I love rhubarb but, by itself, it’s not fantastic. The beauty of rhubarb is how well it goes with other flavors. My orange rhubarb bread is a very good example. Citrus with rhubarb is good in so many dishes. Rhubarb with cinnamon makes a lovely coffee cake. But, in my opinion, the combination of rhubarb and strawberry is a match made in heaven. There is no better example than strawberry rhubarb pie. Tart from the rhubarb and sweet from the berries and sugar, it is pie perfection. That being said, my strawberry rhubarb pies have not quite hit the mark. The filling is usually runny, making the bottom crust soggy. Flour has not worked well as thickener nor has cornstarch. Only once did I add enough cornstarch to thicken the juice but the result was a gummy filling with a cornstarch taste and texture. Rhubarb is in season right now and the season is short. I have a big bag of rhubarb spears in the fridge and two baskets of strawberries as well. I have a culinary emergency of sorts.
I went in search of a solution to the problem. Not surprising, Deb over at Smitten Kitchen had tackled the same issue a couple of years ago. Not interested in reinventing the wheel, I decided to follow her recipe to the letter and see if the pie met my expectations. I decided to try Deb’s pie crust recipe as well. She has already suffered the angst of perfecting pie dough, declaring a couple of versions the best ever, then changing her mind. I burned out on that with my banana bread.
I made the pie crust dough exactly as Deb describes in her pie crust tutorial v. 102. It was tempting to make the dough in the food processor but I fought the urge and used my own hands and a pastry blender. I chilled it as directed and rolled it out. I had the lovely clumps of butter that are necessary for a flaky crust. This crust was so buttery that the cookie sheet I baked the pie on had a layer of melted butter on it when I removed the pie from the oven.
Deb’s solution to the runny filling is the use of quick cooking tapioca in place of flour or cornstarch. I have tried this myself in the past but I used regular tapioca and the beads were still intact and chewy when the pie finished baking. I also took the opportunity to use my new pie bird, another weapon in the fight against leaking filling juices. The idea it that the steam vents through a hole in the top of the pie bird, preventing spillovers. You put the pie bird in before the top crust goes on. I cut a small x in the middle of the top crust for the pie bird to exit.
I also used my new silicone pie shields that keep the edges of the crust from getting too brown. Here is my pie, ready for the oven.
Both the pie bird and the crust shields worked exactly as advertised. There wasn’t a drop of oozing juice on the top crust of my pie and the edges were golden brown, not burned. Now I have to wait a few hours until it is completely chilled to taste it.
The pie has chilled and I have just enjoyed a slice. The tapioca worked great. There was just a little juice when the pie was cut. The fruit was perfectly cooked. It was done, but still firm enough to distinguish between the strawberry and the rhubarb. The crust was very flaky but I have to admit it was a bit tough, especially the bottom crust. I am definitely going to try this recipe again, maybe with less butter.
I loved the tart rhubarb and found this recipe to be just sweet enough. I also love the substitution of lemon for cinnamon. It lent a great brightness that the vanilla would not provided. Guess who is having strawberry rhubarb pie for breakfast. If you have some rhubarb, this pie is definitely worth making.