I’ll be the first to admit: I’m the one who’s been missing out.
I think some of my hesitance (read: resistance), until now, was just that we weren’t on the same page, I’ve always been a city girl, and well, you know, sunburnt celery wasn’t really my thing; it was always a bit of the rural tumbleweed that I never would have looked twice at. (I know, how typically obnoxious of a big-fat-apple girl I can be). Ugh. Forgive me.
In addition to frontier unbound by city, rhubarb also made me think of (someone’s) grandmother wrapped in an apron that I’d never wear, printed with watering cans, which is completely nonsensical because my grandmother never wore an apron either, let alone with watering cans: she was more inclined to dangly silver hoops, through her ears and around her arms.
But I’m past the apron and the uninformed tumbleweed thing — I’ve sliced through the stubborn stalks and baked them into a slumpy tart-sweetness. I’m in the clear.
And the clear is nice: rhubarb, you are rocking my previously incomplete food pyramid. I am so sorry it took us twenty-something years to finally meet, but I’m glad we did. Now when I think rhubarb, I’ll liken it to lips puckered like red zinger, under the heaviest of rains, and a plant sitting on old grocery-print paper: uprooted and detangled from a pot too small and then, rerouted with rain water to something much bigger. I should explain.
The rain part is easy enough: it was raining buckets while this pie was baking. And I mean buckets of buckets, the deep kind, deeper than rain boots filled with pie-steam. And as for the potted plant: it belonged in a way, to my grandmother. Flowered for the first time in February, repotted while the pie was bubbling pink in May.
I guess this means my spring is ending tart, cheeks flushed from running toward summer. I suppose it can’t hurt.
Adapted from Anne Dimock’s Humble Pie: Musings on What Lies Beneath the Crust via Food52.com.
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 12 tablespoons very cold, unsalted butter
- ~1/2 – 3/4 cup ice water
- 4 1/2 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1/4″ pieces
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 1/2 tablespoons flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 425 F.
To prepare the crust:
Combine flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Chop cold butter into ½” pieces and scatter across bowl of flour mixture. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into dry flour mixture, by pressing firmly into chunks of butter with the blender and then raking flour up from the bottom of the bowl in a circular motion. If butter sticks to pastry blender, use a knife to clear it away and continue cutting and rubbing butter into flour until small pea-sized pieces of flour and butter are formed. Mixture should appear dry, not pasty, greasy or wet.
Slowly pour 1/2 cup of ice water across flour-butter mixture and using a rubber spatula, gently stir to moisten mixture. Using the back of the rubber spatula or your hands, begin to press damp mixture together. You have added enough water when flour and butter begin to cohere. If mixture does not cohere, add more water, up to 1/4 cup. Seperate dough into half. Form each half into a rough ball in your hands, avoiding overworking the mixture, or creating too much heat contact that could melt the butter. (You want some chunks of butter “fat” strewn about the dough, because that’s what makes those flaky pockets!) Flatten the ball of dough slightly, to create a thick disk. Wrap the two disks individually in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
While dough is chilling, combine rhubarb with sugar, flour, cinnamon, vanilla extract, lemon zest and lemon juice and set aside to macerate in a large bowl. After about an hour, remove one dough disk from the refrigerator and roll out onto a smooth floured surface, turning occasionally to ensure that dough isn’t sticking. Fit rolled dough into a 9″ pie plate, leaving about 1.5″ overhang around plate rim. Place prepared bottom crust shell in the freezer while you repeat the rolling process for the top crust.
When top crust has been evenly rolled out, remove bottom crust shell from the freezer and fill shell evenly with macerated rhubarb mixture. Then cover pie filling by laying the top crust over it, brushing edges with ice water and crimping bottom and top crusts together along the rim of the pie plate, to seal in filling and avoid leaking juices. Gently cut a few steam vents into top crust with a knife.
Bake at 425 F for about 15 minutes, then rotate and reduce temperature to 350 F and bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and pink juices begin bubbling up through steam vents. Allow to cool on wire rack before serving.