Where I come from, the first thing to show up at the market is rhubarb, not strawberries. So as temptingly spring-like as a strawberry rhubarb pie might sound, if I were to make one now, it would be with strawberries flown in from a faraway place.
Besides, why mess with rhubarb? Have you had it on its own? It's edgy, indeed. Sour and bright, it needs some sweetness, but not too much.
Here's a pie with a simple buttery crust and rhubarb, barely sugared. It's topped with an almond-y crumble crust. No funky spices or wacky herbs, no secret ingredients. Just a pure rhubarb pie.
I made it yesterday to celebrate finishing the manuscript for The Kitchn cookbook and to celebrate spring. Though it felt like I hadn't been out in days, my pie cooled on the fire escape as happy city folk frolicked below and I hammered away at my laptop. I could hear people below talking about the scent. I was sending them gifts and they, too, were connecting me to their joy. It was an unbelievable scene.
Don't wait for strawberries. It's May and it's time to celebrate. Make pie now.
Rhubarb Crumble Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie
1 recipe prepared All-Butter Pie Crust (recipe below) or any favorite recipe for a single-crust 9-inch pie
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup finely chopped almonds or almond meal
1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
4 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter (cut into small pieces)
1 3/4 pounds (about 6 cups) fresh rhubarb, ends trimmed, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lightly packed lemon zest
2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot
Whipped cream or crème fraîche for serving
Roll the prepared pie dough out into a 13-inch circle. Roll the dough carefully over the rolling pin and transfer it to a 9-inch the pie plate. Tuck the dough into the bottom and sides of the plate. Snip the dough hanging over the edge leaving a 1-inch overhang. Fold this dough under itself and crimp the edges to seal, in a decorative pattern if desired. Chill the pie shell in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk the flour, almonds, brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. With your hands or a pastry blender, work in the butter until the dry ingredients are incorporated into the butter and large clumps form. Cover and place in the refrigerator.
Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven, place a large sheet of foil on the bottom of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375°F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the rhubarb, sugar, cornstarch and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss well to evenly coat the rhubarb with the dry ingredients. Transfer this mixture to the chilled pie shell.
Scatter the crumble mixture evenly over the top of the pie.
Place the pie in the oven. Bake until the topping is bubbling and the crust is browned, about one hour. If the crust browns too quickly, cover loosely with foil. Cool completely before serving.
Serve with whipped cream or a dollop of crème fraîche.
All-Butter Pie Crust
1 1/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2-4 tablespoons ice water
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, salt, and sugar several times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter on top and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal, with a few larger pieces. It's better to err on the side of caution and not over-process.
Add 2 tablespoons ice water and pulse until dough holds together when pinched. If necessary, add another tablespoon of water. You may need up to 4 tablespoons of water to reach the desired consistency. Pulse as little as possible — do not process so long that the dough forms into a ball.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Shape the dough into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or freeze for up to 3 months.
(Images: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan)
Pan from Kaufmann Mercantile.