Recipe of the week: Strawberry and rhubarb pie
On my last morning at Pie Ranch I got up early to meet with Jered and gather the ingredients for one of the ranch’s signature pies: strawberry rhubarb. As you can imagine, this involved a lot more than going to the refrigerator. First, we milled the flour. Pie Ranch used to grow an heirloom variety of white flour (Sonora white) before rust blighted the crop. But Jered still has plenty of wheat berries on hand and he mills the wheat in a beautiful, wooden contraption imported from Austria.
After milling the flour, we walked up his strawberry field to pick half a dozen baskets. Do you know how strawberries got their name? To keep weeds down and hold in moisture farmers spread straw mulch around the berries. Now most use plastic. Not quite as picturesque.
After plucking a bunch of berries, we walked up toward the top of the sloping farm to the rhubarb crop. The leaves of rhubarb are poisonous but the tart red stems are a real treat.
The recipe that follows is adapted from the San Francisco Chronicle’s recipe back in 2007 when Janet Fletcher wrote up Pie Ranch. If you can make the trip down to Pie Ranch you can buy some of the Sonora flour, but a good brand of flour like Bob’s Red Mill will do fine, too.
Makes 1 double-crust pie. Serves 8 to 12
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
Approximately 1/3 cup ice water
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 cups mixed berries (raspberries, blackberries, strawberries)
3 cups rhubarb stems chopped into half-inch pieces
To make the crust: Put the flour and salt in the work bowl of a food processor and pulse to blend. Add the butter and pulse until all the pieces are coated with flour and about the size of peas. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.
Alternatively, you can incorporate the flour and butter by hand: Put the flour and salt in a bowl and stir well to blend. Add the butter and massage it into the flour with your fingers, working until all the butter is flattened into thin, flour-coated flakes. You should not see any large pieces of butter, but don’t over blend the dough or it will be tough. The flakes of butter will produce a flaky pastry.
Add the water gradually, tossing with a fork until all the flour is moistened and the dough begins to come together. Divide the shaggy dough into 2 mounds, one slightly larger than the other. With your hands, gather each mound into a ball, kneading it gently if necessary to help it adhere. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap, then flatten each ball into an evenly thick disk resembling a hamburger patty, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400°.
To make the filling: Just before rolling out the pie dough, whisk the sugar and cornstarch together until well blended in a small bowl. Put the berries and rhubarb in a large bowl and add the sugar-cornstarch mixture. Toss gently but well.
Put the larger disk of dough on a lightly floured surface, or between 2 sheets of parchment paper. With a rolling pin, flatten the disk into a round large enough to fit your pie pan and overhang the pan by about a 1/2 inch. Transfer the round to the pie pan. You may find it easier to transfer if you fold the circle in half first, then place it in the pie pan with the fold in the center and unfold it. Gently press it against the bottom and sides of the pan.
Repeat the rolling procedure with the second disk of dough, flattening it into a circle large enough to cover the pie. Place it over the berries. Fold the overhanging edges of dough under and use your thumb and forefinger to crimp the rim of the dough decoratively, sealing the top and bottom doughs together. With a paring knife, make 6 to 8 slits in the top of the dough to allow air to vent.
Put the pie in the oven and lower the temperature to 375°. Bake until the crust is golden brown and crisp and the filling is bubbly, about 1 hour. Transfer the pie pan to a rack to cool, and cool completely before slicing.