Why This Recipe Works
- Finely grinding minute tapioca along with granulated sugar and salt makes it simpler to evenly distribute among the many strawberries and rhubarb, serving to it extra successfully soak up extra moisture from the fruit.
- Incorporating strawberry jam into the pie filling helps to accentuate the berry taste with out introducing extra moisture from contemporary berries alone.
Candy, tart, and jammy, strawberry rhubarb pie is the quintessential spring dessert. Come spring and early summer time, I scour the farmers’ marketplace for these vivid crimson rhubarb stalks, able to load the trunk of my automobile with as a lot as I can match. Rhubarb season is fleeting—and the one acceptable transfer is to take full benefit of the second by shopping for kilos and kilos of it to show it into crisps, pickles, compotes, and, after all, pie.
In idea, making a strawberry rhubarb pie is straightforward. You chop up your fruit (although I ought to level out that rhubarb is technically a vegetable), toss it with sugar and your thickener of selection, encase it in pie dough, and bake till effervescent and golden brown.
The one drawback? Strawberries and rhubarb each have low pectin ranges and a number of moisture—a recipe for a watery, mushy mess, particularly in case you don’t use the proper and quantity of thickener. There are additionally questions of how greatest to deal with the fillings. What’s one of the best dimension to chop the strawberry and rhubarb? Do they have to be macerated first to attract out moisture? What extra flavorings are good? And what’s a perfect ratio of strawberries to rhubarb?
In my try and nail down the right strawberry rhubarb pie, I baked a dozen, and did additional experiments that zeroed in on among the filling variables till I got here up with my very best model. I’m speaking a few pie that balances the sweetness of strawberries with the tanginess of rhubarb, with a just-set, barely saucy texture of softened fruit that also holds a few of its form.
The Proper Ratio of Fruit and Dicing Selections
As a result of I needed a flavorful dessert that allowed each the strawberries and rhubarb to shine, I began with a 1:1 ratio by weight of strawberries to rhubarb, each finely diced. What I didn’t notice was simply how a lot water the strawberries would contribute to the pie filling. Even with an satisfactory quantity of thickener, the pies made with equal elements strawberries and rhubarb have been invariably too unfastened. You may marvel, why not simply use extra thickener? We may, however merely rising starch till the liquid is thick sufficient solves one drawback whereas creating one other. Stabilizing extra liquid with much more starch leads to a stretchy, slimy filling that—whereas definitely thicker—just isn’t interesting.
With this in thoughts, I adjusted the ratios to cut back water from the strawberries, choosing 2 elements rhubarb to 1 half strawberries. As a substitute of a fantastic cube—which I think uncovered just a little an excessive amount of floor space that allowed extra water to leach out and created a runny filling—I opted for 1/2-inch items. This was the best dimension of fruit: giant sufficient for the items to stay distinct, however sufficiently small to melt and prepare dinner down right into a barely jammy filling.
Whereas this fastened the feel drawback, it threw off the flavour stability. I needed the pie to style distinctly like a mixture of strawberries and rhubarb, however now it was too rhubarb-forward. To make up for the lower in contemporary strawberries, I folded in just a few tablespoons of strawberry jam, which helped intensify the berry taste with out contributing any extra water.
Stopping a Runny Filling: What Sort and How A lot Thickener Ought to You Use?
Check out most fruit pie recipes, and also you’ll see that they sometimes name for all-purpose flour, cornstarch, potato starch, or tapioca starch as a thickener. It is because most fruit utilized in pie fillings (suppose berries, stone fruit, or apples) maintain loads of water that’s launched in the course of the cooking course of. With no thickener, you’d find yourself with a runny pie—however there’s solely a lot a thickening agent can do that will help you obtain a just-set filling that’s neither soup nor sludge.
The most effective pies—ones with vivid, contemporary fruit taste and a jammy texture—rely on correct moisture administration, which may be achieved a number of methods. My testing already addressed the ratio of strawberries to rhubarb and the way giant to cube them, however I used to be concurrently tinkering with different variables to zero in on my very best taste and texture. A kind of variables: the kind and amount of thickener. As I wrote above, extra thickener doesn’t clear up all issues. With a purpose to get my filling to work, I needed to not solely swap up the ratio of fruit but additionally experiment with a distinct form of thickening agent.
