rhubarb, lemon, and vanilla pie

This time of year I’m usually gifted with large bags of rhubarb by assorted friends and family.  I love the stuff but sometimes feel like I’m running out of things to do with it.  Not so.  Though I’ve made several different kinds of rhubarb pie seen here and here and here, I still managed to find another rhubarb pie recipe that intrigued me.

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Lemon zest and juice and vanilla extract along with a bit of freshly grated nutmeg get added to the otherwise typical rhubarb filling.  Genius!  So simple, but so good.  Next time I may actually add a little fresh vanilla bean along with the extract just to deepen the vanilla flavor.

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I had big plan for doing a fancy lattice top to this pie but was short on time so did what my mom calls a “flopover” pie.  You simply fold the edges of the crust over the top of the filling.  I’ve brought this style of pie to dinner parties before and people are always impressed and refer to it as a galette, which sounds much nicer than flopover.  Those French and their fancy words.

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The lemon zest and juice pair so nicely with the rhubarb and the vanilla adds a little extra sweetness.  And it would’ve been so great with the mascarpone ice cream I made last week!  If only there were any left by the time I made the pie…

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Rhubarb, Lemon, and Vanilla “Flopover” Pie (filling recipe from “A Year of Pies” by Ashley English)

  • 1 1/2 pounds rhubarb (4 1/2 cups), trimmed and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 425.

Place the chopped rhubarb, sugar, arrowroot or cornstarch, lemon zest and juice, vanilla extract, and nutmeg in a medium-size bowl.  Stir together with a large spoon until well combined.

Pour the rhubarb filling into the prepared crust (see below).  Fold crust over the top of the pie.  Cover crust with aluminum foil to prevent it from browning too quickly.  Remove foil for last 15 minutes of baking.  Bake for about an hour, until the crust is golden and juices are bubbling in the center of the pie.

One Crust Pie Pastry (from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook)

  • 1 cup all-purpose or unbleached flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon shortening
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

Mix flour and salt in medium bowl.  Cut in shortening, using pastry blender or crisscrossing 2 knives, until particles are size of small peas.  Sprinkle with cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry almost leaves side of bowl (1 to 2 teaspoons more water can be added if necessary).

Gather pastry into a ball.  Shape into flattened round.  If desired, wrap flattened round of pastry in plastic wrap and refrigerate about 30 minutes to firm up the shortening slightly, which helps make the baked pastry more flaky and lets the water absorb evenly throughout the dough.

Roll pastry on lightly floured surface, using floured rolling pin, into circle 3 inches larger than upside-down pie plate.  Fold pastry into fourths and place in pie plate; or roll pastry loosely around rolling pin and transfer to pie plate.  Unfold or unroll pastry and ease into plate, pressing firmly against bottom and side and being careful not to stretch pastry, which will cause it to shrink when baked.

cherry rhubarb pie with old fashioned crust

That I love baking is no secret but what I most love to bake is pie.  Any kind of pie: strawberry rhubarb, apple with cheddar cheese crust, chess, hand pies, even peach pie with gluten-free crust.  I love that there are now blogs dedicated solely to pie and bakeries that make nothing but, there was even a whole week dedicated to the subject on NPR.

There were two things I had always wanted to try with pie but hadn’t up until last week and that was to make crust the old-fashioned way, with lard, and secondly to use a pie bird as the venting method.

Lard is rendered pork fat so is obviously out for vegetarians and vegans and has also gotten a bad wrap for being high in fat, but it turns out it might not be as bad as once was thought.  It actually is lower in saturated fat than butter.  Not that I’m throwing the baby out with the bath water on butter anytime soon but lard might have its place in modern cooking too.  It was easy to find a tub of it at my food co-op and was very easy to work with making the dough.  I will for sure experiment with it more in the future.  The pie bird was cute and also easy to work with but I will likely go back to my mom’s method of cutting the initial of the pie fruit with a butter knife into the top crust.  It’s more nostalgic for me than the pie bird even though they’ve been around for ages.

