Rhubarb pie's allure is in its complexity

Sherrel Jones shares her love of rhubarb pie.
BY SHERREL JONES Modified: April 23, 2013 at 4:03 pm •  Published: April 24, 2013
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I haven't always thought of rhubarb as something special. It was a flavor that had to grow on me, but now I think it's second-piece worthy. Sometime ago, I began taking little ribbons of pastry and letting them fall on top of the pie, brushing them with egg wash and sprinkling on the sugar, thus my ribbon-topped pie. I'm looking forward to fresh-picked Oklahoma rhubarb coming to the farmer's market soon.

My husband thinks I need more practice making pie, and he has generously offered to take care of all that extra pie I will have on hand until I get it perfect. I have counter-offered to drive him to the gym on a regular basis or at least walk a mile or two for each piece of pie. So far, I have made just one rhubarb ribbon pie.

My grandmother had plenty of rhubarb in her backyard garden so it was the pie she made most often in the spring. I was reluctant about rhubarb growing up. I thought it had a weird twang to it, and its pale pink color just wasn't as pretty as the cherry pies my mother made. I was convinced it wasn't as sweet either. Both my mother and grandmother insisted the rhubarb had more sugar, but I had my doubts.

By the time I became pie obsessed, I gave rhubarb another try. I was probably intrigued by those beautiful red stalks that would bubble into pink perfection. The tangy-sweet flavor offers natural balance. I think now it is the tangy part that makes the rhubarb flavor so appealing.

Over the years of making the pie, I have experimented with ways to bring out that natural tangy taste that is so characteristic of rhubarb: lowering the sugar and adjusting the spices even adding a bit of cream or half and half to the rhubarb filling at times. I like the little spark of flavor with the addition of orange zest and a bit of fresh squeezed orange juice. Recently, I used the zest and juice of two clementines, which was just right for filling my 9-inch pie shell.

I always include ginger as it is a favorite flavor of mine. You can also stir an equivalent sugar amount of strawberry or raspberry jam into the filling with sliced rhubarb. If you are harvesting your own rhubarb be sure to cut away any leafy growth as the leaves of rhubarb are actually poisonous.

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Sherrel's Oklahoma Rhubarb Ribbon Pie

Pastry:

Your favorite piecrust for double 9-inch pie

• Roll out and line pie plate, trim and make decorative edge. Keep prepared pie shell in freezer and chill remaining pastry for making ribbons while preparing filling.

Filling:

1/3 cup flour

¾ to 1 cup granulated sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon powdered ginger

4 to 5 cups sliced rhubarb (3/8 to ½-inch thick)

Zest and juice of 1 orange or 2 tangerines or clementines

Sugary-egg wash:

1 egg yolk

¼ cup cream or milk

Additional sugar for dusting egg washed pastry (turbinado sugar if available)

• Prepare filling stirring flour and sugar together with cinnamon and ginger. Stir together with sliced rhubarb to coat. Add zest and juice stirring to thoroughly coat the rhubarb mixture.

• Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place filling in prepared crust. Make egg wash beating yolk and cream or milk together. Brush edges of prepared crust with wash. Keep prepared pie shell in freezer and do not add filling until pastry ribbons are ready.

• Roll out pastry for ribbon top. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar before cutting ribbons. Cut strips or ribbons 7/8 to 1-inch wide using a rolling pastry cutter if available.

• Place filling in prepared crust. Wind ribbons around the top of the filling in ribbon style.

• Sprinkle additional sugar over outside edge of prepared pie shell if desired.

• Bake in preheated oven turning down to 375 after 15 minutes then baking 25 to 30 minutes until filling begins to bubble and crust is golden.

• Sherrel's pretty pie making tip: Place pie on middle oven rack centered on pizza stone that has been preheated with the oven. This helps fully cook the bottom crust while helping protect the edge of the piecrust. If crust browns too quickly use a long strip of foil to make a necklace or collar around the edge of the pie. Cool slightly before cutting if you can.

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