I had began off utilizing tapioca starch, former Severe Eats editor Stella Parks’ preferred pie thickener, which units fruit fillings with out changing into overly gloppy. I used 5.5% of the full weight of fruit, Stella’s recommended amount of starch. However even after lowering the quantity of contemporary strawberries in my filling, it nonetheless wasn’t fairly sufficient to soak up the quantity of liquid unleashed by them. Once I elevated the quantity of starch to six%, the filling managed to someway be each too unfastened and too gelatinous, underscoring the purpose that merely including extra thickener wasn’t going to be the only answer to the issue.
Curious to see if there have been every other choices for thickening pie filling, I seen many recipes known as for minute, or quick-cooking, tapioca pearl fragments. My first try with minute tapioca resulted in what one among my neighbors described as a “tapioca boba pie scenario,” with little pearls nestled among the many fruit. Cute? Sure. Scrumptious? Sure. However not precisely what I used to be going for.
Minute tapioca comes coarsely floor within the package deal, making it just a little more durable to evenly distribute among the many fruit. I puzzled: what would occur if I floor it up in a meals processor with the granulated sugar and salt? A bit of fussy, maybe, however the ensuing filling was precisely the feel I used to be on the lookout for: simply set however jammy sufficient to barely ooze out of the pie when lower into. Grinding the minute tapioca appeared to hit a candy spot, texture-wise, that tapioca starch wasn’t. As a substitute of the gluey gel created by tapioca starch, floor minute tapioca managed to set the filling’s juices in a extra nice, much less stretchy means (this might have one thing to do with the relative fineness of the grind; tapioca starch is an excellent finer powder than minute tapioca floor in a meals processor).
To Macerate or To not Macerate?
In my ongoing query to handle moisture whereas preserving the contemporary and fruity character of the filling, I additionally needed to search out out whether or not macerating the strawberries and rhubarb first is likely to be a good suggestion. By tossing the fruit with sugar and/or a liquid like lemon juice or alcohol, water is drawn out by way of osmosis, which concurrently removes extra water whereas softening the fruit and concentrating its taste.
Some recipes name for incorporating the macerating liquid again into the filling, however macerating 8 cups of fruit gave me about 1 1/2 cups of liquid—which is quite a bit so as to add again right into a pie. Discarding the juices, although, would result in a lack of useful taste and likewise a much less constant utility of sugar within the filling, since a few of it will go down the drain with the juices. I made a decision to cut back the liquid by half to kind a syrup, after which fold it again into the filling, within the hopes it will intensify the fruitiness of the pie whereas eradicating undesirable moisture. The ensuing pie was scrumptious, however macerating the strawberries and rhubarb with sugar broke down an excessive amount of of its construction and led to a mushy filling as soon as cooked.
What labored greatest was permitting the fruit to sit down with the sugar and the finely floor minute tapioca for 15 to half-hour earlier than baking, which supplies the starch time to hydrate and soak up any extra liquid earlier than the warmth of the oven attracts much more out.
I seasoned my first few pies with lemon juice and zest, however paired with the pure tang of rhubarb, the filling was a contact too sharp. In the hunt for one thing extra delicate, I attempted a wide range of flavorings, together with lemon juice, orange juice, and rosewater.
I finally opted for vanilla paste, which lends a fragile, floral aroma that enhances the sweetness of the strawberries and tartness of the rhubarb. If you do not have vanilla paste, you possibly can substitute with equal elements vanilla extract. It received’t be as concentrated in taste as vanilla paste, however will do the trick. When you’ve got some helpful, one other nice possibility is elderflower syrup, which has a vivid, effervescent, and floral high quality.
Baking and Cooling the Pie
With the filling found out, all that’s left is baking. It is best to set the assembled pie within the freezer for quarter-hour earlier than baking (not together with the 15 to half-hour of macerating time), which not solely permits the gluten within the dough to chill out, however retains the butter chilly for the crispiest, flakiest layers. (You may learn extra about it in Stella’s pie crust recipe.)
Which brings us to what could be the most tough a part of this complete course of: After you’ve baked the pie, you’ll have to permit it to totally cool, a course of that may take as much as 4 hours. Although you might be tempted to slice into the pie as quickly because it comes out of the oven (and even throughout the first hour), it’s important that the pie cools so the filling can set. After this a lot effort to handle moisture and ideal the filling, it is a disgrace to look at it flood the pie plate.