blood, locusts and a rhubarb meringue pie

Last night I had the pleasure of reclining back with a delicious meal – my second Passover Seder dinner. While I was less confused this time around, I still had quite a bit to comprehend about this symbolically-rich feast. Fortunately/unfortunately, my copy of The Concise Family Seder was drastically different from the version that the group was following (and the version I remember following last year). This was fine by me, as it allowed me to delve further into such raucous and memorable songs as “The One Only Kid.” It also allowed me to distractedly follow the ritual, while staring down the dessert that I had made for the occasion. It was in a clear line of sight the entire time. It was…

Rhubarb meringue pie!

 

I saw a wonderful version of this dessert earlier this week on MyKugelhopf. Kerrin had made a rhubarb (rhabarber for her and her Zurich compatriots) meringue pie, with a Speculoos-based crust and a generous topping of meringue. It sounded phenomenal. It sounded mildly time-consuming. It sounded like something I could adapt for my Seder dinner. And Kerrin had already thought of that, mentioning that she planned to make the dessert again this week with a matzoh meal crust. So there it was. I had my dessert, and all I needed to do was find a matzoh meal crust recipe – not my specialty.

Enter Four Pounds Flour, a blog devoted to Historic Gastronomy, that I found while searching for appetizing matzoh meal pie crust recipes. The blog’s author, Sarah Lohman, cooks “temporal fusion cuisine,” which I will admit fascinates me to no end. Her posts are a wealth of old recipes, reworked and translated into present-day terms. Her matzoh meal pie crust recipe comes from the 1944 Manischewitz publication Ba’ṭam’ṭe Yidishe maykholim, or Tempting Kosher Dishes. I was tempted already. Or at least I was until I made my way through the post, finding moderately disturbing photos of the to-be-baked product, labeled “I made you puke pie.”

And with that… I became more tempted.

Which was a good thing, because it worked. I judged the amount of magical matzoh mix in Sarah’s photos to be insufficient for my crusty needs, so I upped the number of matzohs from 1 1/2 to 2. It was an interesting process: soak the matzohs, wring the matzohs of all water, and fry the matzohs in shortening, before adding them to a mixture of matzoh meal, eggs, sugar and salt. This batter came together quite nicely for me, and I was able to push the crust into shape up the sides of the pie plate.

I didn’t take a photo of the pre-baked crust, but it looked remarkably similar to some sort of bird seed.

The theme of the day seemed to be inefficient supply, as the cooked-down rhubarb didn’t look aplenty to me. And my now-satisfied crusty needs.

Since I had no more rhubarb in my possession, I decided to turn the filling into a more custardy affair, similar to my recipe for blood orange meringue pie. The addition of three egg yolks may have been a bit much for the subtle and tart rhubarb flavor, but after adding some extra salt, the flavors were again apparent. And tasty!

I attempted to dye the filling with some small peeled wedges of beet, and it worked almost a wee bit. A wee beet. However, the beet flavors became stronger until I decided to yank them out of the pot. I probably overreacted, as the taste was likely not as strong as I was imagining it to be. Still, I’m trying to be more cautious, as I have a nasty habit for altering recipes for the worse, with or without thinking the ramifications through first.

I tinted the meringue pink. I have a nasty habit for tinting things pink, with or without thinking the ramifications through first. In this case, however, I think it worked out all right. It didn’t look ridiculously bright to me, or too fake. I like the way that colored meringue looks when it browns, and it seemed an apt choice for a pie made out of a red vegetable that loses its coloring once cooked.

Upon arriving at the Seder celebration, an exploratory crumb of matzoh meal found its way onto my finger. Knowing it came from the pie, I popped it into my mouth. This is what I do. I have a nasty habit for popping “edibles” into my mouth, with or without thinking the ramifications through first. So many nasty habits. At any rate, the piece of meal nearly broke my teeth, it was so hard. My delight at not only making a successful meringue pie, but also at transporting it without losing more that a half cup of juicy filling, turned into a terror that I was going to feed my friends tooth-breaking pie. This may be a more truthful explanation of why I remained distracted throughout the Seder.

