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Chasing Delicious | Rhubarb Berry Thyme Pie and the Perfect Pie Crust
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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.

Ingredients

12.5 ounces bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces butter, very cold
3 ounces lard, very cold
1/3 cup water, very cold

Instructions

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.

Tips

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

Ingredients

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

Egg wash

Instructions

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.

Enjoy!

AUTHOR - Russell van Kraayenburg

Born and raised in Texas, Russell van Kraayenburg may sit you down for a stern lecture if you confuse barbecue with grilling. Creator of Chasing Delicious, and author of Haute Dogs, his work has been featured in Southern Living magazine and on such sites as Lifehacker, Fast Co. Design, Business Insider, The Kitchn, Live Originally, The Daily What, Quipsologies, Neatorama,Explore, and Fine Cooking.

31 Comments

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  • Paula @ Dishing the Divine

    Funny that you should post this now. I am in the middle of batch processing my own favorite pie crust recipe (a variation on the Cook’s Illustrated version). It’s a winner crust, but since I’m lazy and hate making pie crusts, I always make a batch of 4 double crusts at once and then freeze the ones I’m not using for later. I have a pear/apple pie coming out of the oven today. LIke your addition of thyme, this recipe adds a savory element: ginger! I hope it turns out! :)

    • Russell

      I love foodie coincidences! That is smart that you freeze a few of them. I too don’t find the process of making pie dough the most fun so sometimes it is a deterrent for baking a pie. Are you going to post this pie of yours? It sounds delicious! I’d love to see how you do your pie crust too.

  • Eliot

    This pie looks wonderful. It is beautiful! I love using unexpected flavors (like thyme) in sweet desserts.

  • Lilly

    Amazing pie! The top looks so beautiful! Thanks for this perfect pie crust recipe! Will have to give it a go soon.

    I assume you are feeling much better after baking and eating this pie =)

    • Russell

      Yes, Lilly, I am much, much better! I am amazed at how behind I feel though in the foodie world, just missing a week. Thank you very much for the kind words too! Let me know how the crust turns out when you give it a try.

  • Mike@The Culinary Lens

    I really like the way you topped this pie instead of just rolling the pastry.
    The filling is pretty great too

  • Sandra

    The top is absolutely gorgeous, what a creative idea. My Mom used lard in her pie crusts also and they were super flaky.

  • Anne@frommysweetheart

    What an absolutely stunning and creative way to top this pie…which sounds pretty amazing by itself! : )

  • Isabelle @ Crumb

    Gorgeous photos! I’m loving that desaturated look… it feels a bit like those faded photos from the 1950s (which I’m sure is exactly what you were aiming for).
    I’m with you on the butter + lard formula for a perfect pie crust. I’ve done all-butter or all-lard before, but neither one has that perfect marriage of flakiness and rich flavour that you get from both together. And that combination of berries and rhubarb and thyme? Positively dreamy, that’s what it is.

    • Russell

      Thank you, Isabelle! That was exactly the look I was going for, so I am glad you caught that. I am also wanting to play with my food photography a little more so this post turned out to be the perfect opportunity.

      I’ve never tried an all lard crust. I’m intrigued and almost a little scared–probably because I am just too obsessed with/addicted to butter. Thank you again for all the kind words!

  • Ah Tze

    Gorgeous photos and lovely pie!! I think this creation is more than food is an arts!!

  • Meeta

    I am a kid of the 70s/80s but I do remember Leave it to Beaver LOL! I agree about the butter part in a pie crust but the lard gives me the jeebies. I can never get comfortable with the thought of lard in my food – probably because I imagine the same amount ending directly on my hips HA! But seriously Russel I find the flavors here simply irresistible – the thyme adding the perfect highlight to the fruity flavors. Brilliant!

  • Elies_Lie

    This pie is looks amazing white – amazing delicious – amazing combo & amazing photo!
    I never bake a pie before & this perfect pir crust recipe is a keeper!
    U right – when there’s a dessert or a pie in the kitchen, live seems much easier :)
    Tq for sharing the recipe & lovely photo Russel! ;)

  • Tina@flourtrader

    Awesome pics here! I have bookmarked this recipe, you have some really good tips on the crust. Like you, I feel it is the crust that actually the best part of the pie.

  • spiceblogger

    This pie is BEAU TI FUL!!!!! I will try your crust recipe. I’ve never made my own and this recipe looks like a keeper.
    ;)

  • Viviane Bauquet Farre

    A very intriguing combination of flavors. Your photography is very beautiful and has convinced me that this pie was delicious. Bravo!

  • RavieNomNoms

    Oh wow, that pie is absolutely stunning!! I am so very impressed. Your flowers on the top are such a nice addition, very creative. The pie looks extremely delicious as well. Love the ingredients you used here…Have a great weekend!

  • Brian @ A Thought For Food

    This is beautiful, my friend. You did a lovely job!

  • Elyse @The Cultural Dish

    Your pie is so beautiful! I love making designs with the crust, it is just so elegant looking.

  • Jenelle

    Seriously, where do you live so I can move there and you can invite me over for pie! I always love visiting your site, even though it makes me very hungry and I have no pie. Thanks for sharing all your deliciousness!

  • Stephanie

    You pie looks beautiful! I love the cut out shapes that you made with the crust and the flavor combinations

  • Miriam @ Overtime Cook

    That is by far the most beautiful pie I have ever seen. Feeling very envious right now! I want to go bake a pie too. :-)

    -Miriam

  • Angela

    This pie is adorable and looks simply delicious! :)

    http://mytastyliving.blogspot.com/

  • Jen at The Three Little Piglets

    What a beautiful idea for a crust! Just gorgeous!

  • OfBaking

    This is the most beautiful pie crust I have ever, ever seen! Do you think vegetable lard (i.e. crisco) would work as well?

    • Russell

      Thank you very much! I know things like crisco can help give the pie crust a flaky texture too, so you could substitute it for the lard–though I still thing lard from a pig works best. I wouldn’t substitute it for butter though as shortening doesn’t contribute much flavor. Of course everyone has their own favorite pie crust; some use all shortening, or all butter, some use a mix and then there’s my team who uses butter and lard.

  • annie

    What a fun way to do the top crust of your pie- Love it!

  • Sarah

    This is beautiful, I’m loving the cutouts. And I’m so with you on the crust thing– it absolutely makes the pie! Love!

  • Ruth

    It seems an interesting combination! Besides I love love the upper flowey crust.

  • Gary

    Question: When you layered the cut-outs for the top crust, did it come out flaky or were overlapped areas a bit “underdone?”

    • Russell

      All parts of the crust should come out flaky. If you’re having an issue where parts don’t cook, you can try baking it for another 5 or so minutes.

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