Friday, June 24, 2011

How Not to Make a Rhubarb Pie

1. Abdicate making pie crust. I have this idea that pie crust is hard to make. (Could it be the Internet foodnoscenti proclaiming "freeze and grate your butter," "use ice water," "don't look at the dough too hard, or it will turn out tough"?) Despite knowing that a seven year old can make pie crust (the Brownie cooking Try-It requires making an apple pie, and my mom scoffed at the handbook's instruction to use a premade pie crust), I still avoid it.

2. Substitute cream cheese for butter. So, I have this recipe for a easy cookie/tartlet crust that I use when I have to fake a (small) pie crust. It calls for 8 ounces of butter and 3 ounces of cream cheese. I had 3 ounces of butter and 8 ounces of cream cheese. I think you can see where this is going.

3. Substitute cake flour for all-purpose (or pastry) for no earthly reason. I can't explain this one. I looked at the baking shelf, saw a few different kinds of flour, and made a dumb choice. To compound the error, I added lots of extra flour, because the dough came out really sticky (see #2). According to this site, the problem is that cake flour doesn't have enough protein to form a workable dough.

4. Switch horses midstream. My original plan was to make individual-size pies in ramekins (for which my faked unrollable cookie/tartlet crust might have worked), but when I saw how much filling I was going to have, I decided to make a full-size pie. The dough was sticky and completely unrollable, which I attribute to a combination of #1, #2, and #3.

5. Omit adding any thickeners. Apparently rhubarb pie often includes flour, cornstarch, or tapioca to thicken the filling. I did not know this when I made my filling. I probably poured a quarter cup of liquid off my pie before putting it in the oven (it sat around macerating for a while before I baked it) and another quarter cup before serving. It was still ... not of a pielike consistency. (Chowhound addresses the issue, and suggests that fresh spring farmer's market rhubarb is more watery than summer rhubarb.)
6. Make a closed-top pie. This wasn't the original plan, but I had a lot of pie dough (see: adding lots of extra flour in #3), so I made a top crust. Michael Ruhlman says you make rhubarb pie either with no top crust or with a lattice so that extra liquid can bubble off. Huh.
7. Don't use a recipe. Many nice rhubarb pie recipes exist in the world. Here's one from Smitten Kitchen. Looking at a picture of a rhubarb pie that your brother's girlfriend posted on Facebook turns out not to be a completely adequate substitute. See #1-6.
8. Turn off the oven midway through pie baking. Not that you would, but our (new, fancy, digital) oven is a little complicated to use. I was sort of distracted when I got up to check the pie and reset the timer halfway through cooking. What can I say?

One thing I did do right? Throw in a big handful of frozen peaches we picked at Smolak Farms last summer. Yum.

I'm too embarrassed to show you what the pie looked like ("crumble" would be charitable), but it was still scarfed up. Vanilla ice cream helped. (I ate the last piece for breakfast the next day, another thing my mom taught me.)

1 comment:

  1. Macerating fruit pie fillings is generally an excellent idea (sometimes I also gently heat the filling to encourage the moisture to come out). All you need to do after the fruit "weeps" is separate the liquid, reduce it into heavy syrup, and add it back to the fruit.