Creeping over to the pie shortly after eating the savory portion of the evening’s foodstuffs, I was extraordinarily relieved to discover that the wayward matzoh crumb was indeed just that. The rest of the crust was edible, and good by matzoh meal standards. It was crunchy, sticky, and had flavors of caramel (this must have been all the FAT). The filling was also good, but if I make this again I’d like to beef it up a bit more. Perhaps 1.5 pounds of rhubarb, rather than 1. And more of the same, delicious meringue. And no wayward matzoh crumbs.

For more information, check out the following links:

Let the Rhubarb (Dessert) Season Begin – MyKugelhopf
The History Dish: Matzo Meal Pie Crust – Four Pounds Flour
Blood Orange Meringue Pie

Rhubarb Meringue Pie
{recipe adapted from MyKugelhopf & Four Pounds Flour}

Makes 1 pie

Matzoh Meal Pie Crust

++Ingredients:++

2 matzohs
1 1/2 tbsp shortening
1/2 c. matzoh meal
2 eggs
2 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt

++Directions:++

Soak matzohs, then press them as dry as possible. Fry in a skillet with shortening until dry and crispy; at this point they should have turned golden brown in color.

Mix matzohs with the other ingredients: I mixed all the ingredients in the pie plate that I planned to bake with. Press in pie plate to a 1/4-inch thickness.

Bake for 18-20 minutes in a 350 F oven.

Set aside to cool.

Rhubarb Filling

++Ingredients:++

1+ lbs rhubarb, roughly chopped
1/2 c. sugar
Juice and zest of 1/2 a small lemon
1 tbsp cornstarch
Small beet wedges, for coloring (if desired)
3 egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue)
1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt

++Directions:++

In a medium saucepan, mix together rhubarb, sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes. Add beet whenever desired, if using. Rhubarb should be broken down and have a syrupy jam consistency.

Combine egg yolks and zest. Gradually temper eggs with about 1/2 cup of the sugar mixture, drizzling the hot mixture in very slowly. Return saucepan to heat and, stirring continuously, stream in the yolk/zest mixture. When thoroughly mixed, cook over medium-high heat for another 3 minutes. Remove beet wedges when the time is right. What time is it? TOOL TIME!

If desired, puree mixture; I used an immersion blender for this step. It works very well for blending in any undissolved lumps of cornstarch.

After cooling slightly, pour into the pre-cooked crust. Cool to room temperature.

Meringue

++Ingredients:++

1/2 c. sugar
2 tbsp. water
5 egg whites (I used 6 because my eggs were small)
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 drop red food coloring (if desired)

++Directions:++

In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites until frothy. Beat in cream of tartar at high speed until egg whites reach soft peaks. Add drop of food coloring if desired. Slowly, with the mixer on medium speed, pour in sugar syrup in a thin stream. When all sugar syrup has been added, beat egg whites on high speed to stiff peaks.

Spoon meringue onto cooled pie filling and make sure to completely seal the edges or the meringue with the crust, leaving no filling exposed.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the pie for 8-10 minutes, until the meringue is lightly browned.

Cool before moving – or you will have a mess on your hands.

Bon appetit! {Mazel tov!?}

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16 thoughts on “blood, locusts and a rhubarb meringue pie

  1. LOVE the pink-hued meringue !! seriously, that is just awesome. it’s like a preview of what’s beneath the sweet mound of meringue.

    what a post, so fun following you along in your baking process and your lack of thinking the ramifications through first. ;)

    i baked a chocolate chip macaroon tart for my seder (adapted from http://smittenkitchen.com/2011/04/blackberry-and-coconut-macaroon-tart/) and for the crust, i used:
    1/2 cup matzoh meal
    1/2 cup potato starch
    1/2 cup unsweetened finely shredded coconut
    1/2 cup light brown sugar
    6 Tablespoons butter
    big pinch fleur de sel

    voila !

    1. Kerrin: I love a good preview of what’s beneath my sweet baked mounds! Okay, so that doesn’t sound very appealing, it sounds crude…

      Your chocolate chip macaroon tart sounds terrific! The crust sounds wonderful, a nice balance of starchy, chewy, and sweet (perhaps also molasses-y from the brown sugar?). That might be added to my to-bake list. After all, I have all this matzoh meal sitting around from my first seder last year… I could probably matzoh until the cows come home!

