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Taming the Wild Rhubarb

April 29, 1993|BEV BENNETT

It's called the pie plant for good reason. When cooked, rhubarb breaks down to a thick, tender pulp that is a wonderful textural contrast to a flaky pie crust.

Rhubarb has a tart taste that is tamed, but not completely subdued, when mixed with sugar. The flavor is sprightly and so intense that it doesn't require a lot of spices. Standard recipes call for a basic mixture of rhubarb with sugar and flavoring. Some pair rhubarb with strawberries for a sweeter taste.

However, rhubarb can also make other kinds of sophisticated pie fillings. Rhubarb, cream and eggs make an incredible custard combination. Add a little candied ginger and apricot jam and you get what I consider the Best Ever Rhubarb Pie.

The preparation isn't traditional--there is no bottom crust. Instead, the filling is poured into a casserole. The top crust is thicker than usual, to stand up to the rhubarb. Serve the pie heaped in a bowl, plain or with vanilla ice cream.

BEST EVER RHUBARB PIE 3/4 cup sugar 2 1/2 tablespoons flour 1 egg yolk 1/2 cup whipping cream 3 cups diced rhubarb, packed 2 tablespoons minced candied ginger 2 tablespoons apricot jam or orange marmalade Pie Crust Dough Vanilla ice cream, optional

Combine sugar and flour in mixing bowl. Stir in egg yolk and whipping cream. Add rhubarb, ginger and jam. Mix well. Spoon rhubarb mixture into 1 1/2-quart glass casserole with 6 1/2-inch diameter at rim.

Roll out Pie Crust Dough on lightly floured board to 10-inch circle, 1/4-inch thick. Gently place dough over casserole and press edges to rim, pinching to make thick, high edge. Cut 2 slashes in top of crust.

Place small baking sheet or square of foil under dish to catch drips. Bake at 350 degrees until crust is golden brown and rhubarb filling is bubbling, about 1 hour. If crust browns too much before filling looks bubbly, place sheet of foil over crust (do not tuck in) and continue baking.

Remove pie from oven and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes to 1 hour before scooping out (it won't slice into wedges like traditional pie but should be spooned). Pie is best eaten same day. Serve warm or at room temperature, plain or with ice cream. Makes 3 to 4 servings.

Pie Crust Dough 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature 1/4 cup shortening 1 cup flour 1 tablespoon sugar Dash salt 1 egg yolk 2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

Blend together butter and shortening in small bowl. Form into mound and chill or freeze until firm, about 1 hour.

Combine flour, sugar and salt in large bowl. Cut in butter mixture until crumbly. Stir in egg yolk. Sprinkle in water, stirring with fork, until dough can be gathered into ball. Flatten dough into disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill 30 minutes before rolling out.

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