Caramelized Rhubarb Custard Pie with Fresh Strawberries

Growing up in the Midwest meant eating a lot of rhubarb–often this involved heading to the garden with my brother Eric, where we would eat the raw stalks (minus the leaves, which are toxic) dipped in sugar that we had cupped in the palms of our hands.  I love rhubarb, and it makes a wonderful pie.  Strawberries, too, are a personal favorite. However, the standard pairing of strawberries and rhubarb in pie form has never been wildly appealing, primarily because when baked the strawberries turn into something somewhat slug-like in texture.  Here is my solution:

This technique worked well and I will make this again and again and again.  The rhubarb method leaves the pieces in an almost candied form, the custard adds a silky richness, and the strawberries stay sweet and fresh and firm.  Win-win.  To make this, I wanted to sweeten the rhubarb without stewing it, in part to preserve the flavor and color, and more importantly because I didn’t want excess moisture to thin the custard.  I placed the chopped rhubarb (amounts all detailed in recipe below) in a dry skillet with the sugar and a little vanilla extract and cooked it over medium heat until the sugar melted, the juices extracted, and it became a beautifully ruddy, bubbling mass.  Resist the urge to add water to this–the sugar will melt into liquid.

At this point you want the juices to cook away until the rhubarb is almost candied and the syrup is really thick.

 

Set that aside to cool completely, and make the custard.  You want a pretty thick custard for your pie filling, so I strongly recommend using whole milk for this.  I am lazy when it comes to custard and I found that if you whisk everything together with the egg yolks really well while it is all cold, you really don’t need to temper the liquid before adding the yolks.  Just put all of the custard ingredients in a cold saucepan, whisk really well, and then cook over medium-high heat, whisking frequently, until it is all bubbly and nice and thick.

Chill the custard for a couple of hours, or until it is cold and fully set.  At this point you can fold in your rhubarb mixture and your filling is complete.  Smooth the filling into a prepared pie crust; I called for a purchased graham cracker crust in the recipe below to keep this “no bake,” but I made my own crust with gingersnaps.  If you want to replicate that, just use a cup and a quarter of gingersnap crumbs (from about 20 cookies), a half cup of ground pecans, two tablespoons of sugar, and four tablespoons of butter.  Pulse it all in a food processor until well combined, then press it into a 9-inch pie plate and bake at 350 degrees for ten minutes, then cool completely before filling.
Chill the filled pie while you wash and cut your berries.  You want really ripe berries for this, and it would would be pretty with overlapping slices, halves as I have done here, or quarters if you want to make it really easy to slice the pie.  Wash, hull, and slice your berries, then arrange them on your custard filling and you have a finished pie.  I am seriously in love with this pie.  I want to marry it.
Here are the details:

Custard:
2 cups whole milk
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch of salt

Rhubarb:
2 cups chopped fresh rhubarb
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sugar

Assembly:
graham cracker pie shell (or gingersnap, as detailed above)
fresh strawberries, hulled and halved

Happy Independence Day!

-Angela

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10 Responses to Caramelized Rhubarb Custard Pie with Fresh Strawberries

  1. Yenta Mary July 4, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    I adore rhubarb! This looks so gorgeous, so rich, so luscious … :)

  2. Tina July 4, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    This really looks like an elegant and excellent summer dessert. thanks for sharing.
    flourtrader.blogspot.com

  3. DaniD July 4, 2011 at 11:40 pm #

    Sounds absolutely amazing :) will definitely try this with the rhubarb I got at the market this week!!

  4. Marnely Rodriguez July 5, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    Love how you caramelized the rhubarb, although not a rhubarb fan, this could probably win me over! Happy Pie Day!

  5. katiez July 5, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

    Mt mother always made rhubarb custard pie – no strawberries, though. I can still close my eyes and taste that pie – hands down my favorite. Sadly, she doesn't bake any longer and I never mastered the art of the pie…

  6. Kathleen July 6, 2011 at 1:30 am #

    This looks like a fabulously yummy pie!

  7. Pegasuslegend July 6, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

    very unique recipe awesome photo's`

  8. Shawn July 6, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    Looks delicious! I love a custard pie in a sweet crust :)

  9. Marla July 8, 2011 at 3:04 am #

    Rhubarb. Custard. Pie. You said it all right there…sounds amazing! Have not had rhubarb in years but love it.

  10. Patricia Stoltey May 4, 2012 at 8:00 pm #

    This looks so good! I hope there's some rhubarb at tomorrow's Farmer's Market 'cause I'm ready for pie!

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