High Country Baking column: Strawberry-rhubarb pot pies
High Country Baking
Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado High Country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.
if you like the classic combination of sweet strawberries and tangy rhubarb, you’ll love these dessert pot pies. Each is an individual serving of fruit filling topped by a tender crust formed by pie dough cut-outs. With no bottom crust and the fruit pre-cooked, they’re easy, tasty and fun to make.
Keep in mind that the strawberries will cook more quickly than the rhubarb, so cut them into larger pieces, so they’re both done at the same time.
This recipe gives you a generous amount of dough; you may have some left over. You can leave it in the refrigerator for day or freeze it for up to six weeks. Feel free to substitute your favorite crust recipe or a commercial one.
Vera Dawson, a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.
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Strawberry-rhubarb pot pies
Make in 3 six-ounce custard cups
Adjusted for altitude
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour (dip and sweep)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar, preferably superfine
3 ounces cream cheese, very cold
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold
2-3 tablespoons whipping cream, cold
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, preferably superfine
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
A pinch of nutmeg
2 generous cups fresh or frozen rhubarb, cut into half-inch slices
2 generous cups strawberries, washed, hulled and cut in half or thirds (cut so all are a uniform size and larger than the rhubarb).
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon cream or milk
Granulated or sanding sugar
Make the crust: Place the flour and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well combined. Cut the cold cream cheese and butter into half-inch pieces and scatter them over the dry ingredients. Use short pulses until most of the pieces are reduced to about the size of peas. Drizzle a little less than two tablespoons of cream over the mixture and pulse until it is uniformly moist and forming small clumps. Squeeze some between your fingers, if it crumbles, add a little more cream and pulse until, when squeezed, it stays together. Dump the dough out onto a sheet of waxed paper or plastic wrap, gently pat it into a disc and refrigerate it, covered, for about an hour or up to overnight.
Make the filling: Whisk the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg in a big, heavy saucepan until all the dry ingredients are well combined. Add the cut strawberries and rhubarb and toss so they are uniformly coated and no dry ingredients remain at the bottom of the bowl. I use a rubber or silicone spatula or a wooden spoon to do this; a metal spoon may break or bruise the fruit. Set this aside for about 25 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack in the center position. Lightly grease the custard cups and set them aside.
After the filling has rested, place the pan over medium heat and stirring constantly (again, with a heat-resistant silicone spatula or wooden spoon), bring it to a low boil. Taste and add more sugar, if desired. Reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid thickens (3-5 minutes). Remove from the heat. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the fruit to the custard cups, draining some of the syrup as you do so. Fill each cup to a little over a half-inch from the top.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it into a circle about three-sixteenths of an inch thick (I do this between two sheets of waxed paper). Use a small cookie cutter, dipping it in flour to keep it from sticking, to cut the dough into shapes. Starting at the very edge of the filled custard cups, overlap the dough “cookies” until they cover all of the filling, with just a few small open spaces (which will serve as vents for steam as the pot pies bake).
Make the glaze by whisking the egg yolk and cream until combined. Brush this over the crusts and sprinkle them with sugar. Place the custard cups on a cookie sheet (to catch drips when baking) and bake until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling. This takes about 25-30 minutes in my oven. Remove, let cool slightly and serve warm. A small scoop of vanilla ice cream, placed in the center of each pot pie, is a nice accompaniment.