Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Rhubarb Renaissance" - Salted Caramel Rhubapple Pie (For Mother's Day)

Date I made this recipe:  May 13, 2012 (Mother’s Day)

Rhubarb Renaissance by Kim Ode
Published by:  Minnesota Historical Society Press
ISBN:  978-0-87351-851-2
Recipe:  Salted Caramel Rhubapple Pie – p. 62-63

Today is Mother’s Day and since my mother is no longer with us, I’m honoring someone else’s mother instead.

Mimi Danicic is the delightful daughter of my friend, Kim Ode.  I’ve mentioned Kim before in this blog but all good things bear repeating:  Kim is an accomplished journalist for the (Minneapolis) StarTribune, author of two cookbooks – Baking with the St. Paul Bread Club and this new one, Rhubarb Renaissance. Kim is also a member of and contributing writer to Facebook’s “Baking 101” group that is filled with very cool people who know their way around baking pans and hot ovens.  Kim is also one very cool bones player (trombone) in my community band, the Calhoun-Isles Community Band.  Kim’s husband, photographer John Danicic, plays trumpet and their daughter, Mimi, has done a few summer stints with the band in the percussion section.  (Mimi also plays a mean string bass!).

When I first met Mimi (and her parents), she was in high school or perhaps just going in to high school and now she has the audacity to being “this close” to graduating from college.  How did that happen?

Mimi apparently inherited her mom’s baking instincts as Kim credits her for coming up with today’s recipe.  This recipe, and Mimi and her very cool parents, rocks!

Now some of you may shy away from rhubarb (for no good reason, if you ask me) but this recipe should get you down off the ledge because the rhubarb is offset by apples and caramel.  Mama Kim did not raise a fool in Mimi as this was one excellent pie!

My mom, Rose Marie, processed a lot of rhubarb back in the day because it was abundant in our garden.  She made and then froze a rhubarb topping for ice cream (talk about delicious what with the tartness of the rhubarb offsetting the sweet taste of ice cream), made rhubarb jam, and rhubarb cookies, cakes and pies.  I think the only reason she didn’t use rhubarb in a savory way was because she didn’t have Kim’s cookbook.  Curses!

Now when it comes to my blog, I tend to err on the side of making a savory dish because typically that constitutes our main dish for Sunday dinner.  But this time around, this pie spoke to me and so I went the opposite route and for once decided to bake something as opposed to roasting something, sautéing something or even crock-potting something.  And this decision was potentially fraught with peril because I am not a baking type of gal.  That role, as well as the title “Pie Guy,” goes to my husband, Andy Martin.

Two things make my Pie Guy giddy these days:  baking a pie and riding a bike.  Neither one has anything to do with the other but so what?  Life is filled with odd couplings.  So for once in my life, I put on my big girl panties and not only decided to bake something but decided to bake a pie (a mile high).

First things first:  buy a frozen pie shell!  Kim’s ingredients list says “pastry for a single-pie crust,” surely intended to enlist all of us in the task of rolling out our own homemade pie dough.  When the Pie Guy is baking, this happens and happens in a good way.  When the Pie Gal is baking, this does not:  this is why my Rainbow grocery store was invented and this was why they had a sale – 2 pie shells for $2.99.  Step one complete!

Step two involved peeling, coring and thickly slicing Granny Smith apples.  “I got this,” I thought because I had an apple corer and slicer tool and how easy would that be?  Except I am sometimes too anal for my own good so I sliced the apples without peeling them first and then – duh – had to peel all the apple slices from the six apples Kim said I should use.  For the record, that is a lot of sliced apples!  But I soldiered on.

I also had to cut the rhubarb so that it yielded 2 cups of 1-inch pieces.  I hate math and I get irritable when I am told to cut things into “x”-size pieces (sorry, Kim) and so I just the pieces all willy-nilly and that worked for me.  (For the record, I can be kind of literal – and anal – about instructions and so oftentimes when it says “1-inch pieces I pull out the measuring tape I keep in my kitchen specifically for those type of instructions. Today was not one of those days.)

And now a word about instant tapioca – am I dreaming or once upon a time was this ingredient pretty inexpensive?  Not so today.  I checked three grocery stores and two of them wanted between $3.59 and $3.79 for the tapioca.  Rainbow came in at a cool $2.99.  You may find this cost-averaging ridiculous but people, the recipe called for a mere ¼ cup and so when I am likely to use up the remaining tapioca?  Besides, three bucks is three bucks but $2.99 is $2.99, right?  (It’s a cooking math thing…)

Okay, so with all my ingredients and instructions, I got to work.  Because I didn’t make the pie crust my counter was devoid of messy flour and whatnot until I got to the streusel and then it looked like a flour bin exploded.  At least I had the good sense to put another pan under the pie tin so my oven wouldn’t look like my countertop.  (And this is why I don’t bake.   Who wants to look like Casper the Ghost after finishing?).

After the required half an hour, I checked my pie and it still looked a little peaked so I left it in for 10 more minutes and then it was perfect.  I drizzled the caramel over the top like the pro I aspire (but fail) to be and proudly served it to my Pie Guy who was so busy inhaling this yummy concoction, he couldn’t come up with a compliment for about five minutes.  But when he did it was glowing and so hooray, we had liftoff!

So thank you Mimi and Kim for coming up with this dish and putting it in the cookbook and making me look like a bona-fide, if not flour-dusted, baker for one, brief moment known as Camelot.  And Happy Mother’s Day everyone! 

Salted Caramel Rhubapple Pie – serves 6 – 8
Pastry for single-crust pie (I bought a frozen pie shell)
½ cup walnut pieces
6 Granny Smith apples (about 2 ¼ pounds), peeled, cored, and thickly sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ cup honey
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 cups rhubarb, cut in 1-inch pieces
¼ cup instant tapioca
½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt

For the streusel topping:
½ cup flour
½ cup packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons cold butter, cut in small cubes

Line a pie plate with the crust and place in refrigerator while you prepare the filling.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spread walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven about 5 minutes, until there’s a warm, nutty aroma.  Cool, then chop coarsely and set aside. (Ann’s Note:  I like walnuts but I did not like them toasted. My husband isn’t keen on nuts at all so next time around, I think I’d leave them off.).

Toss apples with lemon juice and cinnamon.  Set aside.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter with honey and ½ cup brown sugar in a large heavy saucepan and heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a rolling boil.  Add apples, stirring to coat them with caramel.  Reduce heat and cook uncovered no more than 5 minutes.  Do not overcook them to mushiness.  (I’m happy to report I did NOT overcook them.  Whew!)

Place rhubarb in a bowl.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the hot apples into the bowl with the rhubarb.  Add tapioca and stir to combine.  Let sit for 15 minutes.  In the meantime, add salt to the caramel remaining in the pan and cook, stirring often, a few minutes more to reduce it to a thick syrup.  Do not let it scorch.  Remove from heat and set aside.  (Ann’s Note:  it took more than a few minutes to get this to thicken, probably because I was so afraid about scorching the mixture that I turned the flame down really low.  The result though, was perfect!)

Combine streusel ingredients (flour, sugar and butter), pinching the butter with your fingers until it’s evenly distributed.  Stir in the toasted walnuts. 

Scrape the apple-rhubarb mixture into the chilled pie shell and drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the caramel.  Spread the streusel mixture over pie and bake for 30 minutes.  Let cool on wire rack at least 30 minutes.

Just before serving, drizzle remaining caramel (reheating if necessary) over the pie.

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