Grown-up Rhubarb Pie
Hold the strawberries—gin, ginger, and cardamom sing backup in this sweet-tart spring dessert.
makes One 9-inch pie
4 hours 15 minutes
Blush pink rhubarb pairs beautifully with gin and ginger in pie writer Ellen Gray’s classic all-butter crust. The extra steps of blind baking and adding a thin layer of cookie crumbs—amaretti pair particularly well with the rhubarb—help contain the pie plant’s notorious runaway juices. European-style butter is best here for making the pie dough, as it contains less water and more fat than conventional American versions, resulting in a richer result.
For the dough:
- 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 2½ cups (12 oz.) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 18 tbsp. (8 oz.) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
For the filling:
- 2 tbsp. fine, dry, cookie crumbs
- ¾ cups sugar
- ½ cups dark brown sugar
- 1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
- ¼ tsp. kosher salt
- 3–4 tbsp. cornstarch (use the larger amount if you prefer a more sliceable pie)
- ¾ tsp. ground cardamom, divided
- ¼ cups finely chopped, candied ginger
- 2 lb. rhubarb, cut in 1-in. pieces (about 7 cups)
- 1 tbsp. fresh orange juice
- 2 tbsp. gin
- 4 dashes rhubarb bitters or bitters of your choice (optional)
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into ½-in. pieces
- 1 large egg yolk whisked with 1 Tbsp. water
- 2 tbsp. raw cane sugar
Make the dough: In liquid measuring cup, combine the vinegar with ½ cup of ice water, then transfer to the refrigerator.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. On a clean work surface, use a floured, flexible bowl scraper to lightly flatten the cubed butter, then scoop the butter pieces into the flour mixture. Using your fingertips, gently squeeze and toss the butter into the flour until you have shaggy, pea-sized pieces. Retrieve the vinegar mixture from the fridge and pour half of it around the edge of the bowl. Using your fingers, toss the mixture while rotating the bowl, until the water is evenly incorporated into the dry ingredients. Continue to toss in the vinegar water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough just holds together in a solid mass when gently squeezed. Turn the dough out onto your clean work surface, divide in half, then gently press each half into an even ½-inch disk. Wrap each disk tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out 1 disk of dough to a 13-inch circle. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate, easing the pastry into the corners of the plate to avoid stretching it. Using a paring knife, trim the edges all the way around to a 1-inch overhang. Transfer to a large, rimmed baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven (with one of its racks positioned in the center) to 425° F. Line the chilled pie shell with a sheet of parchment paper or foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Transfer to the oven and bake until the crust is light golden brown, about 25 minutes. Carefully lift and remove the parchment and pie weights; the crust should be baked through and look evenly dry. If it is still gummy and wet, turn the oven down to 325° F and continue baking 5-10 minutes more. Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you prepare the filling.
Meanwhile, retrieve the remaining disk of dough, unwrap, and place it on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper. Let the dough come up to room temperature for about 10 minutes, then lightly flour the surface of the dough and roll it out to an even 12-inch circle, about ⅛-inch thick. Slide the dough (still on the parchment) onto a second baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate while you make the filling.
When the pie shell is completely cool, sprinkle the cookie crumbs along the bottom in an even layer. Turn the oven up to 400° F.
In a small bowl, combine the sugars with the orange zest, rubbing the mixture between your fingers to release the orange oil. Whisk in the salt, cornstarch, and ½ teaspoon of the cardamom. In a large bowl, stir together the rhubarb, orange juice, gin, and bitters (if using), then stir in the sugar mixture. Retrieve the top crust from the fridge. Transfer the rhubarb filling to the cooled pie shell and dot with the butter pieces. Dab some cool water along the edge of the bottom crust, then gently drape the top crust over the filling. Using a paring knife, trim the top crust so you have an even, 1-inch overhang. Tuck the overhang under, then seal the top crust to the bottom crust by pressing gently all along the edges with the tines of a fork. Brush the top of the pie with the egg yolk wash and sprinkle the surface with raw cane sugar and the remaining cardamom. Transfer to the freezer until the top crust is firm, about 15 minutes.
Retrieve the pie from the freezer and place on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Using a paring knife, cut several slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape. Transfer to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375° F, rotate the pie, and continue baking until the filling is bubbling and the crust is deep golden brown, about 45 minutes more. (If the crust starts to get too dark before the filling is bubbling, tent loosely with foil and continue baking.)
Cool the pie on a wire rack for at least 3 hours before slicing. (For neat slices, it’s best to let the pie set even longer.) Store any leftovers loosely covered at room temperature for 1 day or covered in the fridge for up to 1 week.