Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Rhubarb raspberry pie

For me, baking is therapy. If I need to work through something bothering me, or just forget about it for a while, I find myself in the kitchen. There's a particular level of problem you're working through with a pie. Especially the kind with a lattice crust. Though the individual components are all easy enough, there's a process involved. 

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, l love pie. Every trip I've ever taken to the United States features some photo of me looking ridiculously happy in a diner with a piece of pie in front of me. I'm particularly partial to berry pies but somehow am always suckered in by cherry, even though they inevitably disappoint - gloopy and oversweet. But the colour! It calls me. The solution to perfect pie lies in this combination of rhubarb and raspberry. Brilliant red, both sweet and tart simultaneously. Stupendous.

Don't be deterred by the difficulty implied in the lattice crust. It's just a little fiddly is all, and if you want to simplify things, just plonk the second bit of pastry on top and call it a day. It will still taste just as good and look incredible. In the end, you will not only have achieved greatness (even the most imperfect pie is still wonderful), you get to feed friends. And yourself. And feel better.

Rhubarb raspberry pie
Adapted from The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book by Emily Elsen and Melissa Elsen

The recipe below uses American measurements. The only difference worth noting is in tablespoon size. If using Australian tablespoons, you probably only need 2 tablespoons of arrowroot. You could also use cornflour if you don't have any on hand. Similarly, you could substitute any sugar for the Demerara sprinkled on top but the coarser the better. Texture is what you're after here, not taste.

1 lb fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 cups raspberries (I used frozen, which were fine)
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp ground arrowroot 
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp sea/coarse/Kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp regular)
1 large egg
Dash Angostura bitters (optional)
egg wash (I large egg whisked with 1 tsp water and pinch of salt)
Demerara sugar, for sprinkling on top 

Crust (can be made in advance)
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp sea/coarse/Kosher salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 lb (8 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup cold water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cup ice

First make the crust.

Stir flour, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture using a bench scraper or spatula. With a pastry blender (you could also use your fingertips) cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly til mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain. A few larger pieces are okay - be careful not to overblend.

Combine water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large measuring cup or small bowl. Sprinkle two tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture and mix and cut it in with a bench scraper or spatula til it is fully incorporated. Add more of the ice water mixture, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, and mix til the dough comes together into a ball, with some dry bits remaining. Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more small drops of the ice water mixture, if necessary, to combine. Divide dough in half, shape each into a flat disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour or preferably overnight.

Now, the pie.

Take both discs of dough out of the fridge. You will need to let them chill out for a bit before rolling. My mistake in the past has always been to try to roll them out too soon, which results in cracks and frustration. So wait. Make a cup of tea. Be patient. When the dough gives way under the rolling pin without fighting you, you're on.

Roll one disc of dough out and use it to line a well-greased pie tin. Roll the other out into a similar sized disc on a piece of baking paper. Cut into strips (or leave intact if not bothering with lattice), transfer onto a baking tray and put both base and top in the fridge to chill.

Combine rhubarb, raspberries, both sugars, arrowroot, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt in a large bowl and toss together. Stir in egg and bitters. Pour the filling into the chilled pastry shell, arrange the lattice on top. Rather than me try to explain this to you, check out this handy tutorial. If not bothering with the lattice, drape second bit of pastry over the top of the pie, seal edges and slash a couple of steam vents in the top with a knife.

Chill pie in the fridge 10 to 15 minutes to set the pastry. Meanwhile, position oven racks in the bottom and centre positions. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack and preheat the oven to 425 deg F.

Brush pastry with the egg wash to coat, being careful not to drag the filling onto the pastry (it will burn). Sprinkle with Demerera sugar.

Place pie on the baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is set and beginning to brown. Lower oven temperature to 375 deg F, move  pie to the centre oven rack and continue to bake til the pastry is a deep golden brown and the jucies are bubbling throughout, about 30-35 minutes longer.

Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2-3 hours. 

Serve at room temperature, slightly warmed, or straight from the fridge with cream or ice-cream.

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