Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Recipe

Why This Recipe Works

  • Finely grinding minute tapioca along with granulated sugar and salt makes it simpler to evenly distribute among the many strawberries and rhubarb, serving to it extra successfully take in extra moisture from the fruit.
  • Incorporating strawberry jam into the pie filling helps to accentuate the berry taste with out introducing extra moisture from contemporary berries alone.

Candy, tart, and jammy, strawberry rhubarb pie is the quintessential spring dessert. Come spring and early summer time, I scour the farmers’ marketplace for these vivid crimson rhubarb stalks, able to load the trunk of my automobile with as a lot as I can match. Rhubarb season is fleeting—and the one acceptable transfer is to take full benefit of the second by shopping for kilos and kilos of it to show it into crisps, pickles, compotes, and, after all, pie. 

In idea, making a strawberry rhubarb pie is simple. You chop up your fruit (although I ought to level out that rhubarb is technically a vegetable), toss it with sugar and your thickener of alternative, encase it in pie dough, and bake till effervescent and golden brown.

Critical Eats / Amanda Suarez

The one drawback? Strawberries and rhubarb each have low pectin ranges and quite a lot of moisture—a recipe for a watery, mushy mess, particularly in case you don’t use the proper and quantity of thickener. There are additionally questions of how finest to deal with the fillings. What’s the most effective dimension to chop the strawberry and rhubarb? Do they should be macerated first to attract out moisture? What extra flavorings are good? And what’s a super ratio of strawberries to rhubarb? 

In my try and nail down the proper strawberry rhubarb pie, I baked a dozen, and did additional experiments that zeroed in on a number of the filling variables till I got here up with my ultimate model. I’m speaking a few pie that balances the sweetness of strawberries with the tanginess of rhubarb, with a just-set, barely saucy texture of softened fruit that also holds a few of its form.

The Proper Ratio of Fruit and Dicing Selections

As a result of I wished a flavorful dessert that allowed each the strawberries and rhubarb to shine, I began with a 1:1 ratio by weight of strawberries to rhubarb, each finely diced. What I didn’t understand was simply how a lot water the strawberries would contribute to the pie filling. Even with an satisfactory quantity of thickener, the pies made with equal components strawberries and rhubarb have been invariably too free. You would possibly marvel, why not simply use extra thickener? We may, however merely rising starch till the liquid is thick sufficient solves one drawback whereas creating one other. Stabilizing extra liquid with much more starch leads to a stretchy, slimy filling that—whereas definitely thicker—just isn’t interesting.

With this in thoughts, I adjusted the ratios to scale back water from the strawberries, choosing 2 components rhubarb to 1 half strawberries. As an alternative of a nice cube—which I think uncovered a bit an excessive amount of floor space that allowed extra water to leach out and created a runny filling—I opted for 1/2-inch items. This was the perfect dimension of fruit: massive sufficient for the items to stay distinct, however sufficiently small to melt and cook dinner down right into a barely jammy filling. 

Whereas this mounted the feel drawback, it threw off the flavour stability. I wished the pie to style distinctly like a mixture of strawberries and rhubarb, however now it was too rhubarb-forward. To make up for the lower in contemporary strawberries, I folded in just a few tablespoons of strawberry jam, which helped intensify the berry taste with out contributing any extra water.

Stopping a Runny Filling: What Type and How A lot Thickener Ought to You Use?

Check out most fruit pie recipes, and also you’ll see that they sometimes name for all-purpose flour, cornstarch, potato starch, or tapioca starch as a thickener. It’s because most fruit utilized in pie fillings (suppose berries, stone fruit, or apples) maintain loads of water that’s launched throughout the cooking course of. With no thickener, you’d find yourself with a runny pie—however there’s solely a lot a thickening agent can do that can assist you obtain a just-set filling that’s neither soup nor sludge.

The very best pies—ones with vivid, contemporary fruit taste and a jammy texture—rely upon correct moisture administration, which might be achieved a number of methods. My testing already addressed the ratio of strawberries to rhubarb and the way massive to cube them, however I used to be concurrently tinkering with different variables to zero in on my ultimate taste and texture. A kind of variables: the kind and amount of thickener. As I wrote above, extra thickener doesn’t remedy all issues. With the intention to get my filling to work, I needed to not solely swap up the ratio of fruit but additionally experiment with a distinct type of thickening agent. 

