Delusional isn’t a word I’d use to describe myself. Sure, I have my flights of fancy and my exaggerated sense of what’s happening at any given moment, but am I so-out-of-touch that I deserve the “D” word? Doubtful!
But I was delusional on Saturday when I took a bunch of rhubarb–rhubarb that I’d purchased with Deb of Smitten Kitchen, issuing a challenge in the process (“Let’s have a contest to see who does the better thing with this rhubarb”)–and convinced myself that I could casually piece together a rhubarb pie. “I’m not gonna stress about it,” I said to myself. “I’ll be like a country grandmother and just make this pie happen.” There’s only one word for such a line of thought, especially when it comes to me and pie: it’s the D word.
What was I thinking? I’m not very good at pie. If I was going to make a pie, I should’ve followed all the rules; I should’ve, for starters, kept the kitchen really cool. What did I do? I turned on the oven to 425!
I thought that the hot oven really wouldn’t affect the kitchen, but it did. I wanted this to be a casual experience; I wanted to roll the pie dough, fill it and pop it all in the oven in one fluid sequence. Instead, the only thing fluid was my pie-confidence which rapidly began to melt.
In a bowl, I placed 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour. I whisked in 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp granulated sugar. I meant to take 2 sticks of cold, cubed butter and add them in but I only had one stick. So, instead of the second stick, I used an equal amount of shortening (which I also had refrigerated): 1/2 a cup.
Into the bowl it went and I pinched it all using my fingers. That method works with shortening, but not so great with butter which melts more easily. Still, I reduced it to crumbs then I added some ice cold water (1/4 – 1/2 a cup) and with my hands brought it together, kneading a little in the bowl until it formed a ball. Then I split the ball in two and started to roll it out.
This is what happens when (1) you don’t refrigerate the dough first; and (2) you get your kitchen too hot.
The old me would’ve seen this and thought: “Disaster!”
But the new me took what pie-knowledge I had and decided to patch it together into the pie dish. Here’s what I know: once you roll out pie dough, it’s a bad idea to roll it out again. (That develops the gluten.) If you patch it together in the pie dish, you won’t see al the flaws (it’ll be covered by fruit) and it’ll still taste really good. So I did just that: I patched the dough into the pie dish.
I prepped the fruit: 4 cups of rhubarb cut into 1-inch pieces tossed with 1 1/3 cups sugar, 1/3 cup cornstarch, and 1 tsp cinnamon.
I placed that on top of my patched-together bottom crust and then attempted to roll out the top crust:
Not quite as disastrous (I’d placed it in the freezer to cool it down first) but still not a smooth, perfect Martha Stewart sheet. No problem: I patched it all over the top and sealed it, the best I could, to the bottom. Here’s my patched-together pie, pre-baking:
Not bad, right? Especially after I did so much wrong?
Into the oven it went–425 degrees for 40 – 50 minutes (until it’s browned and the juices are bubbling; I put it on a cookie sheet, in case the juices bubbled over)–and out it came:
And this story has a happy end. As delusional as I was to think that I could whip up a perfect pie in a hot kitchen, using my warm fingers on an improvised ratio of butter and shortening, this pie was pretty killer:
The crust was smooth and tender and the filling was tart and, once again, Spring-y. In fact, this was the first rhubarb-only pie I’ve ever made (I’d made strawberry rhubarb desserts before) and I think I like the rhubarb better by itself. It has a lovely, unusual aroma and, cooked like this with lots of sugar, there’s a wonderful balance of sweet and tart.
The moral of the story is that even if you’re a delusional pie-maker–and I’m sure there are others like me out there–it’s a good kind of delusional to be. Other delusions lead you to marry the wrong person or to pursue a singing career when you have a terrible voice, but if you’re a delusional pie-maker? You wind up with pie.
That’s a pretty pleasant reward for your delusions.