Anne Dimock's Straight-Up Rhubarb Pie

May 11, 2012

Every week, FOOD52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: Make more pies. Start with this one.

rhubarb pie

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In 2005 -- long before pies were considered the new cupcakes, or the new anything -- Anne Dimock wrote a book in hopes of bringing them back.

It started as a series of essays in a local Minnesota paper, but it turned out she had much more to say, and that people were listening.

Her story became a eulogy for America's pie-making culture, punctuated with vignettes of disappointing pilgrimages to roadside diners and bakeries. It's also a memoir about growing up in a family who understood each other best through the making of hundreds of pies, and a hopeful handbook for the next generation. You should read it.

anne dimock  humble pie

"I believe that making pies is a worthy pursuit. It needs to be practiced," Dimock told me over the phone. "There's still no substitute for a homemade pie."

Read the book and Dimock's measures of pie-making valor will inspire you (she grew up in the thick of a pie-making community in New Jersey, where bakers were sized up by how many they could muster in the swampy August heat).

But so will her humility. She sweats just like we do -- even after an approximate 643 pies made in her lifetime, according to trading card stats she lists in the book.

sugarmeasuring flour

pie dough

Pie-making is filled with moments of fear among the ones of meditation and pride, no matter if it's your first or your 644th. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it.

Having babies is scary, driving a car is scary, quitting your terrible job is scary. But when you get brave, you're the better for it. And here, in maybe the most gratifying outcome of all, you end up with hot homemade pie when you're done. (See our favorite stress-reducing way to roll-out dough here.)

flourrolling dough

Your pie won't be bad. It just won't. Even if it's a bit misshapen or slumped, the filling too runny or too stiff, the crust too tough or too meek -- if you yourself made it, there's virtually no chance it won't be good. And there is no surer way to get people to look at you differently than to bake them a pie.

pie crusttransfer pie dough

After spending her childhood in New Jersey helping her mother make apple pies, Dimock lived in the upper Midwest most of her adult life and found her own calling was to rhubarb. But when she moved to Kauai in 2008, she had to adapt to the climate, the imported flour, and an island landscape devoid of rhubarb. She set about perfecting her mango lilikoi (passion fruit) pie.

She believes she's done it, yet she still considers the Straight-Up Rhubarb Pie (which you may recognize from Amanda's recent Friday night dinner party) to be her greatest contribution to pie-making, and for good reason.


In it, there are no strawberries to claim the glory. Rhubarb, that tart vegetable that insists it's a fruit, proves itself deserving of its own platform.

In the wrong hands, the stalks could taste punishingly sour (which is why it's so often stuck with strawberries when they both arrive in the spring). But when Dimock inherited 30 rhubarb plants in her move to Minnesota, she knew she had to figure out how to tame them, and that it needn't involve buying strawberries or adding a cup of sugar to every pie like her mother had.

sliced rhubarb

Dimock's simple filling formula calls for 1/4 cup of sugar and a tablespoon of flour for every cup of sliced rhubarb -- just enough to soften the rhubarb, and give it the proper ooze -- plus cinnamon, an unlikely accent that brings out the rhubarb's fire.

rhubarb pie

You can, and should, use this filling in any pie crust you like -- but Dimock's recipe for that is a good one too. The dough is so friendly that there's no extra resting time required, and no blind baking. 

rhubarb piepie crust

For any other pastry, she's willing to use a variety of fats -- from cream cheese to beef suet -- but for fruit-filled pies, it must be shortening (though she switched from Crisco to non-hydrogenated brands in recent years). "Maybe it was just a blip in time that's more my American experience -- the way it should taste for me should be vegetable shortening," she explained. "If I make a quiche I'll use butter, because that's what it's supposed to taste like."

how to crimp pie crustcrimped pie crust

You may have your own convictions of what pie is supposed to taste like, but if not, this is an awfully good place to start.

rhubarb pie

Anne Dimock's Straight-Up Rhubarb Pie

Adapted from Humble Pie: Musings on What Lies Beneath the Crust (Andrews McMeel, 2005)

Makes one 9-inch pie

For the crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2/3 cup vegetable shortening (Dimock uses non-hydrogenated brands, but feel free to use other fats if you prefer)
6 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:

5 cups sliced rhubarb
1 1/4 cups sugar
5 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons butter (optional)

See a slideshow and the full recipe (and save and print it) here.


