The Ultimate Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

I’m a terrible dancer, though I enjoy dancing. In college, I was in a production of A Funny Thing Happened to the Way to the Forum (I played Hysterium; such typecasting) and learned the box step. That’s the extent of my dancing prowess. Give me a bouncy Sondheim score and a solid square of dance floor, and I’m there.

Pie-making is a bit like dancing for me. I’m enthusiastic, but often limited in my capabilities. There was that patched-together rhubarb pie from 2010; and that blueberry disaster from 2007. Things have gotten much better since then: the last pie I posted about, Nicole Rucker’s Nectarine Plum Pie with a Brown Sugar Crust, was a bonafide hit. And then there was this strawberry-rhubarb pie that I made for the Oscars. No longer was I a goofy Hysterium bouncing around a college theater; for one brief moment in time, I was Anna Pavlova… except instead of a dying swan, I was a soaring bird!

I bring up dance because that’s what it felt like when I made this pie. I waltzed my way over to the food processor and poured in the flour, the sugar, the salt, the cold butter, and pulsed, adding just enough cold water for it to hold together. Then I shaped it into these discs (I work the dough a bit more than I did in the past; just a few smushes and schmears so it holds together).

Meanwhile, check out these strawberries from our weekly trip to the Atwater Village Farmer’s Market.

Honestly, I could’ve put those on a cookie and it would’ve made a delectable pie. As it was, I bought a whole carton and then got rhubarb at the grocery store and used Bon Appetit’s pie filling as a guide.

Then, once again, I put on my tutu and did the pie dance: rolling out the dough, shaping it over the pie dish (I put it on a foil-lined tray, which proved to be smart… there was a lot of leakage), pouring in the filling, laying on the top, and crimping it.

The most surprising thing about this pie recipe is how long it bakes for: almost an hour and thirty minutes. The Bon Appetit people push you towards a golden crust so that’s what I did, and I’m not sorry. (It helped that I brushed it with egg and sprinkled with Turbinado sugar, aka: Sugar in the Raw.)

I don’t know how to embed video into a blog post, but if you look on Instagram, you can see that pie burbling away. I was dancing and this pie was singing. The hardest part was letting it cool for four hours. Good thing we had the Oscars to watch, so by the time the big awards came up, it was time to cut in.

I don’t know how you felt about the Best Picture winner or Best Cinematography, but I can tell you what took the award for best pie: this strawberry-rhubarb beauty. Now you can throw roses at me as I curtsy and bow!

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The Ultimate Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

A mixture of my favorite pie crust with a not-too-sweet and very tart filling.

Ingredients

For the pie dough:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks very cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cups ice water

For the filling:

  • 1 1/4 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon Turbinado sugar

Instructions

  • To make the pie dough: place the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the cold, cubed butter, toss with your fingers in the flour, then, with the lid on, pulse a few more times until the butter pieces are the size of large peas. Now, add some of the cold water, pulse twice; check the texture. It should look like wet sand and hold together easily when you pinch a clump. If not, keeping adding the ice water and pulsing until it does. (Better to err on the side of a little wetter than too dry, IMO.)
  • Pour the mixture on to a well floured board. I like to work the dough a tiny bit here: press down with the heel of your hand, fold over with a bench scraper, and do it a few more times — being sure not to warm up the butter — until the dough holds together neatly. Cut in half and shape each half into a disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.
  • Heat the oven to 425 and make your filling. In a large bowl, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, brown sugar, corn starch, lemon zest, vanilla, and salt.
  • To assemble your pie, place a 9-inch pie dish on a cookie sheet lined with foil (this will help with leakage). Place one disc of dough on a well-floured board and smack with a well-floured rolling pin, rotating as you do. Begin rolling out from the middle, rotating counter-clockwise a tiny bit each time and sprinkling with more flour if it gets at all sticky. When you've rolled it out to a big circle, bigger than your pie dish (10 inches or more), drape over the pie dish and roll out the other disc of pie dough. Add your filling to the pie in the dish and drape the other dough on top.
  • Pinch the two overhangs of dough together and then use a scissor to cut around, leaving about an inch of overhang. Pinch together again, then fold over towards the pie dish. Crimp using your thumb and pointer finger from both hands (I bet there's a YouTube video you can watch about that). Beat the egg in a small bowl, brush on to the pie, and sprinkle with the sugar. Cut three slits at the top outward from the middle.
  • Place the pie on the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 375 and continue cooking until deep golden brown and the juices are thick and bubbling, about 75 – 90 minutes longer.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least four hours so the pie sets up. Serve by itself or with vanilla ice cream.