Rhubarb Berry Pie + "pie therapy" and loss

A Rhubarb and Mixed-Berry Pie to officially kick off spring!

Rhubarb Berry Pie Recipe with an all-butter crust.

This is not the first time I've made a "therapy pie," and it certainly won't be the last.  Nearly a year ago, it was Apricot Raspberry Pie that I made after spending an entire month in bed with vertigo.  It was a Lemon Chess Pie that I turned to when I didn't know how to express myself after my grandmother passed away.  Last Monday it was Rhubarb Berry Pie after the sudden, unexpected loss of our beautiful, beloved French Bulldog.

Rhubarb Berry Pie Recipe with an all-butter crust.
Rhubarb Berry Pie Recipe with an all-butter crust.
Rhubarb Berry Pie Recipe with an all-butter crust.
Rhubarb Berry Pie Recipe with an all-butter crust.

Remy was a gorgeous, long-legged fawn Frenchie.  Unlike other bulldogs that are short and stalky, she was tall, lean, and very active.  She was fiercely loyal, playful but very protective with Everett, and always there for me when I needed her most.  She was my first dog and first real fur-baby of my own.  (If you're a dog-lover like me, click here to read her puppy adoption story.)  I'm not ready to get into too many details surrounding her death or the blurry days after, and I am not even sure that is something many of you would be interested in reading, but if you've been following the blog for a while or if you ever catch me on Instagram, then you know just how deeply I loved this dog.  She had numerous health concerns ever since she was a puppy, but always bounced back.  They all seemed unrelated, but now I'm not so sure.  Her energy levels had been declining, but we thought she was just growing out of her crazy puppy years.  She only started showing signs of feeling unwell just 48 hours before she passed.  We rushed her to the emergency vet on Sunday morning, but she would never come back home.  The vet ultimately declared that it was a blood clot that entered her brain that took her life.  At only 6 years old and just days after running around playing with bubbles with our toddler, you can understand our shock and disbelief while trying to comprehend it all.

I spent the better part of Sunday evening and Monday morning alternating between utter shock, spontaneous tears, and continuous heartache.  And while I've lost loved ones before, this was a completely different kind of grief.  My heart was broken.  Our daily rituals forever changed.  And even though we have an active toddler running around the house, it still seemed quiet and empty.  Thankfully Brett was able to stay home from work that day, because I didn't know what to do with myself.  Come Monday afternoon, I did the only thing I could think of – I made pie.

Rhubarb Berry Pie Recipe with an all-butter crust.

I recently read an article about the benefits of baking for other people.  From the first cakes I baked for my roommates back in college, to running a bakery, to baking just for fun with my son, I related to this article on so many levels.  My love for baking started in my early twenties, but it wasn't until I found myself career-less upon graduation that I found a passion for pastry.  Only a year later, when my migraines forced me to quit dancing, did I truly understand how baking (for me) was a form of communication and creative expression. From showing thanks to appreciation to sympathy, the article breaks down how baking for other people is a helpful way to communicate one's feelings towards another person.  It also goes on to explore how baking for yourself is a form of mindfulness.  Because it demands so much of our attention, baking is a form of therapy – a break from our worries, stress, and daily struggles.  When you must focus 100% on the task at hand (like with many types of pastry), it is hard to worry about other things.

Rhubarb Berry Pie Recipe with an all-butter crust.
Rhubarb Berry Pie Recipe with an all-butter crust.

Of course it would be nearly impossible to forget about Remy so quickly, especially with the lingering heartache that reminded me that something wasn't right, but there I was gathering ingredients, my favorite pie tin, and weighing flour like I've done time and time again.  We are creatures of habit – for better or for worse.  In fact, one of the things I worried about affecting me the most was the disruption of daily routine.  As I mentioned, I've lost lost loved ones before, but never anyone that lived and breathed in my own house.  So much of our days were dedicated to her walks, feedings, and afternoon play sessions with Everett.  How would I not feel her absence playing trains on the carpet with Ev?  What would become of our bedtime routine that for the past 6 years was kicked-off by her last walk of the day?  But for brief moments this therapy pie did help.  There is just something about feeling the pastry come together between your fingertips that can calm the mind and the act of patiently weaving lattice that relieves you of your worries, even if just for a second.  A bit of peace and clarity in times of struggle while the unwavering pastry occupies your mind.

