Sweet and tart filling, buttery and flaky crust; strawberry rhubarb pie is on my must-make list every spring from now on. (Jump to Recipe)
Life has a way of changing what we think about ourselves and about the way things are going to go. Today I’m sharing a recipe that I’m very proud of and very happy about, but it’s tinged with the heart heaviness I’ve been feeling the past few days.
Just over a week ago Brian’s best friend from high school died suddenly at 30 years old, of unknown causes (all we know is that she had an enlarged heart). She was a vibrant person, full of life and kindness and love for everyone around her, and the loss is shocking and devastating. I knew her well; she visited us in college and in Chicago, and she came to our wedding. I’ve never experienced the loss of someone my age before, and though I know I am lucky to have it happen for the first time at 30, it’s no less of a gut punch. At her funeral today, I thought about everything she had planned for her life: she’d just bought a house, she was going to get married, she’d just gotten a promotion at work, she wanted to travel, she had a dog, she was devoted to her niece and nephew. In the blink of an eye, that entire future is gone, and we’re all left here picking up the pieces. I (and Brian, to a much greater degree) am both angry and confused; why did this happen to her? Why now? What happened? What could we have done? What can we do now? How does life just keep going when she’s not here anymore?
We don’t have any answers. I think this is the hardest part of being an adult – the realization that no one has the answers, no one knows what’s going to happen next, and everyone is just taking it day by day and doing their best to muddle through.
The priest today said the answer is to live like her; to love with a heart that is bigger than everyone else’s. Mine feels a little too fragile right now to take that on, but I think he’s right.
Brian and I have taken a lot of long walks together by the lake this past week, trying to find a way to move forward, to figure out what life looks like now. We’ve been holding on to each other, trying to keep each other afloat, withdrawn from the rest of the world. And although we don’t feel like we have any clarity or any answers beyond that the priest gave today, we do agree on one thing: we need to live for her. Every day that we are given is one day more than she was given. Every minute we have together is precious. Every chance to see the people in our life who mean the most to us is important. You never, really never, know when everything could change.
I don’t yet know what this new perspective will mean for us because it’s still too fresh and raw. But I do know that the way I tell people I care about them is by baking for them, and I see a lot more of that in my future. If I could bake this strawberry rhubarb pie for you right now, I would.
If you’ve never baked pie before, and if it intimidates you, know that you are not alone. I was in that camp for many years, until only a couple years ago when, on a fall day, with an abundance of apples hanging around, I decided I was being silly and needed to get over it. I sifted through many pie crust recipes and created my own hybrid all-butter buttermilk crust. I rolled it out and cooked the apple filling and put everything in the oven, crossed my fingers, and only a few hours later, discovered that homemade pie is one of the most rewarding things one can make. This apple crumble slab pie is a version of that first victory.
This strawberry rhubarb pie uses the same crust, but combines it with the made-for-each-other combination of sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb. I didn’t cook the filling, though I worried about the moisture, because I knew it would break down the rhubarb too quickly. The solution, which I discovered from the all-knowing Sally of Sally’s Baking Addiction, is to scoop the filling into the crust using a slotted spoon, so the juices stay behind and don’t make your pie soggy. That, and cornstarch to thicken. And keeping your pie dough cold. And leaving the baked pie to set overnight. Critical steps to success, worth your time and effort, I promise.
Please make the most of rhubarb’s short season and try this pie. Serve it to people you love. I hope you know how glad I am that you’re here.
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
For pie crust (makes enough for top and bottom layers):
- 1 cup unsalted butter, cold (2 sticks)
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup buttermilk*
- 3 cups sliced rhubarb (1/2 inch slices)
- 2 1/2 cups chopped strawberries
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
For assembling pie:
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 large egg
- 1 Tablespoon milk or cream
- Coarse sugar, for sprinkling
Make the crust:
- Combine all ingredients except buttermilk in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until butter is well combined with the flour and the mixture looks sandy. Add buttermilk and pulse a few times until a dough forms and starts to ball up in the bowl.
- Turn the dough out onto a clean surface, divide in half, then shape each half into a flat disc. Wrap each disc in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (and up to 5 days, if making ahead) while you prepare the filling.
Make the filling:
- Stir together the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large bowl until fruit is thoroughly coated in the mixture. Set aside while the oven preheats and you roll out the bottom crust. Juices will accumulate at the bottom of the bowl during this time.
Assemble the pie:
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
- Take one of the chilled discs of pie dough out of the fridge (leave the other one in) and roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it is 12 inches in diameter. Carefully place it in the bottom of a 9-inch pie dish, patting it down and making sure it is flush with the bottom and sides of the dish. There will be some overhang around the edge of the pie dish; that's ok.
- Using a slotted spoon, scoop the filling into the crust, leaving the juices that have accumulated behind (if you don't do this, you may have soggy pie). Discard the juices.
- Dot the cubed butter over the filling. Place the pie in the fridge while you roll out the second crust.
- Remove the second disc of dough from the fridge and roll it out until it is 12 inches in diameter. Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into strips 1 inch wide.
- Remove the pie from the fridge and arrange the strips in a lattice pattern, weaving them over and under each other. Once the lattice is complete, bring the excess bottom crust overhang up over the edges of the strips and crimp the pie crust with your fingers or a fork.
- Whisk together the egg and milk or cream in a large bowl. Brush the mixture over the crust. Sprinkle with the coarse sugar, if desired.
- Bake the pie for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then turn the temperature down to 350 degrees and bake for 35-40 more minutes. I like to put a pie shield over the outer rim of the crust (aluminum foil works great) once I turn the temperature down, to prevent it from burning. Pie is done when the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.
Cool the pie:
- Here is the critical part: let the pie cool completely for AT LEAST 4 hours, and preferably overnight, before serving. This allows the filling to set. If you do not wait, your filling may be soupy. But still delicious. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream!