Rhubarb Berry Thyme Pie and the Perfect Pie Crust
The sky was always clear and perfectly blue, birds always sang in tune and mailmen always walked from one house to the next with a content, friendly smile on their face. Dogs buried cartoonishly large bones outside their perfectly constructed red dog house, cars were teal, covered in chrome, had wings, and milk was delivered right to your doorstep. Crime wasn’t invented yet, you encouraged your kids to talk to strangers and tv was in black and white and depicted the utopian way of life that graced everyone. Grass was insanely green, there was one emotion, happy, and babies popped out of the womb whistling pleasant tunes. Most importantly, grandma always seemed to be setting a pie down to cool on kitchen window sill.
It was the fifties. Life was perfect. So what if everyone smoked, rights extended only to white males–ok this still hasn’t changed–and life was characterized by an unwavering dedication to denial. There was pie and lots of it!
Every time I bake a pie I am transported back to this idyllic time. I don’t know how it’s possible seeing as I was born in 1986, but I am. Things seem so much simpler, so much more Leave it to Beaver like, when there is a pie cooling in the kitchen.
This pie was an experiment. In that past, I’ve paired basil and strawberries in eclairs and married basil and mint in a cake. What about thyme with rhubarb and berries? The results I got were very subtle. Rhubarb, strawberries and blackberries are all such strong flavors that the thyme becomes a muted, savory note in the background. If you don’t want to mess with the thyme, try substituting it with a couple teaspoons of cinnamon and a teaspoon of vanilla–yum!
Quick quiz: What’s the most important part of the pie? The filling? Nope. You’re wrong. It’s the pie crust. I have come to this determination because before I started making my own pie crust with this recipe I hated pie crust; I wouldn’t touch the stuff. I would simply scoop the filling out of this baked vessel. Now my favorite bites of a pie are the crust-only bites. Screw the filling, I could eat a pie filled with a pie crust… filled with another pie crust containing yet more pie crust. I’m not one to get a big ego in cooking as this is all a journey for me, but I can pretty much assure you this is the best pie crust recipe in the world… ever!
Pie Crust: For me there are 3 musts to a delicious pie crust. First, there is butter. Butter is key for flavor. Second, you’ll want to use the biscuit mixing method. Last, everything should be cold when you add it to the dough (see the biscuit method for why). Ok technically there is a fourth and that is to use lard in addition to butter. Yes lard. It is perfect for ensuring a super flaky crust–because butter on its own isn’t great at this. If you don’t have lard you can use all butter (just make sure you substitute the exact weight needed of lard with the same weight of butter). I’ve done it before and it still makes a great pie crust.
The Perfect Pie Crust
This recipe will yield enough dough for 1 pie (a top and bottom crust). It is adapted from a Bo Frieberg recipe.
12.5 ounces bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces butter, very cold
3 ounces lard, very cold
1/3 cup water, very cold
1. Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Chop the cold butter and lard into 1/2 inch chunks and add it to the flour mixture.
2. Using your hands, begin to pinch the chunks of butter and lard between your fingers to break the pieces into smaller, flatter chunks. Work fast to avoid letting the butter and lard warm up too much. Do not completely mix the butter and lard into the flour.
3. Once the mixture resemble a coarse mixture (with oat or pea sized chunks of butter and lard dispersed throughout) add the water and knead the mixture just until it comes together. Again over mixing is the devil when it comes to pie dough.
4. Flatten the dough out on parchment paper, cover and refrigerate for two hours. This lets the dough harden for rolling out and gives the butter and flour a chance to work their magic.
1. If the butter begins to feel warm while you are mixing it with the flour, refrigerate the mixture for 10 minutes before continuing to mix.
2. Use as little flour as possible when rolling it out.
3. Let the dough rest 10 minutes in the fridge after rolling it out.
4. Do not stretch the dough to make it fill in the pie dish after rolling it out. Roll it large enough so it will fit/fall into the corners without being stretched.
5. If you are not working with the dough, it should be kept in the fridge.
6. When using scraps, if you are going to roll them together to get more use out of them, layer them, then roll them out. Do not mix them up or knead them again. I would avoid doing this more than once as it will begin to make your crust tougher and less flaky.
Rhubarb Berry Thyme Pie
1 pie crust recipe (see above)
2 cups rhubarb, chopped
2 cups strawberries, halved
1 cup blackberries
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
2 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
Zest from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon juice from a lemon
2 tablespoons thyme, finely chopped
1. Preheat an oven to 425°F. Line a pie dish with a layer of pie dough.
2. Mix together all of the ingredients except the egg wash in a large bowl and combine until everything is evenly distributed.
3. Pour the mixture into the lined pie dish.
4. Place the top layer of dough on top of the filled pie. You can use a solid disk of dough with a few vents cut to allow the steam to release, you can do a weaved top, or you can use cookie cutters to layer the top with various shapes (like I have here with flower cookie cutters).
5. Brush the egg wash over the pie crust.
6. Bake at 425°F for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for another 50 minutes.