The filling for this pie consisted of what I had on hand in my freezer which happened to be cherries and rhubarb.  What a great combination!  It’s like when you make soup out of what you’ve got in your veggie drawer and it turns out unexpectedly amazing.  Love it when that happens.

“Best-Ever Pie Crust”  (from www.epicurious.com)

Yield: Makes 2 pie crusts (enough dough for 1 double-crust pie, 1 lattice-topped pie, or 2 single-crust pies)

  •   2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used 2 cups white flour and ½ wheat flour)
  •   1 ½ teaspoons sugar
  •   1 teaspoon salt
  •   ½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  •   ½ cup chilled lard or frozen nonhydrogenated solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  •   5 tablespoons (or more) ice water

Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter and lard; using on/off turns, blend until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Add 5 tablespoons ice water and mix with fork until dough begins to clump together, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dry. Gather dough together. Divide dough in half; flatten each half into disk. Wrap each disk in plastic   and refrigerate at least 1 hour. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep refrigerated. If necessary, soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.

Cherry Rhubarb Pie

  •   2 cups chopped rhubarb (fresh or frozen)
  •   2 cups tart cherries, pitted
  •   2/3 cups sugar
  •   2 tablespoons all-purpose flour or tapioca flour
  •   Pie crust dough for 1 double-crust pie

Combine all ingredients in bowl and let sit for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one half of pie crust dough to fit into pie plate. Transfer pastry to pie plate; add filling. Roll out remaining pastry to fit top of pie. Place over filling. Trim, seal and flute edges. Cut slits in pastry.

Bake pie for 40 to 45 minutes or until crust is golden.  Cover edges with foil during the last 15 minutes of baking to prevent overbrowning if necessary.  Cool on a wire rack.

gold medal dessert: rhubarb crunch

Aren’t the Olympics inspiring? I’ve found myself transfixed over the past week and I rarely watch TV so that is really saying something. I was so happy to see the women’s gymnastics team take the gold last night and especially proud to see Jordyn Wieber shake off not qualifying for the all-around competition yet pull it together to lead her team to victory. Inspirational. She’s from a small-town near my small hometown so that somehow makes it more special, like she probably used to shop at the same mall I used to shop at. I’m just saying. On the other hand my heart broke a little bit watching the men’s US gymnastics team lose. I wanted to reach into the TV to give John Orozco a big hug and tell him to shake off what happened on the pommel horse. Half of this country couldn’t even get themselves up on the pommel horse much less maneuver around on it so he should hold his head high knowing he is one of the top athletes in the world. Yes, I have been watching other sports too but to be honest I’m starting to get tired of swimming, and beach volleyball just makes me feel bad about myself. (They’re so tall! And slim!) Very much looking forward to track and field and hope that NBC gives more coverage to some of the less popular sports. Again, getting tired of swimming. Yes Michael Phelps it’s amazing that you are the most decorated Olympian ever. Totally awesome. But I’m tired of watching your sport.

I can’t exactly draw a close connection between the Olympics and rhubarb crunch, but something tells me 95% of Olympians would totally enjoy this dish. (There are always a few who don’t like rhubarb. I don’t understand those people.) This dish is so easy to make and simple and delicious. My aunt made it last weekend with blueberries (amazing!) so that shows that it is also versatile. Go forth and bake! Gold medal to you for efforts.

Rhubarb Crunch

Crumb Topping:

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup melted butter

Fruit Mixture:

  • 6 cups rhubarb, cleaned and chopped into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon tapioca flour or cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix together crumb topping ingredients until crumbly. Press half the mixture into a greased 9″ x 13″ pan. Cover with rhubarb.

In a small saucepan combine the remaining four ingredients (sugar, tapioca flour, water, and vanilla.) Cook over medium heat until thick and clear. Pour over the rhubarb.

Top with remaining crumbs. Bake for an hour. Serve warm.

