Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Father's Day Miracle: a Vegetable Inside a Dessert that Actually Tastes Good!

Guys, I have to nip this in the bud before I disappoint you too badly.

...I didn't actually take pictures* of how I made this dessert.

I know, I'm sorry! Picture courtesy of
*Update 7/5/14: Guess what! I made it again and took pictures

The reason I didn't take pictures is because I didn't actually think it would be any good (, was I pleasantly surprised!)

Making rhubarb pie was not even my idea. I mean, the whole premise seems kind of messed up. You're taking a vegetable that's like a cross between celery and chard, containing it, dousing it, and heaping it with butter and sugar, baking the heck out of it, and calling it dessert. Leaving a final product that is neither healthy like a vegetable, nor appetizing like a dessert that...well, doesn't contain a vegetable. 

Making rhubarb pie was my father's idea. Apparently his mom used to make them when he was a kid, and he was curious to determine, with his more mature, discerning palate, if they were actually any good. (How's that for a vote of confidence?) So I decided to humor him for Father's Day.

You would not believe how hard it is to find rhubarb, in a gastronomical center like L.A., in a major agricultural area like California, during rhubarb season. I had to call three (specialty, produce-heavy) grocery stores to scrounge up some of the red, celery-like stalk. At all three I had to describe the vegetable in question. Two out of three did not carry it. The third had four lousy stalks of rhubarb. 

Meanwhile this is all very ironic because it is exceedingly clear that rhubarb pie was invented to get rid of excess rhubarb, and not that rhubarb is sought-after to make this glorious dessert.

Presentable rhubarb. Picture courtesy of
You guys, this was some of the saddest rhubarb you've ever seen. It was brownish on the edges and kind of pliable and I don't know what color cut rhubarb is supposed to be, but this specimen was not making me want to find out. 

Predictably, I didn't have enough rhubarb, so I ended up making a teensy little tart instead of a decent-sized pie, which was supposed to be ok because my mom kept telling me how no one but my dad would actually want to eat a dessert containing a vegetable.

It just got worse from there. My recipe proportions were all messed up because of my inconvenient quantity of rhubarb. Then my pie crust alternately retreated from the edges of the pan and had to be mushed back into shape with an oven mitt or ballooned monstrously in the center until it resembled The Hollow Crown.

Don't tell my English teacher I'm blaspheming King Henry IV. Picture courtesy of 
What I put into the oven was a par-baked, patched-together crust filled with rhubarb chunks swimming in watered-down raw egg. With some butter and sugar thrown on top. I did not have high hopes.


It came out beautiful! And delicious to boot! 

My dad absolutely loved it and was touched that I made it for him. So much so that he consented to this :D

So I thought I'd post the recipe (minus the pictures :( ) as best as I could remember putting it together, so that you can try it if you don't believe me! ;) 

Miracle Rhubarb Pie
It's pretty and tasty and apparently not at all temperamental. Don't analyze it too much. :)
Makes a 9-inch tart.


Pie Crust
1 cup + 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cube (1/2 cup) cold butter, plus some extra for buttering the pan.
1/4 cup ice water

Rhubarb Filling
3 cups rhubarb (though you can skate by with 2 1/2!)
3 cups boiling water
About 1 1/8 cups white sugar
3 tbsp flour
1 egg
2 tbsp cold water

Crumble Topping (makes way too much FYI)
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
Pinch of salt
3 tbsp granulated sugar
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) butter


Pie Crust (for pictures on how to form the pie crust, you can refer to my post on Pumpkin Pie)
1. In the food processor (can also be done by hand) combine the flour and salt. Add the butter in small cubes and mix to combine, still leaving small clumps of butter. Add ice water until the dough comes together and is pebbly.
2. Form your dough into a flat disk and refrigerate for 30 min. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and butter a 9-inch tart pan.
3. Place the dough between two pieces of wax paper and roll out using a rolling pin until you have a circle of dough large enough to fill your part pan. Place the sheet of dough into the tart pan, press the dough into the pan to mold the crust, trim the edges, and flute as desired.
4. Bake the crust for 10-15 minutes. The crust should still be pretty soft, but the outer surface should start to feel hard. You just want the crust to firm up enough that it does not get soggy and remain underbaked once you put the filling in. 

Rhubarb Filling
0. Let the oven cool to 400 degrees. 
1. Clean your rhubarb and discard everything except the red stalks. Halve very thick stalks lengthwise, and then cut the stalks into chunks about 3/4 inch long. Put into a colander. 
2. Boil the 3 cups of water. Pour the boiling water over the rhubarb in the colander (this helps it cook slightly prior to putting it in the oven). Let drain.
3. Mix the drained rhubarb in a medium bowl with the white sugar and flour. In a small separate bowl, beat the egg and the water. Add the egg to the rhubarb-sugar-flour mixture and mix to combine.
4. Make the topping (below).

Crumble Topping and Baking
1. Combine the flour, two sugars, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes. Using hands, combine the butter with the dry ingredients until you have a crumbly mixture. 
2. Fill your pie crust with the rhubarb-egg mixture. Sprinkle the crumble liberally over the filled pie.
3. Put pie in the oven. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the filling does not jiggle when you push it, and the crumble and the crust have browned. 
4. Cool until you can get the tart out of the pan without destabilizing, and then serve with vanilla ice cream or all on its lovely lonesome.

I promise that if I take this again I will add appropriate pictures!

Update 7/5/14: Guess what? I took pictures!

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