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Recipe: Cherry Rhubarb Pie

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Cherry Rhubarb Pie | Photo by Maria Zizka
Cherry Rhubarb Pie | Photo by Maria Zizka

For me, pie crust is just as important as pie filling. A buttery, flaky crust is crucial and undervalued. When it comes right down to it, the crust is what makes a pie a pie.

This recipe yields a generous amount of dough so that you'll have plenty to work with while you're shaping your crust. If a small hole tears open when you roll out the bottom crust, simply pinch of a piece of dough and patch it. And if you happen to have a little extra dough left over, consider sprinkling the scraps with cinnamon sugar and baking them until they are golden brown.

Cherry Rhubarb Pie
Makes one (9-inch) pie

3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons sea salt
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
13 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter
Zest of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons tapioca flour
20 ounces pitted sweet cherries (fresh or frozen)
1 pound rhubarb, chopped into ½-inch pieces
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and 3 tablespoons of the sugar. Fill a glass with ice cubes and cool water, and set it aside for a moment. Cut the butter into thin slices, add them to the bowl with the flour mixture, then quickly rub the butter into the flour until there are no pieces larger than a pea. Pour in ½ cup of the ice water and quickly toss to hydrate the flour. Try gently squeezing to see if the dough will clump together into a ball. If it doesn't, add another 1 - 2 tablespoons of ice water, a little at a time, until it does. Gather the dough into 2 balls, one slightly larger than the other. (The larger one will be for the bottom crust). Wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the large ball of dough to a 12-inch circle. Lay it in a pie dish, folding the edges under to create a slightly thicker rim, then place the dish into the refrigerator to chill while you prepare the filling.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining 1 cup sugar with the zest of the lemon. Using your fingers, rub the zest into the sugar for a minute, or until it smells very fragrant. Stir in the tapioca flour until it is evenly distributed. Add the cherries, rhubarb, and vanilla, and mix well.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the small ball of dough ¼ inch thick. Cut the dough into ½-inch-wide strips. Remove the pie dish from the fridge, and scrape the filling and any accumulated juices into the bottom crust. Place the strips of dough across the top of the filling in a lattice pattern. Crimp the edges well. Place the pie into the freezer to chill while the oven heats up to 425°F.

When the oven is ready, set the pie on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips, and place into the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and continue to bake for about 1 hour more, or until the juices are bubbling and the lattice crust is nicely browned. After 30 minutes or so, the edges of the crust might be browning too quickly; if they are, cover them with aluminum foil.

Let the pie cool to room temperature, about 3 hours, before serving. If you have a windowsill, you know what to do. (I recognize this is a long time to wait, but the filling will be runny if the pie is still warm. It's worth it, I promise!)

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