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Rhubarb Pie

This is from Amber’s blog, http://livejournal.com/users/sesara.

So, I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had time to tell you about all the fun cooking I’ve been doing - buttercreams, artichoke pastas, all that fun stuff. But, since Monday is one of my favorite co-worker’s birthday, we’re celebrating today and I made her a rhubarb custard pie. I will give you the secrets - this is my family recipe after all - but you have to make it sometime, it is truly fabulous.

So first, the crust. I get my crust recipes from whatever cookbook seems like a good idea at the time. So, for this crust, which is a double batch:

Note: Vegetable shortening is made with trans-fats; hence, I hate using it and won’t unless I have to. I therefore prefer to make an all butter crust. However, unless you have some practice making crust, I would recommend you use the vegetable shortening at least a few times first, because it does make the crust a lot easier to work with.

So, I am not going to go into a by-hand recipe. Buy a food processor. It’s better. All crusts are best with food processors. Pastry is best with food processors. Get a cheap one, I don’t care, but never tell me that making crust with a hand held pastry cutter is better. The secret of making pastry is getting the butter in without completely mixing it into the flour. When you have little chunks of butter in a pastry crust, they melt during baking, leaving tiny holes which give crust its wonderful flaky texture. Butter gets warm and starts melting into the flour much too fast when mixing by hand. I can’t stress this enough.

Onward. Freeze your butter. You can do this before or after cutting it into smaller chunks (about 3/4 inch thickness is good, but a little thinner will work to. This will allow it to stay firm for longer when you add the water, keeping it from melting into the flour. If the butter was room temperature, freeze it for at least 15 minutes. If it was already frozen (I usually keep all but a stick of butter in the freezer), wait until the next step to cut it up.

So, add all your dry ingredients into the food processor and pulse it a few times to mix them well. Now, if you haven’t chopped your frozen butter, chop it into small chunks (too large and they won’t break up properly) and add them directly to the food processor. If you pre-chopped your butter, take it out of the freezer and add. Either way, pulse the food processor about 10 times for about 2 seconds each. Stop when the flour reaches the consistence of coarse cornmeal. You don’t want to go beyond that or the bits of butter will be too small and melt before you bake the crust.

At this point, remove the mixture from the food processor into a mixing bowl. Add most of your ice water, reserving a few tablespoons, and mix with your hands just until moistened. If you need more water to achieve this, add it. Do make sure to add enough water that the dough is thoroughly moistened - otherwise, it will fall apart when you try to roll it. Don’t add too much water past that point, or it will become sticky and - you guessed it - fall apart when you try to roll it. However, the latter is better than the former, because it’s just easier to add a little flour to dry the dough back to the proper consistency.

Now that you have your dough, wrap it in plastic wrap, shape it into a disc (or two if you are making a double batch) and refrigerate it for at least an hour, preferably two. This will allow for three important things. First, the butter will cool, so that it will be less likely to melt while you are rolling it, hence increasing the flaky texture. Second, the water will distribute evenly throughout the flour, leading to a more uniformly textured dough. Last, the gluten in the dough will relax. Trust me, you do not want stretchy dough when you are trying to roll it. Allowing the gluten to relax will make the rolling oh so simple.

Once your dough has properly chilled and rested, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Here is the pie recipe:

It’s pretty simple. Wash your rhubarb stalks. Chop the stalks into pieces about 1 inch thick and measure out 4 cups. Add your dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Mix your three eggs until just smooth; add them to the dry ingredients and mix until just moistened. Add the rhubarb and toss until it is well coated.

Take out your pie crust and roll it out and put it in the pan. Roll out your other crust. Add the rhubarb to the pie pan. Slice your crust into long strips about 1/2 inch in width. Place 5-6 of these in one direction, folding them back on themselves to almost the end of the pie. Weave over and under another 5-6 strips, forming a latticework pie crust on top.

Pop it in the oven for 50 minutes or until the crust and top are browned.

Mmmm….pie…