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John Golden

John Golden writes about food and has a highly opinionated blog, The Golden Dish.

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Posted: May 13, 2014

Rhubarb season is just beginning

Written by: John Golden

Two stars of the spring growing season—asparagus and rhubarb–finally made an appearance at the Portland Deering Oaks farmers’ market last week.  Though at best it was a cameo role for both since it’s still so early in the season except greenhouse crops. Snell Farm was the only vendor with asparagus, and only two bundles at that, saying that their patch looked pretty weedy.  Goranson Farm had a box full, however, of rhubarb, and I bought two pounds of those lovely spears. Farmer Jan Goranson said she had a terrific rhubarb dessert recipe for me, but unfortunately I received it too late to include here.  Before publishing it next week I will be testing out her recipe, though I’m sure it will be perfect.

Fresh-cut rhubarb

Fresh-cut rhubarb

For now, take a look at my devise for rhubarb cream pie.  It’s a great dessert, which I served at a dinner this week to rave reviews.  The tartness of the fruit in  a delicious custard of sugar, eggs and milk adds up to a sensational filling. You should also consider making my standard pie dough recipe because I think it’s one of the best–buttery and extremely flaky with both butter and freshly rendered lard (sold at the Brighton Ave., Rosemont Market) in the dough.  It also  has a very high proportion of fat to flour, making this an extremely delicious short crust.

Rhubarb cream pie

Rhubarb cream pie

Rhubarb Cream Pie

Servings 6 to 8

Pastry dough

1/2 pound (2 sticks), cold butter, unsalted or lightly salted

2 ounces (4 tablespoons) freshly rendered leaf lard

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 heaping teaspoon sugar

Pinch salt

About 1/2 cup ice water

Rhubarb Filling 

Rhubarb cut into 1-inch pieces to measure 4 cups

3 large eggs, beaten

1 3/4 cups sugar

Scant 4 tablespoons flour

4 tablespoons whole milk or heavy cream

Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste

3 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes

Milk, sugar and cinnamon for glazing

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Pastry dough. Prepare the butter by cutting it into cubes.  Put in a small bowl; measure out the lard and add to the bowl.  Place it in the freezer for 5 minutes before using.

Meanwhile put the dry ingredients into the workbowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Pulse a few times to mix the ingredients.  (Note: optionally you can chill the flour before using for 10 minutes in the refrigerator; this will contribute to the dough’s flakiness, but it’s not essential.) Add the butter and lard (cut into smaller pieces) and pulse 10 to 12 times until the mixture is crumbly and the fat is the size of small peas mixed in with the flour. Gradually add the water, pulsing as you do  until the mixture begins to hold together. It should be modestly moist to the touch and begin to come away from the sides of the bowl while pulsing; if not add more water by dropfuls until it does.  Be careful not to over process or add too much water.

Put the flour onto a lightly floured work surface and gently push the dough together into a rough ball; divide in half and knead with one turn and pat into a disk.  Wrap in plastic and let rest for at least an hour.

Filling. Prepare the rhubarb and set aside in a quart size glass measure.  Meanwhile in a large mixing bowl beat the eggs with the sugar until combined.  Add the flour and the milk and mix thoroughly.  Add the rhubarb and fold in until well combined. Roll out one disk of pastry to fit a 9-inch pie plate.  Trim the overhang to 1 inch and fold under.  Add the filling.  Dot the top with butter.

Then make lattice strips of the remaining dough, cutting the strips an inch wide strips and affix lattice style over the filling.  Crimp the edges decoratively.  Brush the top lightly with milk and mix together in a small bowl about 2 tablespoons sugar with 1/2 teaspoon (or more to taste) cinnamon.  Sprinkle this over the dough. Put the pie on a baking sheet and put in the 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Lower the heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake about 50 minutes; if necessary turn on your convection mode to give it the last blast of extra heat and continue to bake until the filling slightly bubbles around the edge. Serve warm with whipped cream.

Local ingredients used

Rhubarb, Goranson Farm

Butter, Cabot 83 European style, available at the Cabot shop on Commercial St.

Eggs, Balfour Farm

Milk, Dandelion Spring Farm Lard, from local pork leaf lard, Rosemont Market Butcher

Asparagus alert! I’m sorry to inform you that I’ve bought up the last of the remaining asparagus at today’s Monument Sq. farmer’s market.  But take heart, vendors like Goranson, Alewive’s Brook Snell  and others will have them on Saturday at Deering Oaks farmers’ market.  Advice: come early to pick up these treasures of local asparagus spears.

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