Wow! How good does summer feel? Well, besides the humidity here in WI, it is glorious. I have a hard time focusing (well, even more so!) in the summer because it feels like a weekend all. the. time. I wish it were so…but then, we wouldn’t appreciate the time we do have to relax. The same goes with seasonal fruit: I seem to appreciate it so much more, each and every year, when it rolls around. This year, I was so excited about strawberry picking. My Mom and I went to Carandale’s in Oregon, WI and rocked out some great picking. The berries were perfect, not soggy like last year from all the rain, and were so easy to pick.
Ever since I was little, I remember picking berries of all sorts in the summer. Strawberries at Carandale were my favorite, but going back into my Aunt and Uncle’s woods, geared up with long sleeved shirts, pants, tied around the leg with twine to prevent ticks and mosquito bites, to pick black caps and raspberries is also a great memory. Oh, and don’t forget the twine around the waist to hold a plastic ice cream bucket for putting the picked berries in! My grandma really knew how to be a functional fashionista whilst picking seasonal produce. She still is a rockstar in that department, btw.
My favorite way to enjoy them, besides right off the plant, is with vanilla ice cream. My grandma preserves heres with plain ol’ sugar, so the juices come out, making for the perfect ice cream topper. Nothing else needed: just ice cream, sugar and those juicy berries. Now, in my ripe middle-age, I enjoy those naturally sweet super-ripe berries, smashed a bit, with some coconut ice cream. But there is nothing wrong with some good old fashioned locally produced vanilla ice cream or custard, too.
Second runner up? Strawberries and my grandma’s angel food cake. Still haven’t figured out how to make that one vegan…working on it. Goal for summer. Any suggestions or tips are welcome!!
Ok, and third: now a 3-year tradition in my kitchen, is the strawberry and rhubarb pie. This year, it was so special. Freshly picked berries with my Mom, rhubarb from my Grandma’s garden, and an all-vegan coconut oil crust were put together for a super seasonal, fresh and delicious pie for my Dad on Father’s day. Lattice top and all, cause this is summer…and lattice tops are where it is at! It is easy-I’ll show you how. Don’t be afraid…the pie pastry can smell fear. But you can do it! Bonus: there is no blind-baking required for this pie. I have a baking method that works like a charm, and produces perfectly crisp bottom crusts every time.
Don’t like coconut oil in your crust? Try this one. It is a no-fail, and works like a charm. It makes enough for a double crust or lattice-topped pie that will fit a 9″, 10″ or even 11″ tin (yes, I have tried all three sizes). In fact, I have had great-dare I say better results-when I replace half the butter in that recipe with virgin coconut oil. Whatever you choose to do, do not use a pre-made crust. Seriously, people, we are adults here. It is too simple and gratifying to make your own pie pastry! So get with it!! You may need to practice, but I assure you that the outcome each time will be better and better. And what better excuse to make and share more summer pies? Make the pastry, suit it to your diet/food mantra, and revel in the summer season and the bounty it brings us…it won’t last long, so get on it, NOW!!
Note: the coconut oil pie pastry is a rich pastry, perfect for holding in all those summery fruit juices. The pastry can be made up to 2 days ahead, and chilled. Additionally, you can make it and then freeze it for up to 1 month, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and placed into a plastic bag with excess air pressed out to prevent freezer burn and drying. The coconut oil pastry makes enough for 1 9″ or 10″ double-crusted or lattice topped pie; if you use a larger pie tin, say 11″ or 12″, the recipe will make enough for 1 single-crusted pie.
The tapioca starch (not whole pearls!) used in the filling is my go-to thickener. I do not like arrowroot, or cornstarch, as I find they produce a slime-like filling when cooked (ew). Furthermore, they are not acid or freeze/thaw stable if you choose to use any citrus in your filling, or freeze your pie. I make tapioca starch by buying tapioca pearls (any size), and grinding them up in my coffee/spice grinder into a fine powder.
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Vegan Coconut Oil Crust // makes one 9″ to 10″ pie // vegan, nut-free, soy-free //
For The Coconut Oil Pie Pastry:
- 1/2 cup virgin coconut oil
- 2 1/4 cups flour (all purpose or whole wheat pastry, or a combination)
- 1 TB organic cane sugar or sucanat
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 4-6 TB ice water
- optional: freshly grated nutmeg (strawberries and nutmeg are best buds)
For The Filling
- 3 1/2 cups sliced cleaned and hulled strawberries (I slice mine ~1/4″-1/3″ thick)
- 3 1/2 cups rhubarb, cut into ~1/2″ pieces
- 4 TB tapioca starch (see note above)
- 2-3 TB organic cane sugar, sucanat (plus more to taste)
- 2-3 TB honey, agave or maple syrup (plus more to taste)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1-2 TB lemon juice
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- small pinch sea salt
1. For the pastry, it can be made in advance and refrigerated or frozen (see above). Start by sifting the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Plop the coconut oil into 1-2 TB pieces on top of the dry mixture, and place into the fridge or freezer for a few minutes until the oil is firm.
2. With a pastry cutter or a fork, cut in the solid oil until pea-sized-ish pieces remain; some larger ones are ok, too. Sprinkle on the iced water by the TB, starting with 4 TB. Mix, adding more water by the TB until a shaggy dough that holds together when squeezed in your palm forms. Some crumbs are ok! The less water, the flakier the pastry.
