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By the Book: Dawn Casale and David Crofton’s Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

February 28th 01:02pm, 2012

Dawn Casale did what many of us only dream of: She left her day job to dedicate her days (and, no doubt, many nights) to follow her dream of starting her own business. As she explains in her new cookbook, One Girl Cookies, after seven years as the accessories manager at Barney’s New York (a dream job all its own), Casale had her “light bulb moment.” She decided “to venture down a path paved with butter and flour and sugar, and I had never been happier.”

The result is One Girl Cookies, a quaint little bakery on the streets of Brooklyn that’s known for classic small desserts. (After years of working with small accessories, Casale said she couldn’t think of making anything that wasn’t tiny.) Her new cookbook, which she wrote with her husband and business partner, David Crofton, offers the recipes to many of these baked little wonders as well as a handful of “family recipes” like Nana Cookies and Aunt Tina’s Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies. (Check out page 31 of the new March issue of Sauce to see our review of this book.)

After flipping through dozens of recipes for cookies, cakes, whoopie pies and muffins, I landed upon a recipe that put a smile on my face: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Spiced Oat Crumble. OK, OK, I know it’s not spring yet. But can’t a girl dream? One day I’m shedding my scarf for sunglasses, the next I’m grabbing for a fleece and Uggs to take the dog out. It’s enough to give anyone a headache – and a hankering for the sweet signs of spring.

I’ve never worked with rhubarb before, but I’d always been drawn to the long, gorgeous stalks boasting that vivid magenta color. I also liked that they were kind of a work-horse in the produce section: falling into the vegetables category but treated more like a fruit in chutneys and pies. I knew they carried an extreme tartness, so I figured I had my work cut out for me. I thought now would be a great time to start; maybe I’d have these babies mastered by the time spring actually arrives.

Unfortunately, the only instruction this recipe provided for how to prepare rhubarb is to slice them. Nothing about washing or trimming. Nothing on how big those slices should be. And no pictures to lend any guidance. A little research revealed that the stalks need to be washed and trimmed at the ends, including any green leafy parts. You then need to peel any string-like ribbons that are hanging from the stalks – if you can’t find them, once you start slicing, they will become visible. Then, for a pie, you should slice the rhubarb into ¼-inch to ½-inch pieces. Such detailed instructions would’ve been nice to see in the book.

The only other issue I had with this recipe was the amount of time it said it would take for the crust to turn a nice, golden color wasn’t quite right (at least in my oven). It said this would take just 10 minutes at 425 degrees, though my oven took more like 20. It still wasn’t quite golden when I turned it down to 350 degrees, as the recipe required, but I figured it would start to burn soon. In the end, the crust was just fine.

Pies are supposed to be all day affairs and this one lived up to its reputation. It was no quick dessert, but it was worth the wait. The result was filled with a mélange of flavors that would have been overpowering on their own but, together, were beautifully balanced. The topping – filled with crystallized ginger, sugars and rolled oats – tamed the tartness of the rhubarb quite well while still letting the other ingredients – like citrusy orange zest – shine. Though this is surely a spring pie, there was a hint of fall in every bite, thanks to two kinds of ginger and a hint of nutmeg. This pie would be great with a scoop of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream on top, served piping hot or even chilled. And it will surely be lovely once those warm spring Sundays finally roll around.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Spiced Oat Crumble

1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
½ tsp. table salt
10 Tbsp. (1¼ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 Tbsp. ice water

3 cups sliced hulled strawberries
3 cups sliced rhubarb (Note: Wash and trim off ends, including any leafy green parts. Peel any outlying strings and then slice into ¼-inch to ½-inch pieces.)
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. grated orange zest
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbsp. instant tapioca (Tapioca can be found in the supermarket, near the gelatin and Jell-O.)

¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
½ cup rolled oats
¼ cup minced crystallized ginger
½ tsp. table salt
10 Tbsp. (1¼ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp. whole milk
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

• To make the crust, combine the flours, sugar and salt in a food processor, and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse 4 or 5 times, until it is broken up into pea-sized pieces. Gradually add the ice water, pulsing until the mixture has a crumblike texture and is beginning to climb the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using your hands – and a little muscle – form the dough into a 5-inch-diameter disk. Wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour and as long as 24 hours before rolling.
• On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into an 11-inch circle. Working quickly and carefully, line a 9-inch pie dish with the dough. With your fingertips, make sure that the edge of the pie is smooth and even. Refrigerate the crust while you prepare the other elements.
• To make the filling, combine the strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, orange zest, lemon juice, vanilla and tapioca in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Let rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.
• To make the topping, combine the flour, brown sugar, ground ginger, nutmeg, oats, crystallized ginger and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is well blended and resembles coarse crumbles.
• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
• Scoop the filling into the cold pie crust. Then mound the crumb topping over the filling. With a pastry brush, brush the milk over the edge of the pie crust. Sprinkle the sugar over the crust. Put the pie dish on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any filling that drips over the side.
• Bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is a nice golden color. (Note: This took more like 20 minutes in my oven.) Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 20 to 25 more minutes, until the filling begins to bubble up. Transfer the dish to a wire rack and let the pie cool completely.

Reprinted from One Girl Cookies by Dawn Casale and David Crofton. Copyright (c) 2012. Photos copyright (c) 2012 by Iain Bagwell. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc.

For a chance to win a copy of One Girl Cookies, tell us about your favorite way to cook or bake with rhubarb in the comments section below. And don’t forget to check out our review of One Girl Cookies on page 31 of the March issue of Sauce.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Nupur, whose comments on last week’s By the Book column has won her a copy of The Fresh Egg Cookbook. Nupur, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew!

By Stacy Schultz

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6 Responses to “By the Book: Dawn Casale and David Crofton’s Strawberry Rhubarb Pie”

  1. Colleen Dempsey Dotson Says:
    February 28th, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    Ohhh I LOVE to bake with rhubarb! I think cinnamon is the perfect compliment to it. I love to make rhubarb tarts. I make a yummy apple rhubarb cake with cream cheese icing. Rhubarb & blueberry jam is also tasty and make a great cake filling. OK, NOW you are making me hungry!! Thanks!

  2. Heather Says:
    February 28th, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    I don’t have a favorite rhubarb treat, having only baked with it once. But I’m itching for spring and the farmer’s market to try some new to me produce. I’d love to see what other mini desserts Dawn lays out in her book.

  3. Linda Says:
    February 28th, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    I like to make either a rhubarb custard-y pie or a cobbler with a biscuit crust that gets sweet and crispy, my mom’s recipe.

  4. Sally M Says:
    March 2nd, 2012 at 1:08 am

    My parent’s have grown rhubarb in our suburban backyard for over 35 years and my mom makes a fantastic cherry-rhubarb dump cake. However, my current favorite rhubarb recipe is straight from a B&B in England. The owners snuck across the road and “borrowed” a few stalks from the neighboring farm to make the freshest rhubarb crumble I’ve ever had. They were even kind enough to share the recipe so we could recreate it with some of mom’s bounty!

  5. Kirsten P Says:
    March 6th, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    I don’t have a favorite way with rhubarb yet since I’ve never tried cooking with it, but I would love to try it out!

  6. Sauce Magazine Blog » Blog Archive » By the Book: Tyson Cole and Jessica Dupuy’s Uchi Salad Says:
    March 6th, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    [...] now, we’d like to congratulate Sally, whose comment on last week’s By the Book column has won her a copy of One Girl Cookies, which we also review on page 31 of the [...]

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