I am not good at making pies. Sometimes the crust comes out tough (dough overworked) or it shrinks (dough not cold enough, not formed properly, and/or temperature too high) or the bottom crust is not cooked (not baked on the bottom rack). There’s nothing more frustrating than having formed a pretty crust in the dough stage, only to see half the crust fallen to the bottom of the oven while baking. I’ve tried all kinds of recipes and a lot of them don’t give you tips to set you up for success. It’s as if these recipes assume you are already a master pie baker so you should know what to do and what not to do.
One of the particular type of pies that I’ve struggled with the most and for many years now is the strawberry rhubarb pie. I can’t even count how many recipes I’ve tried and how many different starches in varying amounts I’ve used. Whether precooked or cooked in the oven, every time it came out to be a soupy mess. “It still tastes good!” is the encouraging word I get every time. Yes, but why doesn’t the fruit stay put?!
Then, last year around rhubarb season, I posted my lament about strawberry rhubarb pies and I received a comment from Becky, who suggested using pectin. She uses it to make rhubarb jam and since it sets nicely she thought it would work well in the pie.
So here we are, one year later (almost to the day), taking another crack at strawberry rhubarb pie!
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Strawberry and rhubarb are both low in pectin so it would only make sense that cooking the mixture for the duration of baking the pie is not going to be enough to make it set.
When you mix in the sugar with the strawberries and rhubarb, plenty of juice comes out so this liquid needs to be semi-set before baking the pie. In order to really draw out the liquid, I let the fruit sit in the sugar overnight. Then I strained the liquid. I knew I’d get a lot of liquid but it was even more than I had anticipated! No wonder it ended up so soupy before.
For every cup of juice, I added a tablespoon of pectin. I used the Ball® Brand RealFruit™ Classic Flex Batch Pectin. Not making any money from this, but that’s what I used because that was what I found at the store.
I let it simmer for one minute and then set it aside to let cool a bit. For the actual fruit I tossed in some tapioca starch for added insurance. Then I baked the pie as I normally would.
The result? Drum roll please…
It set beautifully!
It was like a miracle. At the same time I was wondering why all the recipes I’ve looked at before did not mention anything about pectin. It’s a conspiracy, I tell you!
So here is my recipe for no-more-soupy strawberry rhubarb pie! I’ve already made it twice now and both times the fruit set well.
Thank you, Becky, for the idea and finally ending my struggle with strawberry rhubarb pie!
Amy’s Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Recipe
Based on the Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Recipe from Joy of Cooking.
- 1½ lbs. Rhubarb stalks trimmed, unpeeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2½ cups Strawberries hulled and halved or quartered depending on the size
- 1 cup Sugar
- 2-4 Tbsp. Pectin depending on how much liquid is extracted
- 1 to 2 tsp. Orange zest grated from about 1 large or 2 small oranges
- ¼ tsp. Salt
- ¼ cup Tapioca starch
- 2 Tbsp. Unsalted butter cut into small pieces
- Milk or cream optional
- 2 tsp. Sugar optional
In a big bowl, combine the cut rhubarb and strawberries with the sugar and mix well.
Cover and let this mixture sit overnight in the refrigerator. If you like to let your pie dough sit overnight, prepare your favorite double pie crust recipe now. I have had success with King Arthur Flour's Classic Double Pie Crust Recipe.
Take the mixture out of the fridge and mix. Set a strainer or colander over a medium-sized bowl (can hold 4 cups or more) and strain the mixture.
Preheat the oven to 425°F and place a rack in the bottom level. If you haven't already made your double crust pie dough yet, do so now.
Pour the strained liquid into a measuring cup. Set aside the fruit.
Take note of how much liquid there is and pour the liquid into a sauce pan or small pot. Add 1 Tbsp. of pectin for every cup. For example, if you end up with 2 cups of liquid, add 2 Tbsp. of pectin.
Stir and cook the liquid over medium heat. Once it starts to simmer, let simmer for 1 minute, then set aside to cool.
Prepare the pie crust. I like to prepare my lattice or vented top crust ahead of time on any non-stick flat surface like plastic wrap, silicone mat, or parchment paper and place on a baking sheet in the fridge until ready to use.
Add the orange zest, salt, and tapioca starch to the strawberry and rhubarb fruit and mix well.
By this point the liquid is relatively cooled down and almost setting. Pour into the fruit mixture and mix.
Pour the mixture into the bottom crust. Dot with the butter and cover with the lattice top.
Brush the top of the pie with milk or cream (optional) and sprinkle with 2 tsp. sugar (also optional, but these optional steps result in a nice looking top.
Place the pie tin on a large baking sheet large enough to catch any drippings. Place in the bottom rack and bake at 425°F for 30 minutes.
Lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for an additional 30 minutes. The juices should be bubbling and thick.
Let cool completely! This is a very important step. In fact, sometimes it's better to cool completely and then place in the refrigerator before serving.