I love rhubarb, how it has its own distinctive flavor and the fact that it looks like celery but can be transformed into all sorts of delectable desserts. It’s tangy and tart, juicy with a bit of crunch, and it’s one of the first edible plants available in the springtime.
Sometimes I think we forget that rhubarb is capable of holding its own in a dish – that it doesn’t always need to be paired with strawberries (which aren’t in season here yet anyway) to create something sublime. And that’s the beauty of this Farmhouse Rhubarb Pie: the rhubarb speaks for iteself and retains a bit of its tang even as it’s baked and set into a pillow of not-too-sweet creamy custard.
And everything is coming up rhubarb here right now. It’s bursting out of gardens and is piled high on tables at farmers markets. Often it draws blank stares from passersby, some might disregard it thinking of recipes in their collections that call for mighty doses of sugar to make this “vegetable” into a tasty, sweet dish. But this one’s different: it’s a recipe that requires only one cup of sugar for the three cups of rhubarb that go into the filling.
This old fashioned pie recipe is not only just-right in the flavor department, but it’s versatile, too: capable of finding a home on many different tables. On the one hand, it seems like the kind of sweet treat that would be prepared in a farmhouse kitchen by a traditional grandmother, apron tied about her waist, hands dipping into the flower jar, experienced fingers dicing the rhubarb all while family members gather around the counter to listen to her kitchen wisdom and watch the art of pie making. But it also looks and tastes very contemporary, velvety and subtle, sophisticated, worthy of serving on an elegant china plate at a grown up spring gathering. Which is just what I did at a friend’s house last night. And there was none left to bring home.
Farmhouse Rhubarb Pie
A version of this special recipe was shared with me by a friend who grew up in the midwest. I like to imagine German and Norwegian settlers from there creating it, patiently stirring bowls of rhubarb with farm fresh sour cream and pressing the crust into heirloom tins. This is really very simple to assemble – no tricks or slights of hand required to roll out pastry, just the molding into a dish of a batch of a crumbly dough. If you have all of the ingredients laid out and ready to go, it can be easily prepped in under half an hour.
For the Crust:
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature (1 stick)
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup flour
For the Filling:
3 cups of rhubarb, minced (about 6 medium/large stalks)
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of sour cream
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon flour
a pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-inch pie dish.
For the Crust: Cut the butter into eight pieces and place in a food processor along with the sugar, egg and 1/2 cup flour. Pulse 2-3 times to mix. Add the remaining 1 cup of flour and pulse until the mixture is crumby and staring to stick together.
Scrape the crumby dough mixture into your prepared pie dish and, with your fingers, gently press it into place so that that it evenly covers the whole dish and forms the crust. Put the pie dish into the refrigerate and chill while you prepare the filling.
For the Pie Filling: In a large bowl, combine all of the filling ingredients and stir. Pour them into the prepared crust.
Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes and then turn down the oven to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 50 minutes (turning down the oven after 10 minutes prevents the edges of your crust from burning).
Let the pie cool for between 30 minutes and an hour before serving as this will make it easier to cut. This is best eaten the day it is baked and accompanied by a dollop of vanilla ice cream. But it can also be refrigerated and served the next day.