Nothings says summer like a rhubarb pie. Better yet, a rhubarb CUSTARD pie.
Rhubarb is always one of the first garden plants to grow each spring in Michigan, announcing that after a long, cold winter summer is indeed coming and didn’t get lost along the way after all. Rhubarb likes to grow so extensively in its short season that you don’t know what to do with all of it, until it withers in the approach of hotter weather and leaves you already looking forward to next year’s crop. Unless, of course, you planned ahead and froze some. But frozen rhubarb will never be like fresh, so make all the pie and hand pie, crisp, cake, syrup, and camel hair soup you can! I mean, er, rhubarb sauce…not camel hair soup. Hehe, who’d call it that??
Do you want to know something really sad? I’ve never seen rhubarb in Italy, at least not in Florence. So for my international friends, I’m sorry if your area fails you and doesn’t grow rhubarb so you aren’t able to make this recipe. If there is rhubarb in Florence though, someone please tell me where to find it? So far everyone I’ve asked just said, “…what’s that?” This just goes to show my ignorance. Before moving to Italy I was trying to bake with all of the ingredients that aren’t readily available here, or at least what I figured wouldn’t be readily available. I should have been in a baking frenzy with rhubarb instead of things like Oreos. Because, no rhubarb and Oreos everywhere. There are even Oreo donuts in the grocery store bakery section…I’ve come so close to trying them during various weak moments.
Wherever you are in the world, be sure to bake or eat a rhubarb pie at the next chance. You won’t regret it and might inspire you to move to a part of the world where rhubarb is grown.
This recipe is the old-fashioned classic from my mama. The crust is one of my favorite traditional pie crust recipes, simple and can be made ahead of time if needed. It uses butter instead of shortening, which in my mind is a bit of a compromise between shortening or lard (which most people and bakeries use to make tender and flaky crusts but it’s also horrendous for your health and has no taste if it’s not artificially flavored.) and oil, which my mom has always used because oil can actually be good for you, although it makes for the trickiest to handle and often um, hardier pie crusts. So I use butter, which tastes wonderful and makes the crust easy enough to work with, even if it’s not as healthy as oil.
Classic Rhubarb Custard Pie
Makes one 9in / 23cm pie, about 8 servings
For the Crust
2 2/3 cup / 320g all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
8 Tbsp / 113g butter, cold
1/2 -3/4 cup / 118 - 178g ice water
For the Rhubarb Custard Filling
3 Tbsp / 45g milk
1 1/2 cups / 300g granulated sugar
1/4 cup / 30g all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp nutmeg
4 cups fresh rhubarb, sliced into 1/2in / 1cm chunks
Oven 400F / 205C. 8 or 9 inch pie dish.
Make the Crust
In a medium bowl whisk together flour and salt. Blend in cold butter using a pastry cutter, fork, or your hands. You want the butter to end up in small pieces, like peas.
Add the ice water, starting with 1/2 cup / 118g, working with the dough as little as possible. The dough should be able to hold together in a ball, without being too dry and shaggy or too wet and sticky. Add more water if necessary, one Tbsp at a time.
Separate the dough into two halves, weighing for accuracy. Place each half on a piece of plastic wrap, shape into a disc, and wrap tightly. Place in the fridge for 1 - 48 hours.
After the dough has rested, take one half out of the fridge and roll into a circle on a lightly floured surface or silpat. Make a few rolls with your rolling pin in one direction before turning the crust 45 degrees (quarter turn) and continuing with a few more rolls. Periodically check under your crust to make sure it isn’t sticking and sprinkle more flour if it does. Continue like this until your crust is nicely round and roughly 2in / 5cm larger than your pie plate.
Carefully transfer crust to the pie dish (this is easier using a silpat), trim the excess overhang where necessary, and fold the ends under to create a clean edge. Crimp as desired, or press with a fork. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork. Place in fridge while you prepare the other crust and pie filling.
Repeat with second half of dough, rolling and turning until you achieve a circle a bit larger than the pie dish. For a classic top pie crust, transfer the rolled crust to the fridge while you prepare the filling. For a lattice top, transfer crust to a cutting board so you don’t ruin your counter or silpat and slice into 1/2in / 1cm strips or desired width. Transfer to fridge while you prepare the filling.
Make the Rhubarb Custard Filling
Blend eggs and milk together in a large bowl.
Add the flour and nutmeg to the sugar then add to the egg mixture and beat well.
Add in the rhubarb and mix to coat well.
Pour into prepared pie crust and add top crust.
For a classic top pie crust, place crust on top, cut off overhang, and crimp together the edges of the top and bottom crust to seal.
For the interwoven lattice, you are going to start in the center of the pie and work outward, then repeat with the other half. Arrange half of the strips evenly spaced over the pie all in one direction, then flip every other strip back over itself, so half are now only covering half of the pie. Take a new strip and place it perpendicularly just in front of the folded strips. Unfold the folded strips so these ones now cover the new strip. The new strip should be under and over every other one. Working on that same half of the pie, fold back every other strip, all the ones that were NOT just folded. Take another strip and place it evenly apart from the first perpendicular strip. Unfold the folded strips. You should now start to see and understand the pattern; repeat folding back, placing strip, and unfolding until you reach the edge of the pie. You may need to trim down the strips as you get closer to the edge. Repeat with other half of the pie.
Sprinkle sugar on top, if desired.
Bake pie in preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until crust is golden brown and a knife inserted in center of pie confirms that the rhubarb is tender.
If you make the crust and pie in the same day, you could make the filling while the crust is resting in the fridge for an hour or so before rolling out.
You can also use your favorite pie crust recipe, of course!
Instead of a traditional top pie crust or lattice you could add a streusel/crumble, delicious and definitely the easiest option of the three.