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When I brought in the pumpkin pie last week Tyler said that if I was taking requests that he would like a strawberry-rhubarb next. The only difficulty is that this is not the season for rhubarb; strawberries, are, however, found fresh, imported from more temperate zones. I did, however, find a 1lb. bag (courtesy of Dole) in the frozen fruit section at Woodman's Friday evening when Jen and I went shopping. Pie followed.
I grew up with strawberry-rhubarb pie; it's the perfect mix of sweet-and-tart and a real summer treat. On the northeastern corner of our garden we used to have a patch of rhubarb that grew separate from the other plants; under my window was a row of strawberries.
I bought both frozen rhubarb and frozen strawberries; if I had it to do over, I'd buy fresh(er) berries, which are pretty much guaranteed to be red, whereas in the bags of frozen fruit you find quite a few pale green ones. The bagged rhubarb was already cut into bite-size chunks. I let both thaw and then drained the excess juice/water from the berries. The rhubarb had no excess moisture. I dumped both into a bowl. The one pound bags produced about three cups each of berries and rhubarb.
In a separate bowl I mixed the dry ingredients with a fork. Brown sugar is not a necessity and you can get by with just granulated why sugar, but the brown sugar lends a more distinctive flavor. If your berries are particularly juicy you might want to add an extra tablespoon of cornstarch, perhaps two. A number of recipes call for the same amount of fruit filling but about one and a half cups or more of sugar; I think a strawberry-rhubarb pie should not be syrupy sweet, and that's what you'll get with that much sugar in the filling. Trust the berries to bet sweet enough on their own.
I dumped the sugar mixture over the fruit and tossed the filling with a fork until the sugar had been moistened and absorbed evenly.
I had already prepared a pie crust and layered my trusty tin; I only had to fill the tin and spread the filling evenly.
Instead of applying a standard top crust I decided to use a lattice crust this time. The procedure is surprisingly easy.
Roll out the top crust as usual, aim more for an oval or rectangular shape rather than something circular. This also works best if you roll out the dough on wax paper, since you're going to pull up strips from the counter and reposition them. This way you do not need any extra flour do deal with the stickiness of the dough. Cut the rolled out dough into strips about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch wide and remove every other one, setting them aside (as strips; do not ball them up). One can make the lattice with the dough on the counter as-is, but I recommend shifting the strips a bit closer together.
Fold every other strip half-way back. Lay one of the strips you've set aside the ones left on the counter at the fold. Then fold the folded ones back, fold back the ones that hadn't been folded back, and repeat. Once you reach the edge, do the other side.
Others prefer to weave the lattice on the pie itself, alternating “horizontal” and “vertical” strips, but unless you know what you're doing it's hard to repair mistakes since you're working right on top of the sloppy, messy pie filling.
Once the lattice is finished you can pick it up, still on the wax paper, and turn it over onto the pie. Then cut off the ragged edges, pinch the top crust with the bottom together and flute the edge of the crust with your fingers. Then brush a bit of milk over the top crust to aid in browning during baking. Because of the amount of filling and the relatively open crust, there is likely to be bit of bubbling and boiling over of the filling, so for this pie it makes sense to place a piece of foil on the bottom rack of the oven. if you wish sprinkle the lattice top with granulated sugar.
I then put my pie in the oven and let it bake thirty minutes at the higher temperature then about forty at the lower. When I removed the finished pie from the oven the crust was lightly browned. My oven rack is not completely even, nor is my stove top, and on one side a bit of filling had spilled out and merged with the crust, but I do not see this as a problem; it makes the crust tastier.
Once the pie had cooled a while I covered it with foil and set it aside until I took it in to the department Monday morning on the bus. I had the first slice. The Rhubarb was tender and still a little tart, but far from mushy. The cornstarch and bottom crust had absorbed most of the liquid from the filling and even after slices were taken away the pie retained its shape.
—March 5 2007