Monday, July 10, 2023

Rhubarb-Apple Lattice Pie

Shredded apples (peel and all) not only add fruity notes to the filling, but contain pectin which helps thicken it. The result is an easy to slice but not gloopy pie ready for your next backyard bbq!

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It's been a hot minute since I dabbled in pastry  quite frankly, I don't have the patience to coax together a perfectly flaky crust any more, and the people who would enjoy such a treat are few and far between now. However, I did have the opportunity to pay a few visits to a friend with a distinct love for rhubarb pie this year - and how could I not indulge that possibility? 

Luckily, the backyard rhubarb was - and is - prolific this year. We have (at last count) 4 rhubarb plants in the garden, each exploding into a mess of foliage every year. I'm the only one who actually uses the rhubarb, oddly enough, and what better way to celebrate this often ignored ingredient than in my annual pie?

That said, rhubarb-only pie has a set of things that need to be addressed for it to be fit for the dessert table. The first (and most obvious) is that fresh rhubarb is tart - great in, say, chutney, but not alone in a dessert. The next is the fact that rhubarb is essentially sour celery. It's stringy because of the cellulose fibres that give it structure, and it's filled with water. Ignore those elements and you wind up with dental floss soup in a pie crust. Appetizing, right?

 The approach I took in order to combat all three considerations while keeping the rhubarb front and centre was multi-fold. The easiest one was the tartness, obviously - but to add some complexity to the sweetness I used a mix of plain granulated and dark brown sugars. The brown sugar gave me the inspiration to tackle the liquid issue as well. In addition to using tapioca starch (my go-to thickener for pie, since it's freezer-stable) I decided to shred apples, peel and all, into the rhubarb mixture. The apple's pectin, combined with the sugar and the heat of the oven, also aided in the thickening of the filling. The stringiness of the rhubarb turned out to be a non-issue, since the pieces were chopped fairly small but the cellulose was also somewhat softened by the overnight sit in the sugar.

This is not a quick pie to make, since you need to let the filling stand for 12 hours (which also lets you chill your pie dough appropriately), it bakes for an hour, then has to set for another 8 hours before serving. I 100% promise it is worth it though - and if you're feeling energetic enough to make enough pie dough these freeze well both unbaked and baked. Don't want to fuss with a lattice (you can see my amazing weave work above haha)? No problem - just pop a full crust lid on top and poke 5-6 slits in the top for ventilation.

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Rhubarb-Apple Lattice Pie

Serves 12
enough dough for a 9" deep-dish pie (double crust)
18 oz fresh rhubarb, cleaned and diced into 1/2" pieces
2 large apples (I suggest Granny Smith or Pink Lady), peel on, shredded coarsely
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp honey
pinch nutmeg
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten with1 tbsp water, for egg wash 
  1. In a large, non-metallic bowl, combine the rhubarb, apples, sugars, honey and nutmeg, stirring well.
  2. Cover with plastic and let sit at room temperature overnight.
  3. Heat the oven to 375F. Line a deep-dish 9" pie pan with pastry, reserving the rest for a top (lattice, full cover, or other of your choosing).
  4. Strain the rhubarb mixture, pressing on the fruit and catching the liquid in a measuring cup
  5. Save 1/2 cup of the liquid and whisk in the tapioca starch and 2 tbsp granulated sugar (you want this little bit of extra sugar, since it helps moderate the tapioca's gelatinization and it also makes up for what's lost in the juice dumped out).
  6.  Fold the liquid back into the rhubarb mixture, making sure everything is coated.
  7. Pour rhubarb mix into the pie shell and top with the crust design of your choosing.
  8. Brush crust with egg wash and place the pie on a baking sheet to catch drips.
  9. Bake on the lowest rack of the oven for 60-65 minutes.
  10. Cool completely for 8 hours. Store in the fridge. 

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