There is nothing sweeter than the taste of Mt. Hood strawberries this time of year, well unless you add a splash of St. Germain and a road trip to The Columbia Gorge. These berries are like the inaugural first pitch in the game of summer. When I saw them on the shelves of my neighborhood market, I was overwhelmingly compelled to bake up a strawberry rhubarb pie. Then I realized I have never actually made a strawberry rhubarb pie. Then I felt ashamed. Then I went home and prepared the dough.
I have always been a fan of this pie but now that I have baked one with Mt. Hood strawberries nothing else will do. Nothing. I can’t stand those Costco-sized, juiceless, genetically engineered monstrosities they try and pass off as fruit these days. How can they even be considered the same fruit as their bite-sized, melt in your mouth, jammy, summer inducing counterparts. No comparison. Seriously.
In my crust recipe, I replaced the lemon and much of the water in the original recipe with ice cold vodka. The vodka makes for a lighter and flakier crust as the alcohol evaporates while cooking. I couldn’t stop at just one kind of alcohol, so I invited a splash of St. Germain to the party. St. Germain is one of the prettiest things I have ever consumed, it tastes like flowers, sunshine and girlishness. The perfumy floral aroma perfectly compliments the sweet jammy strawberries and teases the rhubarb’s tartness. It’s subtle but it’s lovely, like a classy dame.
As you can imagine, this pie turned out to be a dream date.
- all-purpose flour - 2.5 cups
- unsalted butter, cold and cut into small 1/4" cubes - 1 cup
- granulated sugar - 2 tablespoons
- salt - 2 teaspoons
- ice cold vodka - 1/4 cup
- ice cold water - 2-4 tablespoons
- strawberries (about 1 pound) strawberries, hulled and sliced if big, halved if tiny - 3.5 cups
- rhubarb (about 1 1/2 pounds, untrimmed) rhubarb, in 1/2-inch thick slices - 3.5 cups
- granulated sugar - 1/2 cup
- light brown sugar - 1/4 cup
- St. Germain - 1 tablespoon
- salt - 1/4 teaspoon
- quick cooking tapioca - 1/4 cup
- unsalted butter, cut into small pieces - 2 tablespoons
- large egg - 1
- St. Germain - 2 teaspoon
- raw sugar - 2 tablespoons
- Place the flour, sugar and salt in a metal or ceramic mixing bowl with high sides. Chill for at least 2 hours, and up to overnight.
- Blend the cold butter cubes into the chilled ingredients using a pastry blender or the butter knife method. Stop mixing when the texture of the flour changes from silky to mealy; this should only take a few minutes. Don’t worry if a few larger chunks of butter remain.
- Make a well in the flour mixture and drizzle the vodka and in while gently mixing with a fork. Slowly add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Check the hydration of the dough between each addition of water by gathering a small fistful; if it holds together, it’s ready. If it is dry or crumbly, slowly add the remaining water, testing the dough by pinching it occasionally.
- Be careful to add only as much water as it takes to combine the dough into a ball or disk. The exact amount of water can vary depending upon the moisture content of the flour, the quality of the butter, and the weather. When it has the proper amount of water, the dough will come together without much effort or deliberate packing. If you need to add more water, make sure the ingredients are still cold.
- Form the dough into two disks and wrap them in plastic. Chill for at least 1-2 hours before rolling and forming.
- Preheat oven to 400°. On a well-floured counter, roll one pie dough disk into a 12 inch circle and carefully transfer to a 9 inch pie plate. I usually roll my dough around the rolling pin and gently unroll it over the pie plate.
- Brush with St. Germain (this is optional but it creates a barrier between the dough and the filling and helps prevent a soggy bottom). Chill the pie shell at least 20-30 minutes while you prepare the filling.
- Stir together rhubarb, strawberries, sugars, St. Germain, salt and tapioca in a large bowl. Allow the slurry to sit for at least 15 minutes so that the juices start to thicken.
- While it sits, roll out your second crust to an 11 inch circle to form the upper crust. I like a lot of crust so I use a ruler and a pie cutter to make a thick basket weave design.
- Use a strainer to scoop the filling into the pie, forming a mound inside the bottom pie shell. Dot with bits of unsalted butter. Cover the pie with your upper crust. Trim top and bottom pie dough so that their overhang beyond the pie plate lip is only 1/2 - 1 inch. Tuck rim of dough underneath itself and crimp it decoratively.
- Transfer pie to a baking sheet and brush. Mix the egg and remaining St. Germain in a small bowl. Lightly brush the mixture over dough. Sprinkle with raw sugar.
- Cover the edges with tin foil to prevent over-browning.
- Bake for 20 minutes on 400° then reduce temperature to 350° and remove tin foil around edges. Bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, until the pie is golden and the juices bubble visibly.
- Transfer pie to wire rack to cool.
- When fully cool (several hours later) the juices gel.
- *Pie should keep for up to three days at room temperature. This pie lasted only one day, sadly.
- *Anytime I make pie, I like to make an extra batch of dough to store in the freezer so it is ready to go the next time I feel inspired to bake a pie. Which usually ends up being a few days later.
- Pie dough recipe adapted from The Grand Central Baking Book: Breakfast Pastries, Cookies, Pies, and Satisfying Savories from the Pacific Northwest's Celebrated Bakery.
- Filling recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen strawberry-rhubarb pie, improved.