Critical Eats / Amanda Suarez

I had began off utilizing tapioca starch, former Critical Eats editor Stella Parks’ preferred pie thickener, which units fruit fillings with out changing into overly gloppy. I used 5.5% of the overall weight of fruit, Stella’s recommended amount of starch. However even after lowering the quantity of contemporary strawberries in my filling, it nonetheless wasn’t fairly sufficient to soak up the quantity of liquid unleashed by them. After I elevated the quantity of starch to six%, the filling managed to someway be each too free and too gelatinous, underscoring the purpose that merely including extra thickener wasn’t going to be the only real answer to the issue.

Curious to see if there have been every other choices for thickening pie filling, I observed many recipes known as for minute, or quick-cooking, tapioca pearl fragments. My first try with minute tapioca resulted in what considered one of my neighbors described as a “tapioca boba pie scenario,” with little pearls nestled among the many fruit. Cute? Sure. Scrumptious? Sure. However not precisely what I used to be going for.

Minute tapioca comes coarsely floor within the bundle, making it a bit more durable to evenly distribute among the many fruit. I puzzled: what would occur if I floor it up in a meals processor with the granulated sugar and salt? Somewhat fussy, maybe, however the ensuing filling was precisely the feel I used to be in search of: simply set however jammy sufficient to barely ooze out of the pie when lower into. Grinding the minute tapioca appeared to hit a candy spot, texture-wise, that tapioca starch wasn’t. As an alternative of the gluey gel created by tapioca starch, floor minute tapioca managed to set the filling’s juices in a extra nice, much less stretchy approach (this might have one thing to do with the relative fineness of the grind; tapioca starch is a fair finer powder than minute tapioca floor in a meals processor).

To Macerate or To not Macerate?

In my ongoing query to handle moisture whereas preserving the contemporary and fruity character of the filling, I additionally wished to search out out whether or not macerating the strawberries and rhubarb first may be a good suggestion. By tossing the fruit with sugar and/or a liquid like lemon juice or alcohol, water is drawn out by way of osmosis, which concurrently removes extra water whereas softening the fruit and concentrating its taste. 

Critical Eats / Amanda Suarez

Some recipes name for incorporating the macerating liquid again into the filling, however macerating 8 cups of fruit gave me about 1 1/2 cups of liquid—which is so much so as to add again right into a pie. Discarding the juices, although, would result in a lack of beneficial taste and in addition a much less constant utility of sugar within the filling, since a few of it could go down the drain with the juices. I made a decision to scale back the liquid by half to kind a syrup, after which fold it again into the filling, within the hopes it could intensify the fruitiness of the pie whereas eradicating undesirable moisture. The ensuing pie was scrumptious, however macerating the strawberries and rhubarb with sugar broke down an excessive amount of of its construction and led to a mushy filling as soon as cooked. 

What labored finest was permitting the fruit to sit down with the sugar and the finely floor minute tapioca for 15 to half-hour earlier than baking, which provides the starch time to hydrate and take in any extra liquid earlier than the warmth of the oven attracts much more out.

The Flavorings

I seasoned my first few pies with lemon juice and zest, however paired with the pure tang of rhubarb, the filling was a contact too sharp. Looking for one thing extra delicate, I attempted a wide range of flavorings, together with lemon juice, orange juice, and rosewater.

Critical Eats / Amanda Suarez

I in the end opted for vanilla paste, which lends a fragile, floral aroma that enhances the sweetness of the strawberries and tartness of the rhubarb. If you do not have vanilla paste, you’ll be able to substitute with equal components vanilla extract. It gained’t be as concentrated in taste as vanilla paste, however will do the trick. When you have some helpful, one other nice choice is elderflower syrup, which has a vivid, effervescent, and floral high quality.

Baking and Cooling the Pie

With the filling found out, all that’s left is baking. It is best to set the assembled pie within the freezer for quarter-hour earlier than baking (not together with the 15 to half-hour of macerating time), which not solely permits the gluten within the dough to loosen up, however retains the butter chilly for the crispiest, flakiest layers. (You possibly can learn extra about it in Stella’s pie crust recipe.)

Which brings us to what stands out as the most tough a part of this whole course of: After you’ve baked the pie, you’ll have to permit it to totally cool, a course of that may take as much as 4 hours. Although it’s possible you’ll be tempted to slice into the pie as quickly because it comes out of the oven (and even inside the first hour), it’s important that the pie cools so the filling can set. After this a lot effort to handle moisture and excellent the filling, it is a disgrace to observe it flood the pie plate.

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