drain some off. Usually, this is not necessary because the liquid is absorbed by the flour.

Turn the fruit into the pie plate and prepare your top crust. Roll it out to 1/4 inch as with the bottom crust. You can either place the whole crust on top, and cut some decorative vents in it, crimp the edges and bake, or you can cut strips and weave a lattice on top. Brush the top crust and rim with the beaten egg yolk, and bake for 50-60 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling beneath.

Good warm, cold, with or without whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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