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuit Topping

You might be thinking to yourself, another rhubarb recipe?  I hope you aren’t, but if you are I get it.  I have rhubarb coming out the wazoo right now so have been experimenting a lot with it lately.  I am also simultaneously trying to clear out my freezer of last year’s fruit to make room for this year’s and last June I did some serious strawberry-picking and thus still have it in abundance in my freezer.  So when I found another awesome-sounding recipe for a strawberry-rhubarb combination I knew it was meant to be.

This time I bring you a cobbler with a cornmeal biscuit topping.  The cornmeal topping made it a bit lighter than traditional cobblers so in turn I did not feel guilty eating it for breakfast and dessert in the same day.  I love it when that happens!

I hope everyone had a lovely Memorial Day weekend, relaxed with friends and family, and ate lots of good food.  I am still thinking about the various grilled and barbecued meats I consumed over the weekend.  They were all awesome but think I will be detoxing with lots of vegetables this week…

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuit Topping (recipe found at www.epicurious.com)

Filling

  •   ½ cup sugar
  •   2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  •   1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  •   2 12-ounce baskets strawberries, hulled, halved
  •   1 ½ cups ½ -inch-thick slices fresh or frozen rhubarb

Topping

  •   1 cup all-purpose flour
  •   1/3 cup sugar
  •   ¼ cup yellow cornmeal
  •   1 tablespoon baking powder
  •   1 teaspoon baking soda
  •   Pinch of salt
  •   3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, diced
  •   ½ cup low-fat buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix sugar, flour and cloves in large bowl. Add strawberries and rhubarb and toss to coat with sugar mixture. Transfer filling to 10-inch-diameter glass pie dish

Mix flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.   Gradually add buttermilk, tossing with fork until moist clumps form (do not overmix). Spoon topping evenly over filling.

Bake until topping is golden brown and filling is tender, about 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Happy Mother’s Day!

The lady on the left taught me how to bake pies, amongst many, many other things.  Thanks Mom.  You’re the best.  (Incidentally the lady on the right taught me how to bake some awesome banana bread.  Thanks Aunt Sarah, you’re awesome too.)

I’m the blonde child with the giant red Solo cup that is partially obscuring my cousin’s face in this image.  Sorry cuz.  Looks like I was way more into the grape Kool-Aid or whatever that dark liquid is in the background than I was into smiling for the photo.  Sorry about that Mom.  You and Aunt Sarah look great.  You make the 80’s look stylish.

I remember once when my mom was baking a pie (which she often did) and she had some leftover pie dough that she let my brother and I make our own mini pies with.  I don’t remember the exact details but I think we were either short on fruit in the house that day or she was letting my brother and I get creative with the filling as I recall that my brother filled his mini pie with strawberry jam (smart move, bro).  My choice?  Grapes.  Yeah.  Raw green grapes.  Not good.  Pretty sure the family dog was the only one who enjoyed my pie that day…

But I totally appreciate the fact that my mom let us experiment in the kitchen and also just that she was such an amazing baker and mom and still is.

Her standards are peach, blueberry, or apple pies, but she must have made strawberry rhubarb pies back in the day too.  I realized this today when I ate a bite of the strawberry rhubarb pie I made and it totally brought me back to my childhood and tasted like summer all at the same time.

Thanks for always being an inspiration Mom.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (adapted slightly from “Betty Crocker’s Cookbook”)

  • 3 cups 1/2″-thick slices of rhubarb
  • 3 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour

Preheat oven to 425.  Combine all of the above ingredients in a bowl.  Pour mixture into pie shell (see below for pie crust recipe).  Place top pie crust over filling and crimp around the edges to seal to bottom crust.  Slice vents into top pie crust.  Cover the crust with aluminum foil to prevent crust from burning.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Remove aluminum foil and bake for 10 minutes more or until crust is golden brown.  Let cool for 2 hours before consuming.

