Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

It is FINALLY farmer’s market season here in Boston. Like me, I am sure that many of you didn’t think the day would ever come!!

I hit up the Harvard Square Market yesterday morning.  I was on a mission for strawberries and rhubarb, I was craving pie.  I arrived a little early and it was a good thing – the only stand that had strawberries was Kimball’s Fruit Farm and they only had about 15 pints!! After being told that I could not collect merchandise before the “open” bell rang, I hovered around and I waited not so patiently.  It was a good strategy, I left with 2 pints of cute little strawberries and 2 pounds of lovely looking rhubarb.
A common kitchen saying is “what grows together, goes together.” And I sure am glad that strawberries grow with rhubarb.  I have always, always, loved strawberries. There was never any question as to my ability to enjoy them in any and all forms.  Rhubarb, however, is a different story.  I was familiar with it as the “boundary” to my grandfather’s garden.  Papa Henry, as he is known to me, my sister and four cousins, is an excellent gardener.  Growing up he had an expansive garden and in the very back furthest from the house, grew the rhubarb, next to the potatoes.  On warm, early summer nights as games of tag and hide and seek would have us exploring all reaches of our grandparent’s property, we could hear the grownups yelling, “don’t go past the rhubarb”.  It’s big  green leaves and pink stems did not look nearly as enticing as red, juicy strawberries.
I have said before, as I have gotten older, my palette has matured.  I encountered rhubarb in most of the kitchens that I worked in and began to appreciate it as its own flavor, without strawberries.  Working at a restaurant and therefore being a slave to the New England growing season, I quickly learned that it was tough to actually pair the two in a dessert.  With such little access to local and fresh produce all winter, I was ecstatic to have two new ingredients to work with.  I preferred to let each ingredient to be featured in its own dessert.
The goal of making the pie was to create something that allowed both of the fruit to shine.  I think that the reason these two garden favorites pair so well, is because of the contrast – bitter rhubarb with sweet strawberries. I often find strawberry rhubarb pies to be too sweet.  I held back on the amount of sugar that I mixed with the fruit, opting to add vanilla bean and a little citrus juice to balance the flavors. I always put crumb topping on my pies and that helps to bring in some sweetness as well.
I also played around with a whole wheat pie crust.  My “go to” recipe is Dorie Greenspan’s Good For Everything Pie Crust, but this time I substituted whole wheat pastry flour for the all purpose.  It worked wonderfully, and added just a little bit of hearty flavor to the crust without sacrificing texture.  Her recipe calls for a little bit of vegetable shortening along with unsalted butter which I am not opposed to using – mom and Grandma Ryan use all shortening!!! The final result was delicious.  I modified the recipe and increased the amount of flour I added in with the filling, since it seemed a little juicy.
The women at the market said that I was getting the first of the strawberry crop and they would have more next weekend provided we get some sun – the forecast is calling for sun and 90 degree weather the rest of the week.  I suggest getting up early this weekend and getting to the market!!!

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Pie

Whole Wheat Crust (Follow this recipe, substituting whole wheat pastry flour for all purpose, as stated above)
Fruit Filling
2 Lbs fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/4-1/2 inch slices
1 1/2 pints fresh strawberries, sliced or halved depending on the size
1/3 cup sugar
3 Tbsp all purpose flour
seeds from 1/2 of a vanilla bean
2 Tbsp orange juice
(THE BEST) Crumb Topping
(adapted from The Last Course)
1 1/4 whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup toasted, chopped pecans
1/2 cup of sugar
1/ cup brown sugar (dark or light is fine)
1/2 tsp Penzy’s “Baking Spice”
8 Tbsp of melted unsalted butter (cooled to room temp)
Preheat oven for 375 degrees. Roll out chilled pie dough and fit into a 9 inch pie plate.  Chill for 15 min in freezer.  Blind bake for 20 min.
Mix ingredients for fruit filling and stir well, add to pie crust.  Using a fork drizzle melted butter into the dry ingredients for the topping.  Keep mixing till crumbs form and all the butter is added.  Evenly spoon over fruit and return pir to the oven.  Bake until fruit is bubbly and crust is browned, about 40 minutes.
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  1. Kate

     /  June 7, 2011

    I have to admit…I had strawberry rhubard pie this past weekend…but your crust looks soooo much better!

  2. I’m here in Toronto…and rhubarb is just ready! (Strawberries…maybe later in the month). But we can get out-of-province berries or use frozen ones from last summer. You’ve made me start dreaming of PIE!

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