One advantage to living in Montana is that we actually have a Spring here, unlike the Spring season in Virginia that lasted about a week before the heat and humidity set in. Granted, it’s a little chilly. The Farmers’ Almanac reported that the last freeze in Helena, Montana would take place on or around 20 May, and they were right. It snowed on 21 May. But the good thing is, with a longer spring season comes a longer season for spring fruits and vegetables. I’m looking at you, rhubarb.
I think it was about March when my sister told me that the rhubarb at my parents’ house was starting to come up. One month later my dad pointed out a huge bush with enormous leaves and told me to take all I wanted. I took him up on his offer, but also took note when he mentioned there was a specific rhubarb pie his mother made when he was young. He received a couple of those pies for Fathers’ Day this year.
In most parts of the country, rhubarb’s spring fling is long past, and everyone is harvesting the summer vegetables in their gardens. However, here in Montana, rhubarb is still very much in evidence at all the stands at the farmers’ market as well as in my dad’s garden.
This is a pretty straight forward rhubarb pie. Although strawberry rhubarb pie is also a favorite, I like the taste of the rhubarb with no additions. I’ve left the choice of pie crust up to you on this one. My absolute go to pie crust is Martha Stewart’s Pâte Brisée from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. If you don’t have the book, you can find the recipe here. It comes together in the food processor in seconds, and you can make and cool your filling while the dough rests in the refrigerator. Although you do not need to bake the crust ahead of time, I like to brush the bottom crust with a coat of beaten egg and bake it for 5 minutes before filling it to avoid the fruit making the crust soggy.
One 8-inch Pie
This pie is delicious as just a stand-alone fruit pie, but it is even better with ice cream. Or, if you aren’t in the mood to make the crust, the filling is very good on its own as a sauce over ice cream, or even yogurt for breakfast.
dough for a double crust for an 8-inch pie
2 pounds fresh rhubarb
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
Prepare your choice of pie crust and place in the refrigerator to rest for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the pie filling. Wash the rhubarb stalks, and cut off the discard the woody ends. Slice the rhubarb stalks lengthwise, then crosswise into 1/2-inch chunks. Set aside 2 cups of the sliced rhubarb and place the remainder in a medium size saucepan.
Add the brown sugar to the pan, cover, and turn on the stove to medium-low. This step will get the rhubarb to begin releasing its juices. Cook covered for about 15 minutes. Remove the cover, increase the heat to medium and cook another 15 minutes, stirring often. The rhubarb is done when it is completely broken down, and a spoon leaves a clean trail across the bottom of the pan. Add the remaining rhubarb chunks to the pan and give it a good stir. Place the rhubarb filling on a plate or sheet pan and set aside to cool.
While the rhubarb is cooling prepare your pie crust. Preheat the oven to 375. Remove the pie dough from the refrigerator. Divide the dough in two, roll out the bottom crust and place in an 8-inch pie pan, trimming to fit if necessary. Beat the egg in a small bowl and brush the bottom crust with just enough egg to cover. Bake the pie crust for 5 minutes. Prepare the top crust by rolling it out or preparing a lattice. Add the rhubarb filling to the bottom crust and top with the crust of your choice, crimping the edges together.
Place the pie pan on a sheet pan. Bake the pie for 1 hour until the filling is bubbly. Take care that the crust does not get too brown. You might need to cover the pie loosely with foil if it is browning too rapidly. Remove the pie pan to a rack and cool completely before serving.
Pie filling adapted from Good to the Grain, Baking with Whole-Grain Flours by Kim Boyce