Today I want to talk about my grandma, and about pie.
Mostly because they have to do with each other in my story, but also cause grandmas and pie usually go together, don’t they?
So here’s my story, I hate pie.
The crust is dry or burnt or flavorless more often then it is not. The filling has a tendency to be overly sweet, mushy or it tastes like the fruit is from a can that’s been hanging out in the back of the pantry, saved in case of apocalypse or something worse – like seriously not having anything else to eat and you’re on the verge of starvation.
Like I said, I’m not a fan of pie.
EXCEPT when it’s my grandma’s pie (cliche, I know).
I swear though, nobody does pie better than my grandma, Pauline.
Maybe she makes such gosh darn good pie because when she grew up she went and had a big family (this time full of girls) and worked as a nurse so making pie was a good way to unwind after a long day of work and taking care of all her little ones.
Maybe, it’s cause now her 5 kids have all grown up and gotten married and had tons of babies themselves and the staple of every family gathering are Grandma’s pies.
Basically has had to stay on her pie game her whole life.
I have been thinking lately though, that if my grandma can make excellent pie, then maybe I can too. I might just have that pie making gene stowed somewhere in me.
She makes a most wonderful apple pie, a mouthwatering crusty and crispy pecan pie, pumpkin pie with filling so smooth and topped with leaf shaped crust pieces that will make you squeal with delight, but my absolute favorite pie is her rhubarb.
Rhubarb is divinely unique and not the most common of pies, its bitter when uncooked but addicting and tart when cooked and is absolutely positutely my favorite of Grandma’s pies.
So, while I was in LA for a few days for my dad’s birthday I cornered my granny with a pie cutter and said “Lady, you better give me your recipe for Rhubarb pie or I’ll slice you and put you in a pie!”
OMG I’M TOTALLY KIDDING
It really went more like this “Granny, you make the best pie in the whole gosh darn world, would you share your most delectable recipe for Rhubarb pie so that I may continue the family tradition.” Then granny smiled with her adorable, non-dentured, smile and said “Oh of course, honey girl!” That’s what she calls me, honey girl. I love my grandma.
For the most buttery and flaky crust:
2 1/2 cups flour, plus a little extra for rolling
1 stick of butter, cubed and frozen
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
8 Tbs water, ice cold
For the luscious filling:
5 cups Rhubarb, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 1/4 cup sugar, I used brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstart
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbs butter
What to do with it:
For the crust:
Combine flour, sugar, salt in a food processor and lightly pulse
Gradually add in the cubed frozen butter. I’ve learned that frozen butter is the secret to excellent pie crust. Pulse until the butter hunks are the size of your pinky nail
Now add the water, 1 Tbs at a time keeping watch of the dough’s consistency (flour has different absorbancy levels, so while I needed all 8 Tbs, you may only need 6 or 7). You want the dough to just stick together when you press it together between your fingers
Take the dough and squish it on the counter under your hands to break up the butter a little more to encourage that, oh so, desirable flaky crust
When you’re done smushing it around roll it into a ball and cut in 2 pieces then form those into 2 flat patties
Dust the two pieces with flour, wrap in plastic wrap and set to chill in the fridge for a little more than an hour
Once the hour is up, take out and let them soften for about 5 minutes…chill and then soften? I know, just do it
Take a floured rolling pin and roll out one patty on a floured surface until it is about a foot across, the edges don’t have to be perfect as you will be trimming them anyway
Fold in half and place inside your baking dish, I used my cast iron skillet since I don’t actually have a pie pan
Gently unfold to fill the pan and press into the edges
Preheat oven to 425
Place chopped Rhubarb into pie crust
Mix together sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon and lemon juice in a bowl
Drizzle over rhubarb and gently mix around with your hands to coat
Dab with pieces of butter
Cover with the other patty of crust, that’s been rolled out, of course
You can cover the pie in a few ways, the coverall method in which case you would slit holes in the top to allow it to breath
OR the rustic way where you cut the rolled out dough into 1 inch strips and weave it – that’s what I chose to do
If you opt for this method just pinch the ends together with the bottom crust to close it off
*DON’T do what I did and forget to add 1 cup of the sugar – the copy of the recipe my granny gave me is old so the 1 1/4 cup sugar looked like just 1/4 cup. So there I was thinking to myself “God, who says pie is unhealthy, there’s only a 1/4 of a cup of sugar!” And anyone who has had unsweetened rhubarb can imagine my surprise when I first sampled a teeny bit of the filling through the pie crust. So there I was with an almost baked pie that was pretty nasty. In the event you did do that here’s the fix: take the extra 1 cup and mix with the tiniest amount of water to make it pasty and painstakingly drip it through the slots of the pie top. Then slosh the pie around with enough force to mix the filling, but not spill it. It’s an art, my friends, and I am here to say that I think I have mastered it.
But there’s just something about grandma’s pie.