Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Peace & Pie, Part 1: Vegan Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Lately I've been making a lot of pies and quiches, and I haven't been sharing any of the recipes out of sheer laziness. I have quite a few pie recipes up my sleeve, but I want to share the most seasonal one first so all 3.5 of my readers can make the recipe before the produce goes out of season. I kid, I kid, I know there are probably 2 readers.......the last 1.5 are definitely google searches gone wrong.
In case you've never encountered rhubarb before, it is that
pink, celery-ish vegetable on the right.
Inspiration: The inspiration for this recipe is pretty simple; I wanted to make a pie that wasn't too sweet using only super seasonal, local produce. I went to the farmer's market and let whatever I found dictate the type of pie that I made. I ended up buying rhubarb and strawberries.....and the rest was history.
Nutrition Note: Well, pie is pie. There is going to be some fat in the crust since we all know that the only way to make a perfect pastry crust is to use a 3:1 flour to fat ratio. There is also some sugar in the filling, but the rhubarb is quite sour so it really needs it. If you wanted a dessert that can be eaten as a healthy, well-rounded meal, then you're looking at the wrong recipe BUT if you were looking for a seasonal, fresh, relatively light dessert that is on the healthier side as far as the average dessert goes, then you're in the right place. The rhubarb and strawberries provide lots of antioxidants and fiber, while the white whole wheat flour used in the crust provides protein and additional fiber. White whole wheat flour, is not processed or refined any more than regular whole wheat flour, it is simply made from a different type of wheat that results in a lighter color and less nut/bran flavor than you find in typical whole wheat flour products. I often use it because I know a lot of people don't like whole wheat products, but using this type of flour makes it pretty hard to tell that it's a whole wheat product based on taste alone. All of the nutrition of a whole wheat flour, without the "distinct" taste....you can eat a slice (or 5) without feeling too guilty for indulging.

The Recipe: Vegan Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
This is what the mixture should look like
once you're finished mixed the oil/shortening in.
Ingredients:
Crust:
- 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) fat/shortening (chilled coconut oil and earth balance shortening both work, but I prefer earth balance because it doesn't melt as easily)
- 2 tbsp granulated brown sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup ice water
**Bonus: This recipe, minus the sugar if you are making a savory dish, is the ideal pastry crust recipe for all quiches, tarts, pies, and tartletts.....so go crazy with it. Or don't.....your call**
Filling:
- 3 cups hulled & halved (or quartered if they're big) strawberries
- 3 cups fresh rhubarb, chopped into 1/2 inch chunks
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
**Technique tip: The key to making a perfect pastry crust is both to use a 3:1 flour to fat ratio and also to keep the dough/fat as cool as possible until it goes into the oven. You want the fat to stay in tiny, solid lumps so that when it goes into the oven the high heat makes it puff up suddenly, resulting in a flakey crust.....and the best way to do this is by keeping the dough cold the entire time leading up to baking**
Direction:
1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor or by hand.
3. Add small, chilled chunks of the oil/shortening to the mixture and process or mix by hand until there are only small, pea-like chunks of fat remaining. The mixture should resemble a course cornmeal. Transfer to a large bowl. **Technique Tip: Please, please for the love of god, do not over mix the fat. The important part of making a good crust is to make sure that there are still small chunks of fat left, as I explained earlier).** 
4. Add ice water to the mixture, 1 tbsp at a time, just until the dough starts to come together. Using your hands in this step really helps.
5. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
6. On a lightly floured surface role out the dough until it is about 1/8-1/4 inches thick.
7. Press the dough into a 9 inch pie pan and trim the edges. Roll the trimmings into a ball, and refrigerate both the pie pan and the trimmings while making the filling (at least 30 minutes). **Technique tip: You can roll out the trimmings and cut out strips of dough to make a lattice-top pie or simply cut out whatever shapes you like and place them atop the pie once it has been filled**
Pre-oven
9. Combine all filling ingredients in a large bowl and mix until very evenly combined. Make sure that you mix it well enough that the cornstarch is truly evenly dispersed, the cornstarch and the sugar can be the hardest things to mix well.
10. Pour filling into chilled pie crust and cover with any remaining dough if desired (this is where you can make a lattice topped pie).
11. Place in the oven on a middle or bottom rack, and set a timer for 20 minutes.
12. After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 1 hour & 20 minutes. Remove sooner if the crust starts to turn too brown.
13. Let cool and enjoy.



Post-oven. This is one way to customize your
pie simply by making a design out of the
extra trimmings and placing them atop
the filling.

This is an example of a lattice topped pie.
Same recipe as the pie to the left,
just different way of arranging
the dough on top.

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