3. Dump the pastry and crumbs out on a clean surface. With a rolling pin, gently roll the round lumps of solid coconut oil into flatter pieces, as this prevents large round balls of coconut oil poking through the crust. Gather the dough into a ball, kneading gently and as little as possible. Flatten into a disk, and wrap. Store in the fridge for at least 1 hour before baking. This helps prevent the crust from shrinking when baked.
4. Before using, be sure to take the pastry out of the freezer or fridge with enough time for it to come to room temperature for easy rolling; the coconut oil will warm up quite fast so this may only take 30 minutes from the fridge depending on the temperature of your kitchen. If you find your pastry is too warm at any point, simply pop it back into the freezer for a few minutes.
5. When you are ready to make the pie: preheat the oven to 400F. On a floured surface, place the disk of pastry. Cut ~2/3 for the bottom crust, leaving a bit more than ~1/3 of the pastry for the lattice top. Starting from the middle and going out towards the edges each time, roll the pastry into a 1/4″ thick circle, moving the pastry around every few rolls of the pin to ensure it is not sticking to the counter. Add more flour if sticking occurs. To make sure you have rolled it out enough, place your pie tin in the center and make sure there is enough to cover the entire tin plus 1″ overhang.
6. To transfer the rolled pastry, roll the entire thing onto the rolling pin and then roll out over the pie tin. Or, fold the pastry in half, and gently lift into the pie tin. Gently coax the pastry into the edges and sides of the pie tin, being careful to not puncture or tare (but if you do, just press the dough together to seal it back together). Trim around the edges, leaving a 1″ overhang. If you find that you don’t have enough, simply patch on some pastry that you have trimmed off.
7. Make the pie filling by tossing all the ingredients in a large bowl. Taste for sweetness. I needed to add 2 TB more sugar to mine this year. Add the filling to the pie tin lined with the pastry, slightly mounding in the middle.
8. Make the lattice by rolling the remaining ~1/3 pastry out to ~1/4″ thickness. Cut into ~1/2″-3/4″ strips using a sharp knife or pizza cutter. Place half the strips evenly across the pie. To weave, simply pick up every-other strip, and lay another one perpendicular across (see photos below). Tip: use a butter knife or small off-set spatula to help get the thin strips off the floured surface. When done, trim any strip overhand to match the 1″ bottom crust overhang, gently press both together, and fold under to make a smooth edge. Now, crimp by using whatever method you desire (see here for a great tutorial!). Brush the top of the lattice and edges of the pie with plant-based milk. If you found that your coconut oil pastry was getting a touch oily, simply pop the entire pie into the freezer for 5-10 minutes to allow it to firm up again; this will make for a flakier crust.
9. Place the pie on a sheet tray lined with parchment (to catch drips and for easy clean up), and bake the pie at 400F for 10-12 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350F and bake for another 40-55 minutes, or until the top and edges are golden and the filling is bubbling throughout the entire pie. Place on a cooling rack, and allow the pie to cool for at least 2 hours. The juices will thicken and settle during this time! Slice into generous pieces, and serve with your favorite ice cream or whipped topping!
Pastry ingredients, ready to party:
The cold coconut oil cut into the dry ingredients. Pea-ish size chunks are the goal!
The pastry. I put mine back into the bowl, covered and chilled for 1 hour to let the gluten relax and coconut oil firm up a bit again. You want all those lovely specs of coconut oil, that will make for a super flakey pie crust!
Now, the filling! The stars of the pie: freshly picked strawberries and rhubarb. So beautiful!!
Some simple slicing, chopping and measuring for the filling!
A gentle toss with a few spices, some sugar and sweetener, pinch of salt and some lemon.
Now, roll the pastry…you can totally do this! Doesn’t have to be perfect-it is a pie! Call it rustic…
For the lattice top, I like to use a pizza cutter for easy strip cutting and a small offset spatula to help me get them off the floured surface. Simply cut 1/2″ to 3/4″ strips from the reserved ~1/3 pie pastry. Lay half all across the filled pie:
Now, simply pull back every-other strip you just placed on the pie, and lay another strip down…see, easy! Martha and Betty have nothing on you. You can weave pie pastry!!!
It is ok if a few strips break…just piece them back together-no one needs to know. And DONE! You did it! Trim the excess strips, tuck under with the 1″ overhang of bottom pastry, and crimp.
Brush with milk of choice (I used almond), and if needed, pop into the freezer to firm-up that coconut oil. This ensures that the coconut oil is solid when it goes into the oven, which is key for that flakey crust we all love. No shame in having 3 giant freezer bags full of strawberries and a pint jar of gin in your freezer at this time of year! (ps: yes, that image is sideways, my real-life freezer is not).
Ok-we are ready to bake! The first minutes at 400F ensure lots of heat to melt the solid oil FAST, and create lots of steam to make the crust flakey. This also helps cook the crust fast, so less of the fruit juices seep in. No one likes a soggy bottom. We turn the oven down to 350F for the last 40-55 minutes to cook the fruits, concentrate the juices, and crisp the crust even more.
Be sure that the crust is nice a brown, and that the filling is bubbling throughout the pie. You want to see bubbles in the middle before you take the pie out. This tells you that the filling is cooked through, and won’t be super soupy when cut into. Also, I highly recommend that parchment paper-this pie has no mercy when it comes to overflowing! Totally worth it.
And pat yourself on the back, because you are now a pie master! Serve with your favorite ice cream or whipped topping. I love Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss in Vanilla Island. Happy Summer-ing!