I’ve only had strawberry rhubarb once before and I remember being pleasantly surprised by the sweet and tart combination so I wanted to try it again. While researching recipes for Strawberry Rhubarb Pies, I found that many baked goods had a runny and liquidly filling or that the strawberry and rhubarb “blow out” into mush. Both of these options didn’t seem appealing so I opted to use the scientific methods from Cook’s Illustrated. Their method draws the excess liquid out of the filling and boils it into a kind of strawberry rhubarb jam and adding back in some chunks of fruit. Controlling the water in the filling gives us a strawberry rhubarb mixture that doesn’t seep out into a mess when you take a bite or cut the pie open.
Cook’s Illustrated’s method for Strawberry Rhubarb Pies may seem more complex than others, but trust me, it’s worth it. By simply macerating some of the fruit with sugar, you draw out a great deal of the excess water. Not ones to ever waste tasty liquids, the smart people at Cook’s Illustrated boil it down to a syrup, adding in some strawberries and instant tapioca to make a thick jam to hold the rest of the filling together. Once these guys cook through, the filling caramelizes into a dark red, gooey paste with nice chunks of rhubarb and strawberries!
Of course, we can’t forget about the crust! I like to use Cook’s Illustrated’s Vodka Pie Crust. Don’t worry, the vodka is not for the booze factor, but a magic ingredient that helps with the texture. The dough is stickier than you would expect and uses about 1/4 cup of flour when you roll it out.
I also wanted to try to make little empenadas along with my mini Mason Jar pies. I like the idea of having portable hand-held treats and easy single servings of these Strawberry Rhubarb Pies. You can make these however you like. A regular 9 inch pie, mini pies, pop tart style. Either way, the filling and crusts will be delicious together.
The empenadas crusts were cut with my largest round cookie cutter, about 4 inches in diameter. After laying them on a floured surface, I chilled them for 15 minutes just to firm the dough up a little bit before the filling process. I defaulted to stuffing them like I would a dumpling, but be careful as the heat of your hand will weaken the dough, so work quickly! Of course, you can fill them by leaving them on the sheet tray or any other method that works for you. Finally, make some small slits for the steam to escape from.
And now for the most essential part of these Strawberry Rhubarb Pie empenadas: don’t skimp on the sugar topping. After my first batch came out of the oven, I tried one and found that the tart filling tasted best with a bite of crunchy sweet sugar crust. Without that burst of sweetness, the pies would be very tart. You could also add more sugar to the filling itself, but I also like the texture of having something crunchy to top the pies. The best way to get sugar to stick is to brush the tops with some water. Sound crazy, but it works! Some people run their pies under water before sprinkling sugar on top, but I find it’s easier (and safer) to use a wadded up paper towel or a pastry brush.
I meant to make all of them into empenadas but after having some difficulty stuffing them with enough filling, I decided to try a different method for the rest of my Strawberry Rhubarb Pies. I’d seen the mason jar lid pie before but have never attempted it, thinking that it was too labor intensive or difficult. Since I had already cut out all my pie crust rounds, I decided to give it a shot. I have two sizes of mason jars, regular sized and wide mouths, but I chose to use the wide mouth lids as the pie crust rounds fit better. Whatever lids you use, be sure you use the metal ones that are two pieces, not the plastic ones! Instead of covering the tops of these mini pies with a crust, I opted for a crumble topping. Using oatmeal, almond flour, coconut oil, brown sugar and cinnamon, this crumble is crunchy and sweet, perfect for our tart filling!
Removing the pies once they cooled was fairly easy. These lid jars are essentially tiny tart pans as the bottom easily lifts out of the outer ring. The only trouble I had was when the filling bubbled over and caramelized over the lid ring. Just use a sharp knife and separate the crust from the lid.
I loved using my mason jar lids to make tiny pies and will try them again soon! Maybe with a lattice top or something more complex. It’s also nice to have single serving sized treats. It’s easier to control myself with these little guys and you don’t have 2/3 of a huge pie sitting in your fridge, with filling slowly oozing out. Oh who am I kidding? They’re cute because they’re tiny but that’s not going to stop me from eating 8 Strawberry Rhubarb Pies in one sitting.