Our strawberries are doing much better this year, despite the late freezes, as we are getting days of sunshine in between the rain and I managed to keep the weeds out (mostly) last year. They are also well-mulched with leaves (since I never can get all the leaves out that fall, I just leave them on them each year as mulch) and we dispose of our coffee grounds in the bed most of the winter, providing a natural fertilizer that doesn’t burn them (we don’t use any paper filters; if you do, you’ll want to compost them first, then spread finished compost on the strawberries). Our rhubarb is a tough one, the only survivor of our hot, dry summers the last few years (I’ve tried other plants and varieties and they don’t make it; I should probably split the clump we have, but haven’t gotten around to it) and it always is ready for harvest long before any strawberries are ready. This year, we kept a handful of stalks in the produce drawer, in anticipation of the strawberry harvest and the timing worked out well (some years, we get rhubarb sauce, instead, or have to use frozen strawberries with them).
So, once we started bringing in a couple of pints of strawberries and we weren’t gobbling them up on cereal, I decided to make a couple of pies. I used a pack of Gillian’s frozen quiche & pie crusts we recently found at EarthFare, that I wanted to test out, but if you prefer to make your own, you can’t go wrong with Gluten Free Pantry’s Perfect Pie Crust (which I can find locally, but it’s reasonable as an add-on item at Amazon). I’ve been using this mix for a long time, from before Glutino took over the brand and changed the packaging.
The first pie I made was a simple one, a Cheesecake Pudding Pie with fresh strawberries on top. For this, I simply baked the crust (the packaging said 10-15 minutes at 350 or until browned, but it took about 20 for the crust to look done and I didn’t have the patience to try for “brown”). The filling is simply Jello brand cheesecake pudding, made with 1-3/4 cup milk (lactose free, for one of the household). I use my stick blender to mix pudding these days, as it takes under a minute to get it to the thickened stage and there isn’t a big mess flung around the kitchen when I’m done (and no sore arm, either, from doing it by hand). Once well blended and thickened, just spoon into the finished crust, smooth it out and place the whole strawberries on top (after a quick rinse and plucking out the stems, of course). Chill and serve. It’s easy, it’s pretty enough to take somewhere or serve company, but it is a bit messy to get out of the pan. The flavors are not overwhelming, though, and it let me test the crust itself, to see how well it handled and tasted on its own (it passed and I’ll be keeping some of these in the freezer). One of the beauties of this pie is that you can change the flavors easily, as well as the fruit – when blueberries are in season, just complete cover the top with fresh berries! If you need completely non-dairy, I’d make jello, rather than pudding (it doesn’t do very well with the almond and rice milks, from our experience) and slice up the berries instead – mix and pour into the crust; serve with cool whip. This version is easier, to slice, too, than the custard or pudding pies.
But, what we really wanted was a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. Most recipes call for a double crust on these, but I only had the one left from the package, plus I don’t like using a frozen, formed crust, to try to fit on top of a pie. Using the Perfect Pie Crust mix, I could have done this, but I didn’t want to mix up another crust. So, off to search my cookbooks and a few online sites that have recipes I know might work. In the process, I ended up changing up the filling ingredients and borrowed ideas from several for the finished recipe. For the crust, I ended up with a Ginger Spiced Crumble, which goes well with the spices in the filling itself.
To start, make sure you thoroughly trim the rhubarb stalks – there should be no leaf or rough root connections left, just pure clean stalks. Cut into 1/2 pieces. Wash the strawberries, remove stems and trim out any unripe spots (don’t use any berry that is questionable – it only takes a tiny bad spot to ruin the flavor of an entire berry and then your pie). Cut large berries in half. Mix the two together and set aside. For the spices, I used the zest from about 1/3 of a fresh lime and fresh nutmeg. Both were quick and easy using a Microplane Zester/Grater (this is the one I’ve been using for a decade, according to Amazon). The other spices were from relatively fresh containers – if your spices are several years old, you may have to add more (or toss them out and buy new ones). If you don’t have a lime – use a lemon or even an orange!
All the dry ingredients are tossed into a second bowl, then thoroughly mixed. Try to get the lime zest separated as much as you can, but don’t worry about it too much. Then, toss over the fruit mixture and thoroughly mix (I just put the top on that container and turned it over a few times), then let it sit while you work on the rest.
For the topping, you also mix the dry ingredients together and then cut in your cold butter (a solid margarine will also work, but not the “light” versions that have oils mixed in, as they don’t return to a solid state after being heated and cooled). I cut mine together with a pastry cutter, but kicked myself for not just getting out the food processor in the first place. Next time I’ll do that and I’ll probably also use gluten-free oats for half (or all) the flour, as I think it makes a better topping. Whichever you choose, don’t over mix the butter – you want “pea size” chunks left (ok, I had some that size and most smaller, but the big deal is to still have some bits of butter, but to have all the flour incorporated).
Next, assemble it all. Pile the filling into the cold crust (unbaked, but it had been thawing for at least 1/2 hour or perhaps a bit longer). And, I do mean PILE – the filling looks like it won’t fit and I heaped it all up in the middle. Then, put the crumb topping on, as carefully as you can (or, just pour it out on top and pat it into place, which is more or less what I did, picking up what fell off and putting it onto bare spots). You may end up with spots not covered, especially at the edges and a bit too much in the middle – just rake some of it off and press it into place where needed. I did try to leave none of the fruit uncovered, just as you would do with a second crust pie. I also “cut” a vent into the very top, using a butter knife – mainly I wanted the topping thinner there, so steam could more easily leave and minimize spilling.
Last, into the oven. You will definitely want a large piece of foil underneath (I put it on the next rack down), as this will bubble over some, as it gets closer to being done. I didn’t put a baking sheet under the pan while cooking or use a more rigid pie crust dish, so it was a bit tricky to remove when done — using a good metal baking sheet (unrimmed) or pizza peel is helpful when you get to that point. Although you can’t see in the last picture, below, the center was bubbling when taken out and I waited until the entire top had turned to a uniform color, to indicate the filling was baked all the way to the center. As the pie cooks, it will settle some and even more as it cools, as rhubarb always loses a lot of volume when cooked and the strawberries will lose some, as well.
Gluten Free Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
4 large stalks rhubarb, cut into 1/2″ pieces
2-1/2 cups hulled and halved strawberries
1-1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup white rice flour
2-1/2 Tablespoons minute tapioca*
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped lime zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2/3 cup white rice flour
5 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons packed dark or light-brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
One frozen or homemade, uncooked 9″ pie crust; chilled
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Add a large sheet of foil to the lower rack; position upper rack in the center of the oven.
If using a frozen pie crust, set out to thaw; for homemade crust, put into refrigerator to cool.
Wash and clean rhubarb and strawberries. Cut rhubarb into 1/2″ pieces, half larger strawberries. Mix and set aside.
In a clean bowl, mix the rest of the filling ingredients. Pour over the fruit and toss gently, then set aside to start macerating.
Mix dry topping ingredients together, then cut in butter using a pastry cutter, two butter knifes or in a food processor.
Pour filling into chilled pie crust, then cover with topping. Spread evenly and pat firmly into place. Cut a vent into the center, to allow steam to escape.
Place into oven and bake until top is evenly browned and center is bubbling (about 1 hour and 15 minutes). Use a baking sheet or pizza peel to gently remove from oven and let cool to firm up the center.
Serve hot or at room temperature, with or without a scoope of good vanilla ice cream on top.
*Note: Do not substitute tapioca pudding for minute tapioca. If you must substitute, try 3 Tablespoons cornstarch.
© 2014 Karen Oland. All Rights Reserved