You guys. YOU GUYS! It's strawberry rhubarb season. I'm thrilled! This spring I'll share a few different recipes for rhubarb but, and I think you'll agree, we need to start with the classic: strawberry rhubarb pie.
If you've never eaten strawberry rhubarb pie let me try to explain the pie: IT'S AMAZING. Does that clear it up? No? Um, ok. I'll try again. First I have to push this plate of pie away from my computer. (clings to the plate.)
Strawberry rhubarb is a sweet-tart pie. As as odd as delicate strawberries baked into a pie sound, trust me, they work in this pie. Rhubarb, a member of the celery family, provides a good body and an addictive tart flavor. Now, don't get me wrong when I say, “body”. This isn't a crunchy pie. It's a silky one. The rhubarb bakes down, kind of like apples bake down in an apple pie. The berries, however, seem to almost melt away. But they leave a silky sweetness and, best of all, a gorgeous pink color.
To prep the rhubarb, I cut off the top (the leaves are poisonous! So be sure to discard them.) and bottom. Then, if the rhubarb is thick, I slice it down the center and then slice it into 1/2 inch pieces. If it isn't thick, I simply slice it. The big question is whether or not to peel it. I...don't. Instead, I let the rhubarb tell me if it needs to be peeled. As I slice it, sometimes the outer skin pulls away. If this happens, I gently pull at it and, boom, that's enough. In all the years I've made strawberry rhubarb pie, I've never experience an issue not peeling all the rhubarb.
My filling is pretty basic: just strawberries, rhubarb, and sugar. Oh, and a little cornstarch to thicken. Since both the strawberries and rhubarb give off lots of liquid during baking, put a baking sheet under the pie while it bakes. This sheet catches any overflowing juices. Why is this important? Those sugary juices, when they hit the bottom of your oven, produce LOTS of smoke. How do I know this, well….
The other day I baked this pie (see photo above). I did NOT put a pan underneath* and some of the juices hit the bottom of the oven. This must have happened right at the end of baking because, honestly, I did not have an issue with smoke. Until the next time I went to bake.
*Yes, do as I say, not as I...did. ;-)
I preheated the oven and left the room. When the preheat alert went off, I walked back into the kitchen. It was FILLED with smoke. The smoke was so thick that I could hardly see through it. For a nanosecond, I panicked, then I composed myself and tried to find the source of what I thought was a fire. I opened the open. And saw smoldering pie juices! Yikes! Once I knew that nothing was on fire, I ran around opening windows and turning on ceiling fans.
The best part?
Our smoke detectors, which go off if you sneeze wrong, didn't go off! I still can't believe it! The whole experience was a good reminder of the insidious nature of smoke. I really didn't smell it/notice it until I walked into the kitchen.
So take it from me, you want to put that pan under your baking pie!
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