Thanks for letting me slide a bit this weekend – it was a few days of near-frenzied recipe testing, writing, research, note-taking, laptop shopping and deliberating, punctuated with plenty of eating before Sue hopped in the car to drive back home to the Okanagan. When she left, Mike and W and I went for a long walk at the dog park. When we got home, it might have been understandable to pick up the phone and order a pizza, or to spend the evening engaging in some (any) activity that might not take place in the kitchen. Instead I made sour cream ice cream. Then I baked a strawberry-rhubarb pie. I think as much as anything I was itching to make something for the fun of it, something that had absolutely nothing to do with beans. And if at all possible, everything to do with the imminent arrival of summer.
Of course strawberries aren’t here yet, but W and I bought a big hanging strawberry plant from the garden centre today, with two ruby berries ready to pick and eat as we loaded it into the car. And my rhubarb has shot up practically overnight. So when the strawberries do arrive, I want you to be ready. There must be pie.
I wavered for a bit on going all the way with one – I’m a fan of crumble, which allows the cook to do away with the pastry-making end of things. But really, pastry isn’t that big a deal. The more you make it, the easier it gets. My usual routine is to cut the butter (and shortening or lard, if I’m using some) into the flour in the food processor, blitzing it in without blending it completely (leave some lumps the size of a pea) or touching it (and thus keeping the fat cold), then dumping it out into a bowl to stir in the water by hand (to avoid overworking the gluten, which makes pastry tough). This time I poured the water straight into the food processor after the butter and gingerly pulsed a few extra times, until I wound up with a meal that smeared across the counter and then gathered up easily into a ball. It worked just fine.
But-to lid or leave topless? I’m a fan of rhubarb crumble, so thought I’d get the best of both worlds with an open-faced pie scattered with a sweet rubble of butter, sugar and flour. Really, it’s all just a vehicle for the ice cream.
I got to the point of tossing chunked berries and chopped rhubarb with sugar and cornstarch and rolling out the pastry when I remembered bringing the last of a (red lentil) pumpkin pie across the street. So no pie plate. Not wanting to go freeform with so much filling, I fit the dough into a quiche pan instead, mounded the fruit in the middle and didn’t even bother with the crimping – I had two pots on the stove and could hear the boys and neighbours hanging out in the front and didn’t want to miss out – I just haphazardly folded what was little sticking up around the edges over the filling – sort of a half galette, half pie. Whatever. It was rustic. (Whomever first applied that adjective to food should win a Nobel Prize.) Beauty is in the eye of the eater.
And the sour cream ice cream. I ate most of it before it had a chance to firm up in the freezer – really, it’s best nice and soft, served straight from the ice cream machine. You know that brown sugar-sour cream mixture generally reserved for dipping strawberries? It’s like that, only better. Next on my to-do list: sour cream ice cream made with brown sugar, or with brown sugar swirled in at the end. Bikini isn’t a season for me anyway.
You can get the sour cream ice cream recipe here. So totally worth it. (And so easy – all you do is whisk together sour cream, cream, sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice and drop of vanilla and scrape it into your ice cream maker – no need to make and chill custard.)
Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Pie
Pastry for a single crust pie (or you could do double crust and add a lattice top)
3-4 cups rhubarb, chopped
3-4 cups really good strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
Pinch cinnamon (optional)
Preheat your oven to 400°F.
Take your pastry dough out of the fridge and roll it out on a dry surface that has been lightly dusted with a combination of flour and sugar (too much flour could dry out your pastry) until it’s about 12” in diameter. Drape the pastry over your rolling pin and transfer it to a pie plate, and fit it inside, letting the edges hang over.
Put the rhubarb and strawberries in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, stir together the sugars and cornstarch; add to the fruit and toss gently to combine. Mound into the pie crust.
To make the crumble combine the flour, brown sugar and butter in a small bowl and mix with a fork or your fingers until well combined and crumbly. Sprinkle over the fruit, squeezing it as you go to create larger lumps of crumble. Trim and crimp the edge of the pastry, or just loosely fold it over the filling, even if there isn’t much to fold.
Bake the pie (put it on a cookie sheet or pizza pan if you are worried about drips) for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for another hour, until the pastry is golden and juices are bubbly and run clear. If the crust is browning too quickly, cover the pie loosely with foil.
Eat warm, with vanilla ice cream.