Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Persevering with Pastry and Sweet Success with Strawberry Rhubarb Pie!

My first ever attempt at strawberry rhubarb pie

If you've been following my blog, you know I am not a sweet tooth...ironic, isn't it, that I love baking?

Having grown up in a household where my mother and grandmothers baked, it is only natural that I would eventually discover the joys of baking.

The one dessert I have deliberately avoided preparing was pie.  I am not sure what recipe I used some 10 years ago when I first attempted to make a pie, but I do recall that my pastry was a complete disaster.  I am definitely from the school of "once bitten, twice shy", and never even attempted to prepare pastry since that day.  

The fact that my mother made fabulous pastry - with whole wheat flour no less! - added to my trepidation.  As far back as I can remember, my mother was the Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Maven.  I really believed that this fruit combination was unique to my family, and still feel territorial when anyone mentions making this kind of pie - knowing deep down that no-one, and no recipe, will ever measure up to my mother's pies.

I've told you in previous posts about the rhubarb growing in the garden of my childhood home, but what I only recently discovered is that my Bubbie Lou also grew rhubarb in her garden.  Recently my cousin Michael and I were reminiscing, and I mentioned my plans to finally make the family pie.  I recalled how Mom grew rhubarb in our garden, and he remembered Bubbie Lou having it in her garden too!  

I decided that I'd run out of excuses and it was time to face my pastry fears head on.  

Around this time I was visiting our neighbours when Ali decided to show me his amazing fruit and vegetable garden.  He came to one plant and asked me if I had any idea what it was...I did, it was rhubarb.  He was so surprised that I recognized it, and so I filled him in on my lifelong connection to rhubarb.  Ultimately we struck a deal - he'd supply the rhubarb and I would show his wife - my friend - Teresa, how to make the pie.  

Ali harvesting the rhubarb from his garden
We made a date for the following week - he would harvest the rhubarb and Teresa would bring it over for a pie-making girls' night.

Now the pressure was on.  I knew that I had to have at least 1 trial run before I undertook the task of teaching someone else how to bake a pie, especially given my history with pastry.  So I decided to bake a pie to take to Marisa and Tony's (along with the dessert jello).  For the filling, I used the family recipe strawberry rhubarb compote, and I pulled out Bubbie Gertie's recipe for pastry (contained in her Apple Pie recipe).

The pastry dough was so simple!  I could not believe that it only called for 4 ingredients (it's pareve!), blended effortlessly, rolled out beautifully an transferred to the pie plate with ease.

The only mistake I made was not completely draining the compote mixture before filling the bottom crust.  In fairness to me, I did use a slotted spoon, but it was still...there is no subtle way to put this - drenched!  Unfortunately, this means that my pie was soggy, which dampened my spirits.  But then again, that's why I had a dry run (excuse the pun) before my pie-making play date.

So, 2 Wednesday nights ago, Teresa came over and we had a blast!  We made the pastry and the compote, and this time I made sure we actually strained the excess liquid (which totalled more than 6 cups).   We baked our pies, and my friend who had never baked a pie in her life, made a tremendously better-looking pie than mine!  No worries, they both tasted delicious.  

Cooking the strawberries, rhubarb and sugar
Filling the pie with fresh, juicy fruit
Teresa's pie
My pie
The final, baked product!

So from my family to yours, I hope you enjoy this pie recipe as much as I do.
Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Bubbie Gertie's Perfect Pastry

  • 3C ordinary flour (sifted 1 or 2 times - although I never actually sifted mine)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1C shortening
  • ½C ice cold water
Combine dry ingredients, add shortening and then water (a little at a time, until you reach the right consistency).  Dough should roll into a ball easily, not sticking to your fingers.  This recipe will make 2 pies (4 portions of dough).

The Matriarchs' Rhubarb & Strawberry Compote

  • 4C rhubarb (washed, unpeeled, cut into pieces OR you can use frozen)
  • 1½C granulated sugar
  • 4C strawberries (washed, hulled and halved OR you can use frozen)
Wash rhubarb and cut in pieces.  Do not peel.   In medium saucepan, combine 4 cups of rhubarb with 1½ cups of granulated sugar.  Cook over low heat (Bubbie Gertie says on a very slow burner) for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  While the rhubarb is still whole and just starting to break apart, add strawberries and cook gently for a few more minutes.  Cool and store in fridge.  This recipe can be frozen for later use. 

Mom's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie 
Method:Preheat oven to 450˚.  Divide dough into 4 equal portions.  Roll out 1 portion of dough on a lightly floured sheet of wax paper to desired size.  Lightly spray your pie plate with Pam.  Gently flip the pie plate so it is face down above the dough.  Carefully inch the sheet of wax paper with the dough off the counter enough to get your hand in the middle of the paper/dough and flip the pie plate and dough over so the pie plate is right-side up.  Position the dough/paper in the pie plate and then pat the dough onto the pie plate, leaving enough dough to cover the lip of the plate.  Using a fork, dock (pierce) the dough a few times along the bottom of the plate.  

Fill the pie with the drained compote mixture.  Repeat the process of rolling the dough onto a sheet of wax paper, then gently flip on top of the fruit filling.  Make sure to roll out the dough to a large enough circle to cover the edges of your pie plate.  Using a dull knife, cut away excess dough, then pinch the top and bottom edges together to form a seal.  Cut some air holes on the top of the pie in any design you prefer.  Bake at 450˚ for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350˚, and bake for an additional 35 to 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and flaky.  

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