Author's note: Garnet yams have mahogany skins that yield bright orange flesh. They are not interchangeable with pale-skinned sweet potatoes, which tend to have a much dried flesh and are...
When you do a lot of baking, you learn to balance sweetness. Sugar is a tremendous blessing--we crave it, we love it, it heightens flavors, and it makes baked goods tender and moist. There are all kinds of sugar substitutes out there, some better than others, but we all know they're not fooling anyone. You can tell when it's not sugar.
But for all of sugar's importance, it can be the weak link in your baked goods if you let it take over. We've all tasted those saccharine desserts that make your teeth hurt. They're okay, but the truth is, they're just too sweet. Really, sugar needs nothing so much as a strong dose of salt, acid, or dairy to tame it.
This can be achieved by serving pie with ice cream, for instance. The rich and creamy dairy mutes some of the sweetness of the pie in addition to adding contrast and interest to the dish.
But you can't serve everything with ice cream (well, I suppose you can, but it seems a bit excessive). This is where you get a little more creative, adding citrus zests and juices, adding salt, etc. But sometimes your main ingredients do the hard work for you.
Enter: rhubarb. We think of it most often as a fruit, although it's technically a vegetable. It has a bright disposition--magenta or light pink and sometimes lime green--and a shockingly tart bite. It's not the sort of thing to eat out of hand, and many people dislike it for its aggressive mouth-puckering flavor.
But if you harness it, pie nirvana will be yours.
There's a reason strawberry rhubarb pie is a springtime classic. Darling red strawberries, sweet and fragrant, meet belligerent rhubarb, and together they make a ruby-red, sweet-tart pie that isn't too much of anything: not too sweet, not too tart, not too rich.
For this particular strawberry rhubarb pie, I used JOY's tried and true recipe but made some small changes. First, I used a spelt crust (half spelt and half whole wheat flour), but you can use any type of crust you like, really. I just like the nuttiness and body that spelt flour gives a pie crust. Second, I reduced the sugar just a bit and added orange zest and grated fresh ginger, since both flavors play nicely with rhubarb.
As you can see, I made a lattice crust for the top to show off the color of the filling to great effect, but a plain top crust will work. You could even go for a crumble or streusel topping if that appeals to you. Whatever you do, just remember to vent your crust well so the molten juices can bubble freely and the steam can escape.
Other articles you might enjoy: Limoncello Lemon Meringue Pie, Peach Pie, Chocolate Ganache Tart with Press-In Shortbread Crust
1 recipe of My Basic All-Butter Dough
For a spelt crust, replace half the all-purpose flour with whole or white spelt flour. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Combine in a large bowl:
2 1/2 cups roughly chopped rhubarb
2 1/2 cups hulled, halved strawberries (quartered for larger berries)
3/4 to 1 cup sugar, depending on tartness of fruit
1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca or cornstarch
1 to 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
Let stand for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Line a 9-inch pie pan with half the dough (see my tutorial on rolling dough).
Pour the filling into the bottom crust and dot with:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Cover with a pricked or vented top crust or a lattice.
For a lattice, roll the second half of the dough into a 13-inch circle. Cut the dough into 3/4-inch strips (you should have about 17 to 18 strips). Place half (8 or 9) of the dough strips ½ inch apart on a lightly floured cookie sheet, then weave the remaining dough strips through these, either on a diagonal or in a perpendicular crisscross pattern. It's a basic weaving technique--over, under, over, under. Gently slide the lattice off the cookie sheet directly onto the top of the pie. Don't freak out--it'll be okay. Trim the lattice strips, leaving at least a ¼-inch overhang at each end. Press the strips against the bottom crust. Fold the edge of the bottom crust up, covering the ends of the lattice strips, then crimp or flute the edge.
Lightly brush the top of the pie with:
Milk or cream
2 teaspoons sugar
Bake for 30 minutes, then lower the heat to 350°F and bake for 25 to 30 minutes more, until the juices are thick and bubbling. Cool completely on a rack.