Rhubarb Pie

rhubarb pie

Spring has sprung! Spring has sprung! Seattle is set to have its first 70 degree day tomorrow. Today was close, and it felt like heaven. Walking down to the train station, Loretta said, "I wish there were no clouds in the sky." I said, "I don't care. I don't care about anything else except this sun, shining down on us right now, and our trip to the farmer's market."

And I care about rhubarb. I always have. Growing up, we had a huge patch growing in our alley. My sister and I would take the sugar bowl out there, dip the ends, and suck to our hearts' content. Then there were my mom's rhubarb custard pies, rhubarb sauce, and the novelty of even knowing what it was in the 1980's. I can't believe it's $4/lb at the market. Mine--beautiful, bright red, unmarred--came from MacPherson's produce (and the back of someone's truck), and was under $2/lb. Do not get me started on how much I will miss that blessed, imperfect place. 

I'm going to make myself unpopular and say I'm tired of the strawberry-rhubarb combo. I've never felt rhubarb needs to share the spotlight with anything else, least of all strawberries, which don't come into season until six weeks later. Who needs those strawberries?! Not you and me. Just these bright, fat stalks, a little spring sunshine, and a light touch with the pastry dough. Gift after gift.

Rhubarb Pie
Again, my favorite quick-and-easy all-butter crust. If you don't have a food processor, you can definitely use your fingertips or a pastry cutter. Just make sure not to overwork the dough. And I've given pie tips here if you're interested.

Recipe and instructions for this pie crust (must prepare at least 30 minutes in advance)
10 c. 1/2" diced rhubarb
1 c. sugar
1/2. c. brown sugar
1/2 c. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla

Prepare pie dough. Roll out one of the discs and line a deep 9" pie plate with it.

Preheat oven to 425. Combine diced rhubarb, sugars, cornstarch, salt, and vanilla. Pour into prepared pie plate and spread it out evenly. Roll out the second disc of dough, lay it over the rhubarb, trim the overhang to 1/2", and then fold it under the fruit. Crimp the edges and cut three 1" slits in the middle of the pie for steam to escape.

Cook at 435 for 12-15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and cook for about 40 minutes more, until fruit is soft, juices are bubbling a bit, and crust is golden. If you have a temperamental oven, you might need to cover the crust edges with foil in its last minutes of cooking to avoid over-browning.

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie

You know--the classic Thanksgiving dessert--key lime pie? This pie has saved me a million times. It is too easy to even talk about. Going on and on, trying to convince you of its simplicity, would be more complicated than you just getting out a can of sweetened condensed milk and making it already.

I made a Thanksgiving dinner for our foursome last night, which is a newish tradition I've inflicted on myself. We are always (thankfully) with large, rowdy groups on Thanksgiving, and I'm part of the potluck like everyone else, bringing salad, rolls, sometimes dessert or appetizers. But because of travel, never the turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, or yams. Yancey will be working at the station this Thanksgiving, so I wanted to have a little celebration together before the ol' Divide and Conquer sets in. I had planned on not making a dessert, but just couldn't go through with Thanksgiving dinner without pie.

Enter Key Lime Pie. 20 minutes, plus some chill time in the fridge, and just the thing to brighten a dark day. Wyatt juiced limes, I whizzed graham crackers in the food processor, and my trusty pantry supplied sweetened condensed milk.

After dinner, full of blistered brussel sprouts, a classic sausage and apple stuffing, and very buttery mashed potatoes, we cut the pie. I'm not accustomed to eating when I am so full. It's that bloated, strangely comforting"It must be Thanksgiving" feeling. I won't wish you "Happy Thanksgiving" yet, because I plan on posting again before then. There are too many things to be thankful for--they get their own airtime.

Key Lime Pie
Adapted from Gourmet. Of course, my version doesn't have key limes in it. I used Persian (regular) limes like I always have.

For crust:
1 1/4 c. graham cracker crumbs (from nine standard size crackers, or one of the 3 pkgs in the box)
2 Tb. sugar
5 Tb. unsalted butter, melted

For filling:
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
6 Tb. fresh lime juice

For topping:

3/4 c. very cold heavy cream
1 Tb. sugar
zest from 1/2 lime

Make the crust: Put a rack in the middle of hte oven and preheat to 350. Butter a 9" pie plate.

Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl with a fork until well-combined. Press crumb mixture evenly onto bottom and 1/2 way up sides of pie plate. Bake for 10 minutes, take out of the oven, and leave the oven on.

