My parents came to town this weekend, so I wanted to knock their socks off with all this pie I’ve been ranting about (plus, if we’re being honest here, I knew they would play with the boys and I could bake!). I planned a pie-a-palooza of a weekend – dough experiments, mini pies, whole pies.
Staring out my kitchen window at the soggy leaves and rainy sky, I wanted just one more taste of warm weather before the winter suffocated me in the northeast Ohio snowbelt. I knew I had the perfect solution to both a flavor my parents would love and one that would lift my spirits – strawberry rhubarb! Lucky me, I had the last of the farmer’s market rhubarb frozen in my freezer along side some strawberries.
I had done a trial run a while back, so I set out to perfect my recipe. I ended up crafting my own filling recipe from a hybrid of Smitten Kitchen and my Hungarian Grandmother’s. The result: pure spring in every bite! Love, love, love.
Strawberry Rhubarb Minis
1 double crust recipe of pie dough of choice, refrigerated in two disks and then rolled to about 1/8 inch thick
2c rhubarb diced about 1/2 inch thick
2c strawberries, quartered to make cubes about 1/2 inch thick
1/4 cup brown sugar
1T Strawberry Jello (optional, but not only helps thicken, adds a little zing and color)
1 1/2 T cornstarch
2t fresh lemon juice (start with 1t and then add to taste)
1t lemon zest
Preheat oven to 400 (or 375 convection)
Roll dough 1/8 in thick and cut circles using a 2 1/2 inch round glass or cutter. Start with one disc of dough, placing circles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place sheet in refrigerator while you roll out the second disc, placing circles on another baking sheet. Refrigerate circles while you make the filling.
Dice rhubarb and strawberries into approximately 1/2 in thick pieces. You want them small enough to fit into the circles, but large enough that they don’t cook all the way down when heated on the stove.
Melt 1T of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat (don’t forget about it and burn it like I did). Add the strawberries and rhubarb and cook for about 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup brown sugar and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes. If using frozen fruit, there will be more liquid then with fresh. I poured some liquid off to keep an equal consistency with the fruit (pour off before adding the sugar).
While the fruit is cooking down, combine 1T of Jello with 1 1/2 T of cornstarch in a small bowl or ramekin (if not using Jello, use a tablespoon or two of the 1/4 cup of brown sugar). Add the Jello and cornstarch mixture to the pan and continue to stir for another minute or two until thick. Remove from heat and transfer into a bowl. Add lemon, cinnamon and vanilla. Bring to room temperature or refrigerate until ready to use.
Remove circles from refrigerator and lightly moisten the edges (this will help seal). Fill a circle with 2T of filling and then top with another circle, sealing the edges lightly. Here’s the thing – this is a messy job, but it’s so worth it to try and get as much filling in as possible. No worries if it oozes out. Just wipe it off and move on. Assemble all of the pies and then crimp the edges with a fork to seal.
Place sealed pies in the freezer while you fill the other sheet. Remove pies from freezer (putting the other one in), cut decorative slits with a knife to vent each pie. Glaze lightly with milk (or a well beaten egg for more browning) and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake for 19 minutes until golden brown. If doing both sheets at the same time, rotate half way through. Transfer right away to a wire rack to cool. Will keep for 2 days at room temperature, lightly covered with saran wrap.