I grew up on fairytales and still love reading them to this day. There is something very soothing in the predictable dynamic of the struggle between good and evil and in knowing that everything will work out in the end – the evil will be conquered and the brave heroes will live happily ever after.
There is this old Slavic tale about a wicked stepmother and her ugly daughter, who wanted to get rid of their beautiful and kind stepdaughter and stepsister, and so they sent her out in the middle of hard winter to bring them violets and fresh strawberries. They were sure she would perish under the snow somewhere, but being the good soul that she was, wandering in the woods she bumped into twelve strange men, who turned out to be twelve months of the year personified, and who helped her to accomplish her task. They thawed the snow on that little clearing, and she was able to pick the berries and flowers the old hag and her daughter back home sent her for.
I often think of this tale when I’m walking through the produce section of a supermarket in January. No, I don’t have to wade through deep snow, that’s true. We don’t do snow around here, just five solid months of rain and gloomy skies. But all I want at that moment is some fresh fruit to brighten my day (I can even do vithout the violets!), and the only thing I see around are heaps of boring potatoes, wilted carrots and rutabagas, with maybe some sad bruised apple here and there. What I wouldn’t do to meet some handsome fella, who’d turn out to be Mr. May, and hand me a pint of juicy strawberries right then!
But the time is coming, folks. Spring is in the air, as my stuffed-up sinuses are telling me! The watery, pale and sickly-looking berries from the supermarket will soon be a thing of the past, and we’ll be back at the farmers’ markets, picking up only the plumpest and most fragrant fruit for our cakes and pies. I just couldn’t hold off any longer, so today I’m offering you a little teaser. This is what your spring desserts will look like. Sweet, tender, moist and delicious. (Maybe you’ll be able to resist and won’t put as much filling in as I did, in which case your pie will be beautiful, too, and won’t crack as mine did. But honestly, I’m not one bit sorry. More cinnamon scented berry goodness!) Close your eyes and have a bite. I guarantee you’ll think you’re in a fairytale. And since we’re dreaming… who knows, maybe even Mr. May will show up 🙂
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Pie dough (makes two 9-inch pie crusts):
- 3 cups (390 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
- pinch of salt
- ½ tablespoon sugar
- 12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
- 1/3 cup cold shortening
- ½ cup ice cold water
- 1 ½ cups fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
- 1 ½ cups fresh rhubarb, thinly sliced
- 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon framboise liqueur (optional)
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
- 3 tablespoons tapioca flour
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons butter, diced
+ 1 egg white for egg wash
coarse sugar for sprinkling the top crust
- To make the pie dough: Place the flour, salt, and sugar into a bowl of your food processor, fitted with an S-blade. Add the (cold!) butter and shortening and pulse couple of times until the mixture resembles peas. With the processor still running, add as much cold water until the dough forms a ball. Divide the dough ball in half, wrap it and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (dough can be made ahead and refrigerated, or even frozen).
- On a floured surface, roll out the first half of the dough to no more than ¼ inch (6mm) thickness to make the bottom crust. Ease the crust into the pan. Dock the dough with a fork. Brush the crust with a beaten egg white. Put the pie pan with the bottom crust into a refrigerator to chill while you preheat the oven to 425 °F (215 °C).
- Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Place the sliced berries into a bowl and sprinkle them with ¼ cup sugar. Let stand for about 10 minutes, and drain the accumulated natural juices. Add all the other ingredients for the filling except the butter to the strawberries and mix well.
- Roll out the other half of the dough into a circle a bit bigger than your pan. Pour the filling into the chilled crust, dot it with butter, cover with the top crust, and crimp to seal the edges. Brush the top crust with egg white and sprinkle with coarse sugar.
- Collar with foil and bake at 425°F (215 °C) for 15 minutes. Lower the temp to 375°F (190 °C) and bake additional 45 – 50 minutes, until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbly. Let cool before serving.