Rhubarb Pie à la mode and a lesson in kitchen math

Rhubarb. People don’t call it the ‘pie plant’ for nothing.

I decided to keep it simple with the first batch of the season. Straight up rhubarb pie with a citrus twist. À la mode, of course.

But first, a lesson in kitchen math. It’s no secret that I like to bake and share. However, somethings are easier to bring into work than other. Cookies, cupcakes, quick breads, brownies all have a hardiness to them that lends themselves well to transport and sharing. Pies, on the other hand have a certain delicacy to them that does not. I like pies, but eating an entire pie on my own is probably not the greatest idea. Enter the 7-inch pie pan.

I bought this pie pan as part of a set with a standard 9-inch pie pan. Mostly because they are in my favorite shade of green, but with the added benefit that I can now make a more reasonably sized pie. Exactly how much more reasonable, one may ask. Here’s the math: the volume of a pie dish = Π*r*r*h. So for a 9-inch pie pan the volume is (3.14)*(4.5)*(4.5)*(1) ≈ 63.6 cubic inches. A 7-inch pie pan is (3.14)*(3.5)*(3.5)*(1) ≈ 38.5 cubic inches. That’s approximately a 40% reduction in pie volume (38.5/63.6)! Eating 40% less pie – that’s a piece of cake … I mean pie …  well you know what I mean.

So how would one go about making 60% of a recipe? Conversions, conversions, conversions. And as I tell my students when they start working in the lab – keep track of your units! For example, 1/4 cup = 4 tablespoons and 1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons. So 1 cup = 16 tablespoons = 48 teaspoons. Working with our 60% recipe analogy, 6/10 cup = 28.8 teaspoons ≈ 9.5 tablespoons ≈ 1/2 cup + 4 1/2 teaspoons. Got it?

I didn’t say this was easy.

For larger volumes, I rely on my kitchen scale. One of the best twenty dollar investments I’ve made for my kitchen. 1 cup flour = 120 g, so 0.6 cups of flour = 72 g. Much, much simpler to keep track of (and doesn’t require multiple measuring devices.). For reference, 1 cup sugar = 240 g.

Let’s get back to pie. Rhubarb pie, specifically. I love this pie. It is bright, tart and sassy, perfectly balanced with a scoop of rich and creamy vanilla ice cream. It practically screams springtime. The rhubarb is cooked with a little bit of orange juice and a dash of cardamom and the flavors complement each other beautifully.

Rhubarb Pie
adjusted from Bon Appetit
serves 6
180 g (1 1/2 cups) all purpose flour
4 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons ice water
6 cups 1-inch pieces rhubarb (about 1 1/2 pounds)
97 g (0.4 cups) sugar
2 tablespoons + 1 1/4 teaspoons orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 tablespoons + 1 1/4 teaspoons raspberry-rhubarb preserves
1 tablespoon whipping cream

For crust:

Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor 5 seconds. Add butter. Using on/off turns, blend until coarse meal forms. Add 3 tablespoons ice water. Using on/off turns, blend until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by 1/2 tablespoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball. Divide into 2 pieces, 1 slightly larger than the other. Flatten into disks. Wrap and chill at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

For filling:
Combine rhubarb, sugar, orange juice, orange peel, and cardamom in large deep skillet. Toss over medium-high heat until liquid starts to bubble. Reduce heat to medium. Cover and simmer until rhubarb is almost tender, stirring very gently occasionally to keep rhubarb intact, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer rhubarb to colander set over bowl. Drain well. Add syrup from bowl to skillet. Boil until juices in skillet are thick and reduced to 1/3 cup, adding any additional drained syrup from bowl, about 7 minutes. Mix in preserves. Cool mixture in skillet 15 minutes. Very gently fold in rhubarb (do not overmix or rhubarb will fall apart).

Preheat oven to 375°F. Roll out larger dough disk on lightly floured surface to 10-inch round. Transfer to 7-inch glass pie dish. Roll out smaller dough disk to 9-inch round; cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Spoon filling into pie dish. Arrange 4 dough strips atop filling, spacing evenly apart. Arrange 5 dough strips atop filling in opposite direction, forming lattice. Seal strip ends to crust edge. Stir cream and 2 teaspoons sugar in small bowl to blend. Brush over lattice, but not crust edge.Bake pie until filling bubbles thickly and crust is golden, covering edge with foil if browning too quickly, about 55 minutes. Cool pie completely. Cut into wedges; serve with ice cream.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home
makes ~1 quart
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 vanilla bean, split


Mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a slurry. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium batter bowl until smooth.

Combine the remaining milk, cream, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla seeds and bean in a medium saucepan, bring to a roiling boil over medium-high heat and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Return to heat and cook until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Chill thoroughly. Freeze in your ice cream maker.


3 responses to “Rhubarb Pie à la mode and a lesson in kitchen math

  1. Thanks for sharing this lovely recipe =)

  2. I like the idea of the orange juice. I’ll have to try that on my next rhubarb pie. I just posted about a Strawberry Rhubarb pie. Love rhubarb! Thanks for sharing the orange juice idea. FTW

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