Thursday, May 12, 2011

PIE #25 - Strawberry-Rhubarb Hand Pies

I've reached the halfway point on my fifty pie quest, and I would be remiss if I didn't include a rhubarb pie recipe to pay homage to my father who loved rhubarb. While my mother tended to her vegetable garden each summer, feeding our family a bounty of fresh greens and tubers, my dad focused on his crabapple tree and rhubarb plants. No fault to dear old dad, but crabapples and "rhubarf", as I jokingly named it, don't rank high on my list of delicious edibles. He would pickle the crabapples and spice them with cinnamon which rendered them just barely fit for consumption. With his prolific rhubarb harvest which started in the spring and lasted into the summer, he baked cakes and pies. I recall sticky bits of rhubarb slime in the cakes and pies with a bitter aftertaste despite the loads of sugar in the recipe. My dad, being the purist that he was, never made a rhubarb pie paired with berries that could have tempered the bite of that bitter stalk. If he had, maybe I would have developed an appreciation of it. So with deference to his beloved rhubarb but with consideration of my sensitivity to that nasty vegetable, I offer a strawberry rhubarb pie recipe.

I discovered this recipe in Southern Living magazine. What intrigued me was the crust which is rolled and cut into small circles which encase the fruit filling sandwich style. Because the crust/filling ratio favors more crust to filling, I was hopeful that the rhubarb wouldn't overpower my taste buds. I was right. The strawberries do a wonderful job of keeping the bitter rhubarb in proper submission and the delightfully flaky crust steals the show. Assembling the hand pies takes a little extra time but the end result is a charming plate of bite-sized hand pies with a superb crust and a burst of fruity filling.

3/4 cup finely diced fresh strawberries
3/4 cup finely diced rhubarb
1 tablespoon cornstarch
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
3 teaspoons orange zest, divided
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, cold
1/4 cup shortening, chilled
3 tablespoons ice-cold water
3 tablespoons orange juice
Parchment paper
1 egg yolk, beaten
1 tablespoon whipping cream

Combine strawberries, rhubarb, cornstarch, 2 Tbsp. sugar, and 1 1/2 tsp. orange zest in a small bowl.

Preheat oven to 375°. Combine flour, salt, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a large bowl. Cut in butter and shortening with a pastry blender until mixture resembles small peas. Stir in remaining 1 1/2 tsp. orange zest. Drizzle with ice-cold water and orange juice. Stir with a fork until combined. (Mixture will be crumbly and dry.) Knead mixture lightly, and shape dough into a disk. Divide dough in half.

Roll half of dough to 1/8-inch thickness on a heavily floured surface. (Cover remaining dough with plastic wrap.) Cut with a 2 1/4-inch round cutter, rerolling scraps as needed. Place half of dough rounds 2 inches apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Top with 1 rounded teaspoonful strawberry mixture. Dampen edges of dough with water, and top with remaining dough rounds, pressing edges to seal. Crimp edges with a fork, and cut a slit in top of each round for steam to escape. Repeat procedure with remaining dough and strawberry mixture.

Stir together egg yolk and cream; brush pies with egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar. Freeze pies 10 minutes.

Bake at 375° for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container up to 2 days.

Interesting rhubarb trivia:

Rhubarb is botanically a vegetable; however, a New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used in the United States as a fruit it was to be counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties. A side effect was a reduction in taxes paid.

The word rhubarb comes from the Latin word "rhabarbarum" which means "root of the barbarians." The Romans called people who ate rhubarb "barbarians."

The Chinese cultivated rhubarb as early as 2700 B.C. and used it medicinally as a laxative. The Greeks also harvested the spongy root, dried it, ground it into a powder, and used it as a laxative---the best in the known world. As early as the mid 1500's, it was much more expensive than the cinnamon in France. By the mid 1600's, rhubarb was double the price of opium in England.

Rhubarb root also produces a rich brown dye used for dyeing hair and clothing.

While a rhubarb stalk is edible, its leaves are toxic and can be used to make an environmentally-friendly pesticide.

The word rhubarb is often used by actors in a background scene to simulate real conversation since the word contains no harsh consonants and is difficult to discern by lip readers.

Rhubarb was sometimes given to children to induce vomiting (hence, my nickname of "rhubarf" is not too far-fetched!)

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