  2. The pink meringue was my second favorite part, after the line “a wee beet.” I may have died laughing at my desk when I read that. A wee beet. (haha…here I go again!) Rhubarb is on my list of things to bake with soon. Also, I’ve been contemplating some form of meringue pie as of late. The idea of grape meringue pie has been resting in the back of my brain. I haven’t given it any additional thought, though. What do you think?

    1. Brianne: Glad to provide a mid-day humor relief snapshot break thing! I got so excited when I saw rhubarb prominently displayed at the store the other day, and knew I had to start up the ol’ rhubarb baking circuit with a strawberry & rhubarb cobbler. When I saw the rhubarb meringue pie online later that day, though, I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold off for long on rhubarb item #2.

      Grape meringue intrigues me A LOT! What a crazy notion. I love baking with grapes, as the surrounding ingredients take on a wine-ish taste that is oddly fantastic. I bet you’d need a lot of cornstarch to thicken that up nicely though, huh? Let me know if you make it – I bet I’ll want to follow suit!

  3. Ahhh! AWESOME!! I’m so in love with this, as I do enjoy meringue but often find it too sweet. Rhubarb’s tartness would be perfect, and I love that you dyed the top pink, and also that you didn’t remake the blood orange one… (me no likey likey orange…)

    1. Hannah: Interesting, meringue is another thing that I don’t normally think of as sweet. I was actually worried when making this one that there would be no sweetness at all (because of the extra egg I added and the cream of tartar that I threw in without measuring), but it turned out pretty even-keeled and uneventful. I tend to choose eggier over sweet with meringue, but I do love the sweetness of a good meringue buttercream.

      And I love orange! So what a bummer for you, I’ve decided that my next five posts will all be orange meringue pies, i.e., variations on a theme. It’ll be like I’m starting piano lessons and I can’t stop playing Heart and Soul, but in this case with piiiiiiies.

      Just kidding!

  4. tsk tsk ;)

    the chocolate chip macaroon tart was reeeeaaaally good, i’ll be making that for future holidays for sure. but playing around with it a bit. olivier has already shared his feedback – more chocolate. [ok !!] the crust wasn’t chewy – more crumbly than anything. buttery and super crisp. would be molasses-y as you said if you use dark brown sugar. go for it.

    oh, but do check the expiration date on your matzoh meal… =)

    1. Kerrin: Helpful tips, the lot of them! I will check the expiration date for sure, I would have assumed that would be a non-issue, but this is probably another prime example of me not actually thinking things through:)

      That macaroon tart is sounding better and better. Now if only I could get home before dark one of these days, I would have the energy to try out something new!

    1. Sarah: It’s amazing how differently the recipe came out for me, perhaps all due to the extra half matzoh? I’m not sure though, our two crusts looked so very different. Not just thickness, either. Most notable to me was the coloring, as my mixture was never very grayish. Maybe the next time I try the recipe I’ll have a completely different result (but I hope not).

      Thank you for the inspiration!

  5. Holy cow, this is awesome!! Rhubarb is on my list of things to try, and I love how you adapted it with the crust, then topped it with pink meringue. Brilliant! Your theme of nasty habits was hilarious.

    1. Jessica: Thank you! I’m glad to provide some humor in the form of my shortcomings, aka nasty habits:) They’re rather abundant, so I’m sure more will be showcased soon.

      I’m pleased that this pie was well-received, I had some hidden fears that between an uncertain crust, and a pink meringue, I’d get some stares and then I’d listen to the crickets chirp for awhile. Now I’ll have to see what other colorful things I can get away with, perhaps using your non-racist dragon tears as a starting point. We’re fast approaching prime rhubarb season and it’s a welcoming boat, so jump on board!

    1. Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide: Between the strawberries and the rhubarb, it’s true, I had a great recipe on my hands.

      And I, unlike you, always seem to have too much food coloring on hand. Just the other day I found a bottle of red that had dislodged itself from the pack and proceeded to spill all over the interior of my (rented) kitchen cabinet. Such is life when you like to color your meringue, I guess!

    1. Lauren: Thank you! I think my friend who was holding the seder that I attended was expecting a more unfriendly Passover dessert (due to past experiences), so I would concur with your sentiments of dessert friendliness!

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