WHEN RHUBARB PIE IS GOOD, it is very, very good. But when it’s bad, it’s…sloshy. The puddle-problem is the result of rhubarb’s high water content, which no amount of flour can sufficiently absorb. To achieve a pie that “sets up” perfectly, I add a special thickener to the works:
The special thickener is pre-cooked or “instant” tapioca (sold in my supermarket as “Minute” tapioca). It absorbs rhubarb juice like nobody’s business. Consequently the tart, citrussy moisture remains where it belongs — in the filling, and between two crusts.
And speaking of crusts! Please don’t faint, but I recently tried Pillsbury’s “Ready Made” pie dough. It was even worse than I’d imagined. No flaky texture. No delicious flavor. And not a trace of butter.
If you go to the trouble of making a rhubarb pie, you might as well make your own crust, too. My favorite is Pate Brisee. It’s tender, flaky, and buttery. You’ll find the easy recipe in this post — just be sure to double the ingredients.
Let’s make some pie!
Don’t go overboard with your decorative edge, because 9 times out of 10 it will disappear while the pie bakes. Sometimes you just can’t win.
Normally I’d advise you to “bake until juices bubble out of the steam vents.” But since we used tapioca, the juices will be tied up in the pie.
Need a copy-and-paste version of the above recipe? Here goes:
A Better Rhubarb Pie
Kevin Lee Jacobs (www.kevinleejacobs.com)
Ingredients for one 9-inch pie
Pate Brisee for a 2-crust pie (recipe here — be sure to double the ingredients)
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon instant tapioca, divided
4 cups (about 1 1/2 lbs) diced rhubarb (fresh or frozen)
1 1/4 cups sugar (plus a little extra for sprinkling)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 eggs, well beaten
Special Equipment: one 9-inch pie plate
Set oven rack to the lower-middle position; preheat the oven to 450°F
1. Line the pie plate with one Pate Brisee crust. Sprinkle the tablespoon of tapioca over the bottom of the crust, and then pour in the diced rhubarb.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, nutmeg, and the remaining tapioca. Add the beaten eggs, and stir, with a spoon, until a thick batter forms — about 30 seconds. Pour the batter over the rhubarb, and then cover with the second crust. Tuck the edge of the top crust under the lower crust, and pinch to seal (or make a decorate edge). Cut 4 steam vents (1-inch slits) in the top crust. Sprinkle the crust with a little (1/4 teaspoon) sugar.
3. Bake at 450°F for 15 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350°F, and bake until the crust begins to brown — about 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour. Then refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or for up to 2 days.
Serve cold or at room temperature.
Does this not-too-sweet, not-too-tart, No-Run Rhubarb Pie sound tempting to you? You can let me know by leaving a comment. As always, I love to hear from you.