Here's an oldie-but-goodie from the archives. There are still gorgeous shoots of rhubarbs in the stores and this is a really easy yet impressive way to use them. Let me know if you try it! — C.M.
I don't know how many ways we can complain about spring's slow arrival, but it's getting dire, isn't it? So, at SPC our new motto is: If we eat them, it will come. Them being spring fruits and vegetables and It being the stubbornest spring in memory. We couldn't have known when, some time ago, we decided this would be Spring Fever Week on the site. So we're soldiering on. Are you with us?
Rhubarb is one of my favourite spring grocery finds and I was excited to introduce it to the kids. Like fiddleheads (another fave of mine) you really only see the beautiful local shoots in the stores for a month or so. I thought the sourness might pose a problem for the kids but they were so excited to see me baking half of my sales pitch was done for me before the first bite. Well, my first hurdle was actually finding the damn stuff fresh.
photos by Maya Visnyei
It turns out this April has been the cruelest month for rhubarb, too. It felt like I spoke to every produce guy in Toronto last weekend and they all made the same sad little head shake before muttering, "The weather this year. Hard on the rhubarb." Well, I did finally get my hands on some down at St. Lawrence Market but if you end up using frozen that would be perfectly fine — just let it thaw out before you start.
This crostata is based on one in the new issue of Bon Appetit (love, love, love their new direction). The version there is rhubarb and raspberry but I was really feeling like the sweetness of strawberries would make this more appealing for my crew. I tweaked a few other little things. It's a very simple pie to make but results in something both rustic but impressive all at once. You could forgo the raw sugar sprinkles but it does add a nice crunch and makes it extra gorgeous. And the main thing is by baking and eating this pie you'll be helping spring come. Take it for the team, okay?
Strawberry Rhubarb Crostata
1 cup flour
1/2 cup wholewheat flour
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, in fact, throw in the freezer
1 Tbsp milk
1/4 cup cornstarch
4 cups rhubarb, slice about 1/2 inch thick, it's about 1 to 1 1/4 pounds
1 6 ounce container of fresh strawberries, washed and roughly chopped
2/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp raw sugar (approximately)
Throw your butter in the freezer for half an hour before you start. This will change your (baking) life — trust.
Mix flours, sugar and salt in a bowl. Now, grate the very cold butter with the large holes on a box cheese grater. This is a trick I learned from Martha Stewart and is it ever a good thing. I don't have the kind of food processor that's good for doughs and using a pastry cutter work in butter is a pain in the butt. Well, no more, my friends, no more. The grater makes the perfect sized little bits of butter. Then you just toss them into the flour, really toss it around well so it breaks up and every bit gets coated in the flour mix. Whisk together the milk and egg and then stir into the flour. It will seem like not enough moisture to hold into a dough but it is. Use your hands to gather it into a ball. Flatten it into a disk, wrap tightly will cling wrap and put in the fridge for at least an hour and a half but up to two days.
Dissolve the cornstarch in about 6 Tbsps of water. Combine strawberries, rhubarb and sugar in a heavy bottomed pan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the fruit begins to kick off some liquid. About 5 minutes. Add the cornstarch slurry and stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil and then take off the heat. Pour the fruit mixture into a bowl and place in the fridge for 30 minutes or completely cool.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place a piece of parchment on a large cooking sheet. The Bon Appetit recipe I worked from recommended putting the parchment on your counter and then transferring the assembled crostata onto a sheet and I just didn't want to risk it coming apart in move. But my cookie sheet has no edge so it was easy to roll out the dough right on it.
Roll the dough out into a 12 inch circle. Whisk the egg and brush the entire surface of the dough with egg. Use a ladle to heap the filling into the centre of the dough. You want to leave about an 1 1/2 inch empty border of dough. The filling will begin to spread so you have to work relatively quickly here. Fold the edges of the dough into the centre — they will not meet — leaving an open hole. Don't worry about making it perfect, you'll have to pleat and fold pieces, it's supposed to be rustic! Brush the border with egg and sprinkle the edges with raw sugar. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Allow to crostata to cool quite a bit before cutting into it.
When I served this at an Easter dinner there was silence as the kids thoughtfully devoured the pie. And then asked for more.