Make the filling and bake the pie: Whisk together condensed milk and yolks in a bowl until well-combined. Add juice and whisk well (filling will thicken slightly). Pour filling into crust and bake for 15 minutes. Cool completely and put into the fridge for at least 4 hours.

Just before serving, whip the cream and sugar together until it just holds stiff peaks. Spread pie with cream or top each serving with a dallop and a bit of lime zest.

Note: If you want to make this ahead of time (1 or 2 days), don't put the cream on it. Do that right before you serve it.

Apple Vanilla Slab Pie

Apple Slab Pie

My parents came down to watch the kids last weekend because Yancey and I both had to be gone overnight for work. It's pretty hard to overstate how much it means to me that they will drop what they're doing (neither of them are retired), drive down here, and save me repeatedly. The very least I can do is have something delicious they can snack on.

I hit the ball out of the park with this addictive number.  A flaky rectangular crust, folded onto itself around Golden Delicious apples, drizzled with icing after it's cooled. The crust-to-fruit ratio was much more to my liking than the traditional shape, and you can eat it with your hands--i.e. if you've got your bag and flip charts in one hand, the other is being pulled by your preschooler to exclaim over her tower of blocks, you can still manage to shove this in your grateful mouth. I ate it for breakfast, of course.

The apples came from Sarah and Dan's tree--small, imperfect Golden Delicious that had an absolutely fabulous flavor. I've also made apple crisp and applesauce this week. My kids have started begging for something other than an apple for snack. Let autumn come.

Golden Delicious

Apple Vanilla Slab Pie
Adapted from a recipe for brandied apricot slab pie in Fine Cooking. I know I've eschewed Crisco before on this blog. Please take almost everything I say about food as a TEMPORARY opinion, always subject to change. All-butter crusts are still my default, but, oh my.  Flakiness Central here. You definitely need to refrigerate it for at least 90 minutes before rolling it out. I found getting a rectangular shape was much less forgiving than a round one, and had to patch things up a bit. In the end, the patching didn't affect the final product at all (especially with your friend Icing to cover imperfections). And this crust recipe makes a bit more than you'll need, but that's good--to make a rectangle, you'll need to trim the edges anyway. You could definitely use Granny Smith apples here, but I really love the vanilla-like sweetness of good Golden Delicious. And that there's no cinnamon in this pie. Gives it a whole different flavor. And one more thing--the photo is only HALF of what this recipe makes--it fits just barely on a standard baking sheet.

For dough:
3 1/2 c. flour
3 Tb. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. (2 cubes) + 2 Tb. cold unsalted butter, cut into 18 pieces
3 Tb. cold vegetable shortening, cut into 3 pieces
1/3 c. ice-cold water

For filling:
4-5 c. thinly sliced Golden Delicious apples (about 8 small or 6 medium-large)
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tb. flour

For assembly:
1 egg
1/2 c. sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 Tb. heavy cream or whole milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

To make the dough:
Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and vegetable shortening and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 10 to 12 pulses. Sprinkle 1/3 c. cold water over the mixture and pulse until the dough just starts to come together, 8 to 10 pulses more. If the mixture seems dry, add more water 1 tsp. at a time. Do not overprocess.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and gather it into a rectangle that's about 8 by 12 inches. Flatten slightly, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

To make the filling:
Combine thinly sliced apples with sugar, flour, and vanilla. Gently mix.

To assemble and bake:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 375. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment. In a small bowl, beat the egg with 1 tsp. water.

On a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dought into a 1/8" thick, 12x18 inch rectangle. Be sure to loosen the dough several times and reflour underneath so it doesn't stick. Trim the dough into an 11x16" rectangle and transfer it back to the baking sheet. Turn the baking sheet so that a long side faces you, and brush the edges of the dough with the egg wash. Spread the apple filling evenly over the bottom half of the dough, leaving a 1/2" border. Fold the top half of the dough over the filling, pressing along the edges to secure the sides. Press lightly along the edges with the back of a fork to seal. Brush egg wash all over the top of the dough. Using a paring knife, cut 5 small steam vents in the dough at about 3-inch intervals.

Bake until the pie is golden brown, 45-55 minutes. Cool completely.

In a small bowl, mix the powdered sugar, cream, and vanilla to form a smooth glaze that's just fluid enough to drizzle. With a spoon, drizzle the glaze over the top of the pie. Allow to set at least 2 hours before serving.