I could go on and on about how big of a pain in the ass making pie crust can be but this time it turned out pretty good so I just won't go there. Instead I'll remark on the ease at which these seem to disappear after they're introduced to a bunch of people at a barbeque and the joy it was to finally get some rhubarb and make something with it.
I've actually made 3 rhubarb desserts since it started showing up at the farmers market.
These hand pies, a rhubarb crisp and a white chocolate mousse tart that I screwed up and then had the gall to serve to my co-workers knowing that it was going to taste just so (my apologies for that to any of you that are going to or will read this).
All of this rhubarb madness got me thinking about why rhubarb is so popular as a dessert item. I mean, it's actually a vegetable.
I realize it isn't the first vegetable to be integrated within desserts-- which got me thinking more about things like zucchini bread and carrot cake.
What's the point of adding these otherwise healthy foods into not-so-healthy baked goods? It doesn't make the baked good any healthier.
And let's be honest, do we like carrot cake and zucchini bread and strawberry rhubarb pie because these things actually taste like the vegetables that get baked into them? Well, I kinda don't think so. I think that as long as we pile a bunch of sugar on top of anything it's eventually going to taste good.. I could pulse and mince up some broccoli and fold it into my chocolate cake batter and I bet it would still taste good as long as I put a lot of sugar in it. Right?
Well, maybe. Maybe not. I've never actually tried that and I could be wrong. Maybe my cake would taste like broccoli or maybe it would taste just like chocolate cake with some added green "texture". But what I do know is that I actually might be wrong about all of this because of these hand pies.
Yes yes, these hand pies have a good amount of sugar in them but it doesn't stop the one major characteristic of rhubarb from coming through which is its tartness. Rhubarb is tart and I think that as long as you don't overwhelm your recipe with sugar--and other spices/ingredients--you can find a great balance and that tart trait can shine through gracefully. In fact I think you could kick back the sugar amount even more and it would still be an amazing dessert that screamed rhubarb. There are tons of recipes that always combine it with strawberries--and for good reason--but I think that rhubarb deserves its day in the sun. These hand pies make the case for rhubarb. Make them. Savor them. Revel in the tartness that rhubarb embodies. This is the word of rhubarb.
For the pie crust:
Lately I've gone back to basics with pie crust (for a while I was using the Cooks Illustrated recipe that uses vodka--but the honeymoon is over with that one--it's just too soft to deal with). So, I've been using a real basic crust which I found on Saveur that has step by step instructions with pictures. You can use any pie crust recipe you wish but just make sure it is enough for what would be a top and bottom crust for a single 9" pie.
For the filling:
1lb rhubarb stalks with the ends trimmed and cut into half inch slices
3/4c (150g) granulated sugar
2tbsp corn starch
1tsp lemon extract
pinch of salt
-Place the rhubarb, sugar and corn starch into a large bowl and toss it all together until the rhubarb is well coated
-Place the mixture in a medium saucepan and place on the stove over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, covered. Then remove the cover and cook for another 10-15 minutes on medium heat until it is thick enough so that you can take a spoon and run it along the bottom of the pan and a trench quickly forms and then disappears.
-Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon extract and the salt
-Let cool completely. Also--courtesy of a tip from Deb at Smitten Kitchen because it is quicker--you can spread the mixture on a plate and place in the freezer until it is cool enough. It will thicken more as it cools.
1 large egg
coarse sugar or a cinnamon/sugar mixture (which is what I used) for sprinkling on top
-Preheat the oven to 400 F
-Roll out your chilled pie dough--1 disc at a time--on a well-floured surface--to somewhere between a 1/8-1/4" thick
-Using a pastry cutter or a pizza cutter, cut 3x3 inch squares. You could also probably use a 3" diameter biscuit or cookie cutter as well. I got somewhere between 15-18 (I made these a week ago so I can't remember now..) hand pies total out of this dough.
-Once you've matched up your squares with a top and a bottom, in a small bowl whisk the egg and water together well and using a pastry brush, brush the bottom of each hand pie with the egg wash
-Spoon about a teaspoon of the mixture (maybe a tiny bit more--my one criticism is that they could have had just a tad more filling) on each of the bottom squares.
-Place the top square over the bottom with the filling and lightly press the edges to seal
-Brush the top square with the egg wash and sprinkle the course sugar on top
-Place pies on a parchment paper or silicon lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown
-Remove from the oven and cool or eat warm