August 16, 2017
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A Bigger, Better Pop-Tart
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A magical pie where every slice is guaranteed to be as fruity as it is crusty.

I am not the first to write impassioned lines about my love of slab pie, and I will hardly be the last. Slab pie? It’s a shallow, rectangular pie made in a rimmed cookie sheet. Picture an enormous homemade Pop-Tart made with tart blackberries or ripe peaches. Slab pies will bring even devoted cake people to their knees.

The slab pie’s origin story is tricky to put a finger on, but while researching my forthcoming cookbook, The Vintage Baker, I was thrilled to discover a crack slab pie recipe in a 1974 recipe booklet published by McCall’s, leading me to conclude that, at the very least, home bakers have been assembling slab pies for almost 50 years. The core components are no different from your typical round pie—a buttery, flaky crust, filled with fruit that cooks down and thickens in the oven.

Conveniently, slab pies call for double the amount of filling of a round pie but provide three times as many servings. The shallow layer of fruit filling sets up more quickly and evenly. The result is that every slice is guaranteed to be as fruity as it is crusty. If you live in fear of pulling a pie from the oven and slicing into it while it’s still warm, only to find a runny mess of oozing berries and juice, rest assured: Slab pie is close to idiot-proof.

On the surface, to the discerning party host, the most appealing aspect of the slab pie is that it serves many. That is, pie for 24 if made in a half-sheet pan, as opposed to a typical pie’s eight, making it perfect for large family get-togethers, backyard potlucks, and picnics.

Achieving a good-looking slab pie is much easier than tackling a typical nine-inch round one, even for the most inexperienced of bakers. Crimping is optional, and due to the shallow nature of the pan, shrinking crusts are a thing of the past. Yes, rolling out such large sheets of pie dough can be tricky, but the size is a virtue, as the proportions of a slab pie make mending the dough almost benign: You’ll be able to fix a tear or two with your fingers, far less obviously than when done to your average-sized pie, where even the smallest pie-making infraction is (tragically) illuminated. And: There are leftovers.

Ingredients

  • Crust
  • 4¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, chilled
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, chilled
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, chilled
  • 2 tablespoons water, chilled
  • Filling
  • 2½ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lime zest
  • ¾ cups arrowroot powder
  • 12 cups blackberries
  • 4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Egg Wash
  • 1 large egg
  • Splash of heavy cream
  • Turbinado sugar for sprinkling and vanilla ice cream for serving

Sweet, plump blackberries and tangy lime is a match made in slab pie heaven. Baked in a 13” x 18” sheet pan, this pie provides you with 24 slices. The cream cheese crust is flaky, with a tang all its own, complementing beautifully the subtle citrus flavor of the filling. The berries are thickened with arrowroot powder, which I find makes for a clearer, less foggy filling. To prevent a soggy bottom crust, I always freeze my pies and prebake for at least an hour, as the frozen bottom crust browns faster than the filling defrosts and cooks. I then brush them with egg wash and sprinkle them with turbinado sugar right before placing them in the oven. The pie can be served within an hour of being baked, still warm, with a (nonnegotiable) scoop of vanilla ice cream.

 

  1. If you have a very large food processor, you can make all of this dough at once. If not, do so in two batches. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse to combine. Cut the butter and cream cheese into cubes and place in the processor bowl. Pulse until the dough resembles coarse meal. Add the vinegar and water slowly, pulsing the processor as you do so. Once a bit of dough can be pinched between two fingers and hold together, dump it into a large bowl. Using your hands, divide the dough into two rectangles. Wrap each one in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours, or up to 3 days.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425°F and place an empty rimmed half sheet pan in the oven. Placing the pie in this preheated pan, will help brown the bottom crust and avoid a soggy one. Grease another pan with cooking spray or softened butter, line with parchment paper, and set aside. Remove one rectangle from the refrigerator, lightly flour a work surface and, with a rolling pin, roll it into a large rectangle about 20 x 14 inches. Transfer the rolled out dough to the sheet pan by rolling it around the pin and then unrolling it over the pan. If the dough rips, do not fret: Merely mend it with your fingers. Place in the refrigerator.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the sugar and the zest, and using your fingers, rub the zest into the sugar. Add the arrowroot and mix to combine. Add the blackberries and the lime juice and toss with your hands. Set aside.
  4. Roll out the other half of dough into another 20 x 14 inch rectangle. Transfer the filling to the dough-lined pan and dot the top with the butter. Drape the second piece of dough over the filling, rolling it around the pin to move it. Trim the excess dough before decoratively crimping the edges of the pie, or merely pinching them together to seal. With a paring knife, make several cuts in the center of the pie, or using the tines of a fork, cover the dough in tiny holes. Freeze the pie for about an hour.
  5. Combine the egg and cream to make the egg wash, and brush the dough with it. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until you can see the pie filling visibly bubbling through the cuts in the pie. Tent the crust with aluminum foil at around the 30-minute mark, to prevent it from browning too much before the filling bubbles. But remember, a deeply browned crust is not an overbaked pie, but one that will be thoroughly baked through with a nicely browned, never-soggy bottom crust.
  6. Let cool for about an hour, before slicing and serving (preferably with ice cream or whipped cream). The pie will keep lightly wrapped in plastic wrap on the counter for up to 3 days.

Jessie Sheehan

Jessie Sheehan is a slab-pie loving cookbook author and recipe developer, living in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Her first book, Icebox Cakes (Chronicle Books 2015), includes nary a recipe for pie, but many for her first love, cake. Her second book, “The Vintage Baker” (Chronicle Books 2018), has an entire chapter devoted to pie, including one for her beloved slab.

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