A Recipe for Valentine's Pie From Valerie Gordon's Sweet

Valentine's pie
Valentine's pie
Photograph by Peden + Munk; Artisan Books

As you know, next Friday is Valentine's Day. You may celebrate this holiday or you may not, but either way it's a good day for pie. It's a good day particularly for pastry chef Valerie Gordon's Valentine's Pie, a stunningly pretty creation that manages to be both pâtisserie elegant and reassuringly homey at the same time.

If you only know Gordon from repeated trips to her Valerie Confections (three shops now in L.A.), and are thus somehow unaware that she recently published her first cookbook, Sweet, maybe you might give a copy to your beloved along with this pie.

Or if you're beloved-less at the moment, you could bake the pie for your kids, who'd probably love helping you make it anyway. Because although this recipe may look intimidating at first, it's just a double-crust pastry windowed with a heart-shaped cookie cutter - a very simple trick, especially since those kids might have a drawer full of cookie cutters anyway. 

The pie's interior is built with rhubarb, strawberries and raspberries, all of which you can find at the farmers market right now, since we live in paradise and all three are pretty much year-round items at L.A. markets.

For a particularly romantic touch, Gordon adds rose petals into the fruit filling, an inspired addition that not only makes your pie more colorful, but also more fragrant and just downright cool. Gordon says that she gets organic roses from Lily's Farms (Hollywood and Santa Monica farmers markets). You might get some extra roses while you're at it, since Gordon has lots of recipes for them (candied rose petals, rose petal cake), and well, it is Valentine's Day.

Given all that, you might want to hit the farmers markets and bake this weekend instead of waiting until Thursday night or Friday morning. Or assemble portions or all of the recipe ahead of time. (Unbaked pies freeze extremely well.) Either way, you'll have the flowers, won't you. 

Cover of SweetEXPAND
Cover of Sweet
Photograph by Peden + Munk; Artisan Books

Valentine's Pie
From: Sweet, by Valerie Gordon
Makes: One 9-inch pie; serves 6 to 8

12 ounces (about 10 medium stalks) rhubarb, rinsed, trimmed, and sliced into ½ inch pieces (3 cups)
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar, or more to taste
3 cups (12 ounces) strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and sliced
2 cups (8 ounces) raspberries, rinsed and dried
2 tablespoons cornstarch
20 to 25 organic rose petals, rinsed and dried
Pie Dough (below)
1 ½ teaspoons Pie Dust (below)
1 egg, beaten

1. Put the rhubarb and sugar into a medium saucepan and cook over medium- heat, stirring periodically, until the fruit softens, about 5 minutes. Add the strawberries and continue cooking for 5 minutes, stirring frequently-.

2. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the raspberries. Taste the mixture, and if you would like the pie a little sweeter, add more sugar. Stir in the cornstarch and rose petals and let the filling cool to room temperature. (The filling can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.)

3. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

4. Remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator and place on a floured cool surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 13-inch circle: Start from the center of the dough and roll outward, rotating the dough 2 to 3 inches after each roll - this will help create a true circle. After every four to five rolls, run a large offset spatula under the dough to release it from the work surface. Add a little flour to the surface, rolling pin, and/or dough if the dough sticks or becomes difficult to roll.

5. Roll the dough up onto the rolling pin, then unroll into a 9-inch pie pan, centering the round. Gently press the dough into the bottom of the pan and against the sides, making sure there are no air pockets. Press the dough against the upper edges of the pan so it extends about ½ inch beyond the edges, then trim any excess dough with kitchen shears. Chill the crust for 15 minutes, or until the dough is cool and firm.

6. Meanwhile, roll out the second disk of dough into a 12-inch circle. Using a 2-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut a shape in the center of the pie round and remove it. (See Tip.)

7. Cover the bottom of the crust with the pie dust. Fill the crust with the filling. Using a pastry brush, paint the beaten egg around the edges of
the crust.

8. Roll the top crust up onto the rolling pin and drape the dough over the filling. Trim and crimp the edges of the double crust (instructions below). Refrigerate the pie until the crust is cold and firm to the touch, about 15 minutes.

9. Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, or until the edges of the crust look golden brown. Remove the pie from the oven and cover the edges of the crust with a pie ring (below).

10. Bake for an additional 35 to 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Start checking the pie after 30 minutes, then continue baking, checking at 5-minute intervals, until the crust is golden, with no translucent areas. Remove the pie ring and bake for an additional 5 minutes or so, until the crust is golden brown. Transfer the pie to a cooling rack to cool completely-.

Storing: The pie can be stored in the refrigerator, to serve cold, or at room temperature, covered, for up to 2 days.

Tip: If you like, brush the heart-shaped cutout with beaten egg, sprinkle with sugar, and bake on the baking sheet beside the pie for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden. Serve with a dollop of jam for a mini-pie treat.

Pie Dough:
Note: Gordon uses kosher salt in her recipes
Makes: Enough for one 9-inch double-crust pie, two 9-inch single-crust pies, or fifteen 4-inch hand pies

2 ½ cups (12.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 ½ sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
¼ to 1/3 cup (2 to 2.5 ounces) cold water

1. To make the dough in a food processor: Put the flour, sugar, and salt in the processor bowl and pulse once or twice to combine. Drop the pieces of butter through the feed tube, continuing to pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Slowly add ¼ cup water as you continue pulsing a few more times, then add more water if necessary; stop when the dough just starts to come together.

2. To make the dough by hand: Put the flour, sugar, and salt into a medium bowl and mix together with a fork or small whisk. Cut the butter into the dough using a pastry cutter or a large fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Drizzle ¼ cup water directly over the dough, mixing with the pastry cutter or fork, then add more water if necessary, mixing until the dough just comes together.

3. Remove the dough from the processor or bowl and form into 2 equal disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days. The dough can be frozen for up to 2 months; thaw in the refrigerator.

Pie Dust:
Note: A scant sprinkling of this simple mixture prevents piecrusts from getting soggy on the bottom; I use it with all wet pie fillings.
Makes: ½ cup

¼ cup (1.25 ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) sugar

1. Sift the flour and sugar together into a small bowl. The pie dust can be stored in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Excerpted from Sweet by Valerie Gordon (Artisan Books). Copyright (c) 2013. Photographs by Peden + Munk. Used with permission. 

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