Two Crust Pie Pastry (from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook)

  • 2 cups all-purpose or unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons cold water

Mix flour and salt in medium bowl.  Cut in shortening, using pastry blender or crisscrossing 2 knives, until particles are size of small peas.  Sprinkle with cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry almost leaves side of bowl (1 to 2 teaspoons more water can be added if necessary).

Gather pastry into a ball.  Shape into two flattened rounds.  If desired, wrap flattened rounds of pastry in plastic wrap and refrigerate about 30 minutes to firm up the shortening slightly, which helps make the baked pastry more flaky and lets the water absorb evenly throughout the dough.

Roll pastry on lightly floured surface, using floured rolling pin, into circle 2 inches larger than upside-down pie plate.  Fold pastry into fourths and place in pie plate; or roll pastry loosely around rolling pin and transfer to pie plate.  Unfold or unroll pastry and ease into plate, pressing firmly against bottom and side and being careful not to stretch pastry, which will cause it to shrink when baked.

rhubarb crumb bars

I’m so glad it’s rhubarb season again.  Even though I had eaten rhubarb in various forms over the years last spring was the first time I ever prepared anything with it.  Rhubarb pie is awesome and rhubarb fool is not to shabby either.

This time I decided to try a rhubarb bar recipe and found one with a crumb topping from Martha.  Who doesn’t like a crumb topping?

This recipe has several dimensions.  The bottom layer is a sweet and moist cake, followed by the rhubarb layer, and then topped with the butter/flour/brown sugar crumb topping.  A major winner, and not complicated to assemble in the least.  Get to it!

Rhubarb Crumb Bars (from www.marthastewart.com)

For the Streusel

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus room-temperature butter for pan
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Cake

  • 1/2 pound rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides. Butter and flour parchment and pan, tapping out excess flour.

Make streusel: Whisk together butter, brown sugar, and salt. Add flour and mix with a fork until large crumbs form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Make cake: In a medium bowl, combine rhubarb, brown sugar, and 1/4 cup flour. In another medium bowl, whisk 3/4 cup flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy; beat in eggs, one at a time. With mixer on low, beat in vanilla, then flour mixture. Spread batter in prepared pan. Sprinkle with rhubarb and top with streusel.

Bake cake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool completely in pan. Using paper overhang, lift cake from pan. Cut into 16 bars.

I pity the fool

I researched a variety of rhubarb recipes this week to decide what to do with the remainder of my bounty and opted to try something entirely new to my food repertoire: a fool.  I had heard of this dessert before but did a little research and discovered it involves pureed fruit and whipped cream and that it originated in England back in the 17th century.  Huh.  Must be something to it if people are still eating it four centuries later!

It’s super simple to make.  You start by boiling chopped up rhubarb, honey, orange zest, orange juice, a vanilla bean, and candied ginger.  Then you whip up some heavy cream with a little sugar and blend the two together.

 This lovely mixture then gets spooned into individual serving dishes (I used ramekins, but it would be lovely to serve in fancy glass coffee cups or the like) and chill.  This is totally one of those recipes that seems like it took a lot of time to make but it totally didn’t.  I could see it being majorly impressive at your next dinner party.  And you could make it with a variety of fruits.  Impress away!

Rhubarb Fool (from www.epicurious.com)

  • 1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and sliced 1/2 inch thick (about 4 cups or 1 pound prepped)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

To make the fool, put the rhubarb, honey, orange zest and juice, candied ginger, vanilla bean, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir to combine, then cover and cook, stirring every few minutes, for 10 minutes, until the mixture has come to a boil and the rhubarb has softened. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, then remove the vanilla bean. Transfer the compote to a bowl, and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes, until very cold.

Whip the cream and sugar until soft peaks form, either by hand or using an electric mixer on medium speed. Set aside 1/3 cup of the compote to garnish the dessert, then fold the remaining compote into the whipped cream. Spoon the fool into six 1/2-cup glasses or dishes and chill for 1 hour before serving topped with the remaining compote.

Storage: This fool is best served the day it is made, but any leftovers can be covered with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.