rhubarb pie


Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

Photos by James Ransom


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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Shelly
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    Linda DeFrees Franks
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  • Kristen Miglore
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  • camilla
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Shelly May 9, 2016
I'm not sure you can reasonably call this rhubarb pie her "contribution" to pie-making. It is nearly identical to Marion Cunningham's recipe for rhubarb pie from my (quite vintage) copy of Fannie Farmer. Right down to the pie shell (Cunningham's "Basic Pastry" from page 896; rhubarb pie is from page 905). I imagine Dimock just tweaked it, swapping the salt for cinnamon and increasing the quantity of filling by a cup.
Linda D. May 4, 2013
Hopefully, rhubarb will be in the market before May 14th. My, soon-to-be 24 yr old son, has requested a rhubarb pie without cream cheese or strawberries. I made a rhubarb custard pie last year and he says that was a good one, but I am going to make your Straight Up Rhubarb Pie this year! !
Love rhubarb and love the idea of letting rhubarb shine. It inspired me to make straight-up rhubarb shortcakes. I used the filling recipe with just a bit of lemon. Yum.
Kristen M. May 16, 2012
Thank you all, belatedly, for your comments. I hope that you make the pie, and that you love it.
camilla May 15, 2012
Oh! Everyone in our family raved on this pie when I made it for them. Want to try an special and no hassle pie recipe, check this out, everything-cake.com has it all.
Anitalectric May 14, 2012
LOVE THIS! Thanks, Kristen
ctgal May 13, 2012
Oh no!! I just read this...after popping my rhubarb / strawberry pie in the oven! Too late! My husband picked up home grown strawberries &rhubarb at our local farmers market. Next time, just rhubarb!
AntoniaJames May 13, 2012
Made this for house guests yesterday. Excellent! Especially love how cooperative this crust is. Leftovers were just wonderful for breakfast, too. ;o)
jpavlick May 13, 2012
I made this for a dinner party last night and it was great, though I think it could have used more filling (but no extra sugar). Also this was the first time I'd cooked with rhubarb and I definitely misjudged what it takes to make five cups. I guess I'll have to make another one.
deanna1001 May 13, 2012
This is almost identical to the one I make...but crust has lard and I love a lattice top to show off the beautiful rhubarb color! Strawberries in the pie...NO WAY!
Emsbutler May 13, 2012
This is nearly like my mom's rhubarb pie, but she used only a scant cup of sugar and 1 tsp. of cinnamon.. Hers had no flour...I have added a tablespoon of flour to the sugar, flour, cinnamon mixture in my filling. To us, strawberries in rhubarb pie are a no-no!
gt9 May 13, 2012
Thanks for the Minnesota shout out Kristen. Looking at my beautiful rhubarb plant and you have just inspired me to make a pie. A rhubarb pie! Loved Anne Dimock's book. There is never enough pie...good pie being made. Think i will use some of my lard for the crust.
Lizthechef May 12, 2012
I made a version of this for my husband's birthday today - threw in some Meyer lemon zest and 1/4 teaspoon cardamom.
MaryMaryCulinary May 11, 2012
Rhubarb is one of my favourite pies, and it's so nice to see one without strawberries. The rhubarb is almost ready up here. Can't wait!
SKK May 11, 2012
Last night at dinner with friends, most of whom are gardeners, we had a discourse on rhubarb and were split evenly down the middle. Half of us (myself included) are of the notion that anything that doesn't know if it is a fruit or a vegetable and has to be enveloped in sugar to eat can't be right. The other half loves rhubarb.

Reading this I may have to reconsider and try this recipe. Although I have to admit as I am writing this I am experiencing the tartness, almost sourness, of rhubarb I have had in the past. Kind of like biting down on a lemon.
Kitchen B. May 11, 2012
But if you were my daughter, you would embrace biting down on lemons and limes! I have to stop her from gnawing at the pith and skin!!!! She might very well like rhubarb but I'm probably not going to find that out soon - no rhubarb plants in Nigeria. Yet.
SKK May 11, 2012
Kitchen Butterfly, thank you for sharing about your daughter! Are you looking forward to your New York trip? Safe travels!
fiveandspice May 11, 2012
Yes! Hear hear for rhubarb all on its glorious own without any distraction from strawberries! Also, I strongly feel that every yard really ought to come with 30 rhubarb plants. How lucky she was!
EmilyC May 11, 2012
Very good point and well said that there's virtually no way that a homemade pie won't be good. This pie looks absolutely lovely and I appreciate that it dials back on the sugar. Great recipe!
Sipa May 11, 2012
Perfect timing, I was looking for a rhubarb recipe to use the rhubarb in my freezer. I was thinking of going savory but this recipe makes me want to go sweet after all especially because I don't like strawberry with rhubarb at all.