Rhubarb Berry Pie Recipe with an all-butter crust.

Rhubarb Berry Pie

All-butter crust
2 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup very cold butter, diced
½ cup cold water
¼ cup ice
1 tablespoon apple cider or lemon juice
1 egg
splash water
turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

1.  In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and sugar.  Place the ice in the water and set aside.

2.  Cut in the cold butter with a pastry cutter or by hand, rubbing the pieces of butter between your thumb, index, and middle fingers.  Once the pieces are no longer lager than about a peanut, begin to flatten the pieces of butter in sheets between your palms.  Be careful not to over-work the butter or let it get too warm.

3.  Working with only a couple tablespoons at a time, add in about 6 to 8 tablespoons of the water along with the vinegar.  Stir together using a wooden spoon or even just a clean hand in the bowl.  The dough should appear fairly shaggy and not sticky.  Once you can squeeze a few pieces together and they hold, the dough is done being mixed.  Do not over-mix.

4.  Divide the dough into half and shape each piece into a disk.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours, or overnight (preferably).

5. Once ready, bring one disc out of the refrigerator and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.  Liberally flour the work surface and begin to roll out the dough, working from the center out – rotating the dough after each roll.  Roll the dough until about ¼ inch thick and about 12 to 13 inches in diameter. 

6.  Gently roll the dough around the rolling pin and transfer to a 8 or 9 inch pie tin.  Fit the dough into the bottom of the tin and up the sides, allowing for about an inch of overhang.  Trim with kitchen sheers and place back in the refrigerator.

7.  For the lattice top, repeat step 5.  Using a ruler and a paring knife, cut 8 strips about 1-inch wide.  Cut a 9th strip slightly wider and then cut it into thirds.  Gently braid the three strips together.  Place all the strips and the braid on a baking sheet or cutter board and place in the refrigerator, along with any leftover dough.

8.  Meanwhile, make the filling (recipe to follow).

9.  Fill the chilled pie crust with the filling.  Remove the cut strips from the refrigerator and begin creating a the lattice pattern, carefully weaving over and under each strip of the opposite direction.  Slip the braid in where one solid strip should be in a regular lattice pattern.  Allow for some excess dough on the end of each strip, then trim.

10.  Fold up the excess dough from the bottom crust over the ends of the lattice strips.  Press into the rim of the pan.  Crimp with the tines of a fork.

11.  Return the pie back to refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

12.  Just before heading into the over, create an egg wash by whisking together a whole egg and a splash of water.  Brush the egg wash over the entire top of the crust.  Cover with plastic and place the egg wash in the fridge.

13.  Place pie in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes.  Keep a close eye on the pie and place a baking sheet on the rack underneath the pie to catch any juices that might start bubbling over.  After about 40 minutes, quickly yet carefully remove the pie from the oven.  Give it another quick brush with the refrigerated egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.  Return to the oven and back for another 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.  The juices should be bubbling between the vents when done.

14.  Allow the baked pie to completely cool before slicing and serving, at least 4 hours or overnight.
 

Rhubarb Berry Filling
3/4 lb fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup ripe strawberries, sliced
1 cup frozen raspberries (unthawed)
2/3 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar (depending on the sweetness of your berries)
a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice
pinch salt
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
 

Combine all of the ingredients together in a large bowl.  Gently toss to combine but try not to break up the berries.  Pour into the chilled pie crust when ready.

 

NOTES: 

– After fully assembling the pie, but before the egg wash, I froze my pie.  To do so, chill then wrap the pie in a double-layer of plastic wrap before freezing.  When ready to bake, pre-heat the oven and bake from frozen. Add the egg wash before entering the oven.  You may need to add 10 to 15 minutes to the bake time.  Do not freeze the pie in a glass pie pan!
– For the perfectly clean slices in the pictures, I let the pie cool at room temperature for a couple hours or so, then wrapped well in plastic and refrigerated over night.
– Try to leave about 1/2-inch of space between the filling and the top of the pan.  If not, the juices will probably bubble over the top like mine did.  Personally, I don't mind the messiness.  Just be sure to place a baking sheet in your oven to catch any juices or they will smoke and burn.