6 June 2011

Strawberry & Rhubarb Pie - why haven't I made this before now?

I'm posting about this marvellous pie now, out of sequence, owing to the clamour that is going on via Twitter, for the recipe.  :)

It really was a fabulous pie - and although I've never been to America, nor had an American pie, it seemed to answer the description (and match the photographs) of a good deep-filled American pie.

I've been asked on Facebook (where I am "Jenny Davies" if anyone wants to find me) what motivated the pie.  It's a good question, because it's not a combination of fruits that we have really considered using, here in the U.K.  All of which gives you a clue about where the inspiration came from.  I had done a blog posting involving rhubarb, which set off a chain of reactions from those friends in the USA, who were all saying "Oh, I love rhubarb, but in a strawberry & rhubarb pie" - so, inevitably, I asked what was so special about this pie.  The answer was "it's not something that's easy to express, but you'll know once you've had one".  So, of course, I promised myself that once strawberries were in season and £1 a punnet (they were £2.50 a punnet at the time), I'd indulge.

All done and ready for baking
That time is now, and the pie has been made.  I can confirm that the sweetness of the strawberries offsets the tartness of the rhubarb and the two flavours go so well together (with the aid of a little lemon zest, lemon juice and cinnamon), that the pie is a "mmmnnnn..." and "ooooh.." and "mmhmmnff...." of pleasure, experience.  The rhubarb stays in it's pieces and doesn't disintegrate to mush and the strawberries are very definitely strawberries, having resisted the urge to disintegrate to their own class of mush, also.  The three tablespoons of sugar was very definitely enough to sweeten the rhubarb and enhance the strawberries.

Just out of the oven - see the juice escaping from the top?
The interesting thing is, that because you don't part-bake the base of the pie (it's an "under and over" type of crust) and you don't cook the fruit prior to adding it to the pie, the bottom crust has a chance to cook whilst the strawberries & rhubarb are still thinking about releasing their juice.  By the time they do release that lovely juice, the bottom crust is cooked.  Magic.  Nobody likes a pie with a soggy bottom.

A quick word about pastry.  Because I don't have a lot of energy in my own personal tank and I was also cooking a shoulder of pork, I opted for shop-bought frozen shortcrust pastry in this instance.  However, there's no reason why you should do this if you don't want to.  By all means make your own shortcrust pastry - you'll need enough to cover the base of the pie dish and provide a top for your pie.

You want a spoon, don't you - go on, admit it.
Oh, and another quick word about quantities.  I had five 9 inch long sticks of rhubarb and a punnet of strawberries - and the lot went in.  I cut the rhubarb into pieces of around a centimeter or half an inch long and the largest of the strawberries I sliced in half.  I piled the fruit into the pie dish until I had a mini-mountain going on - and so long as you've got enough pastry to fit over the top, I see no reason not to.  After all, you won't get a deep-filled pie, unless you heap the goodies in!

11.09.13 : Edited to tell you about some changes I've made to the recipe.

The first is that I have been to part-baking the bottom layer of pastry.  Yes, it takes a little bit longer, but it does ensure that the bottom of your pie stays crisply baked.

I have also, once part-baked, brushed a light coating of egg yolk (the same egg wash as you use for the top) onto the bottom layer of pastry while it is still hot.  This sets and renders the lower pastry juice-proof.

Because of the quantity of juice that this pie delivers, I experimented with various remedies.  The one which worked the best - and which I shall adopt henceforth - is to toss the fruit in a spoonful or two of cornflour.  As the fruit cooks and releases its juice the juice mixes with the cornflour, which when heated then thickens.  This serves to stop your pie from becoming too wet - and ultimately keeps your lovely crisp pastry from becoming all soggy.  It works like a charm and you don't notice the cornflour at all.  Perfect!

These changes have been reflected in the updated recipe below.


Ingredients :

Pack of frozen shortcrust pastry (I used the ready-rolled rounds)
4-5 sticks of rhubarb (or as much as you can cram in), cut into 1cm pieces
a punnet of strawberries, hulled and any big ones sliced in half
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1-2 tbsp cornflour
half a tsp of cinnamon
half a lemon, zested and juiced
1 egg yolk
a tsp of granulated sugar as decoration.

Method :

1.  Pre-heat your oven to 180deg C (fan). 

2.  Take one of the rounds of ready-made pastry and, if necessary, roll it out to fit the pie dish.  Place it in the dish and leave the excess flopping over the edge which will ensure that the pastry won't shrink back from the edges of the pie dish.

3.  Place a layer of greaseproof paper or baking parchment on top of the pastry and fill with baking beans.  Bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes.

4.  While the pastry bakes, place the two fruits, sugar (except the tsp for decoration), cornflour, cinnamon, lemon zest and juice into a bowl and mix to combine.

5.  As soon as you have removed the pastry from the oven, remove the paper and the baking beans and set them aside somewhere safe to cool.  Brush a light coating of the egg yolk onto the pastry while it is still hot.

6.  Pile the fruit into the be-pastried pie dish and arrange into a neat mountain.

7.  Brush egg yolk around the pastry edge.

8.  Take the second round of pastry and roll out (if necessary) to ensure it is big enough to fit over the fruit so that the top and bottom edges meet and cut a small cross into the centre of the round.  Place on top of the pie and very gently make sure the edges meet.

9.  Using a small sharp knife tease out the cross in the centre, to create a hole for steam to escape.  Then press the tip of the knife into the pastry all around the edge, forming a decorative pattern that serves to seal the edges of the pie.

10.  Taking a sharp knife, trim the excess pastry away.

11.  I always place my pie onto a foil covered baking sheet, just in case the juice decides to overflow whilst cooking.  It's easier to throw away some silver foil, than clean your oven!

12.  Brush the top of your pie with the remainder of the egg yolk to glaze and add the teaspoon of sugar, sprinkled over, to make it look yummy.  Bake for around 25 minutes, then turn to ensure an even bake.  Continue baking for another 15 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and evenly golden.

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