Last weekend we had friends to stay at the Mill, so I decided to try my hand at a lattice top pie for Saturday night dessert. After hunting around the garden for the rhubarb to no avail, it transpired that one of our team had actually harvested it all the day before and taken it home for the exact same purpose… Not to be deterred, a friend from a local farm came to the rescue, so I had some beautiful pink rhubarb from the fields just down the road. A big thank you to David Wilson for saving the day.
We’ve got some sweet cicely growing by the kitchen door, so I decided to add some of this to the rhubarb while they are both in season. I’ve been told that sweet cicely was used in the past as a replacement for sugar when sugar was too expensive or hard to come by, and it is still used in cooking today as a natural sweetener. It tastes of aniseed, but comes across very subtly in this dish. If you can’t get hold of any, just leave it out and add an extra 3 tablespoons of caster sugar instead. I haven’t included a lot of sugar in this recipe in order not to meddle too much with the flavour of the rhubarb, but feel free to adjust the level of sweetness.
When you drain the rhubarb filling, you can keep the leftover juice for cocktails, although it does need to be used on the day of making.
The pastry is made from our white spelt flour, but you can also use plain flour. You will need a 23cm pie dish.
This pudding is best eaten warm and still fresh from the oven. Eat on the day of making, because the rhubarb filling will make the pastry go a bit soggy over time.
Serves 8 – 10.
FOR THE SPELT SHORTCRUST
Cut your butter into small cubes of roughly 1cm using two knives to avoid touching it with your hands, and place it in a large mixing bowl.
Sift your flour and salt from a height into the bowl, to get the air into the ingredients. Add the sugar. Gently rub the butter into the flour and sugar using your fingertips. A light touch is important; lift up the flour as you do this and let it fall back into the bowl. You should end up with a breadcrumb-type consistency – don’t overwork it.
Mix your egg yolks with 3 tablespoons of cold water, and sprinkle it evenly over the mixture. Use a blunt kitchen knife or palette knife to incorporate it as quickly as possible and bring the dough together. If you need more water add it gradually and sparingly – you only need enough to bind the dough. If your ingredients look dry then add some more water, but stop before it becomes wet and tacky; you want to end up with a soft dough.
Divide and shape your dough into two discs, one smaller disc comprising just over a third of the dough (this will form the lattice), with the rest forming a larger disc (this will be used for the pie base). Wrap them in cling film and rest them in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 220°C, and take out the dough for the base (leave the dough for the lattice still chilling). On a lightly floured work surface use a rolling pin to ridge the dough and start to push it outwards before you roll it. Rotate at each quarter turn, and when it is big enough, roll it out into a circle shape, 2-3mm thick. Lay the pastry over the pie dish using your rolling pin to help lift it, and use your fingers to press it snugly into the edges. Trim off any excess pastry. Don’t throw this away – keep it in reserve in case you need any extra for the lattice. Prick the base of the pastry with a fork to prevent bubbles forming. Cover the base and sides of the case with baking parchment, and weight it down with baking beans. Make sure the beans are pushed right into the edges of the dish.
Blind bake the pastry case for 10 minutes, until pale golden with no wet patches of dough. Remove the parchment and beans, and prick the base again with a fork. Bake for a further 10 minutes until just golden brown, then remove from the oven and set aside.
FOR THE FILLING
Preheat your oven to 180°C. Place all your ingredients for the filling into a medium sized saucepan, and heat over a medium-low heat for 15 minutes, until the rhubarb has softened. Taste, and add more sugar if required. Drain away any juice, and set the filling aside to cool.
When you are ready to bake your pie, flour your work surface again and roll out your remaining pastry to 3mm thick. Use a pastry wheel to slice strips that are 2.5cm in width. Lie them across the pie in the same direction, roughly 4cm apart.
Fold back every other strip nearly to the edge, and lay down a strip at a 90 degree right angle to your first set. Return the folded strips back to their full length, so that they become interwoven with the latest perpendicular strip. Repeat this process of interlocking the strips until you have woven your lattice. Secure the strips to the edges by crimping them down with a fork, and trim off the excess. Brush the lattice with egg wash, and sprinkle with caster sugar. If your lattice pastry has become too warm while handling it, place the pie in the fridge to chill until it firms up before baking.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown on top. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream.