Continuing my summer fascination with any and all fruit desserts with goofy names, not two minutes after I discovered the existence of slab pie, I was fixing to make it. Why? Because it looks like a giant Pop Tart, and surely you don’t think a woman in her third trimester needs a single other reason to bake something.
But even though I just discovered this whole “slab pie” thing, I’m quite taken with it already — and not just the ungraceful name. It is, frankly, brilliant, more rustic than a pretty little crimped-edge 9-inch round and flakier too: the large swaths of dough manage show off their layers better than they do in smaller quantities, landing shatters and flecks like confetti all over your plate. Slab pie squares, especially the edges and corners, are more portable than wedges from a traditional round — how convenient for picnics and pot lucks — and if you’ve ever wanted to make a pie but known you had more than eight people to serve, this is your answer: pie for dozens. That is, if the baker is the generous sort.
I went with the sour cherry filling because I’m still making up for long time with them; growing up, I ignored the sour cherry tree in our backyard because it was bleh, sour! and most kids — except this vinegar-loving Russkie I married — are repelled by sour foods. Once I fell good and hard for them, my parents informed me the tree had become diseased and had to go, leaving me with a lifetime of checking farm stands incessantly from June to July, hoping to grab some overpriced sour cherries during their exceedingly narrow ripe season. What, do I sound bummed about this or something?
Nevertheless, there’s no reason you can’t fill this with whatever berries or mix of fruits you like, or even make smaller slabs if you’re intimidated by the prospect of a square foot of pie. Me? I’m already plotting my next one.
Sour Cherry Slab Pie
Adapted from Martha Stewart
I’ve already sung the praises of the the slab pie (above) but let me also mention this: I’m generally repelled by white sugar glazes on pastries. They seem to add sweetness, but not much else. Yet on this slab pie, with its lightly sweetened, tart cherry filling between two layers of barely-sweetened pie dough, it works so well. It is absolutely meant to be.
Yield: Varies, but I cut mine into 20 2 1/2-inch by 3-inch pieces
1 1/2 All Butter, Really Flaky Pie Doughs, divided, patted into thick rectangles, wrapped in plastic and chilled for at least an hour in the fridge
6 cups sour cherries, pitted (fresh or frozen will work; if frozen, defrost and drain first)
3/4 to 1 1/4 cups of sugar*
1/4 cup cornstarch
Juice of half a lemon
Pinch or two of salt
2 tablespoons heavy cream or one egg, beaten with a tablespoon of water
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons milk or water or 1 tablespoon water plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice (I did this to make the glaze more interesting)
Preheat oven to 375°. In a large bowl, combine cherries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and salt. Stir to combine; set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the larger piece of dough into an 18-by-12-inch rectangle. I won’t lie: this can be kind of a pain because it is so large. Do your best to work quickly, keeping the dough as cold as possible (and tossing it in the freezer for a couple minutes if it softens too quickly; it is summer afterall) and using enough flour that it doesn’t stick to the counter. [See more of my pie-rolling tips here.]
Transfer to a 15-by-10-by-1-inch rimmed baking sheet, (pastry will hang over sides of pan). I went ahead and lined mine with parchment, just to ensure I’d be able to easily lift it out. Pour cherry mixture into lined baking sheet; set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out remaining piece of dough into a 16-by-11-inch rectangle. Drape over filling. Bring bottom pastry up and over top pastry. Pinch edges to seal. Using a fork, prick top crust all over. Brush with heavy cream or egg wash.
Bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 40 to 55 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack until just warm to the touch, about 45 minutes.
In a medium bowl, stir together confectioners’ sugar and milk, water or lemon juice (or combination thereof) until desired glaze consistency is achieved. Use a spoon to drizzle over top. Serve warm or room temperature.
* Martha had suggested 1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar for 6 cups of sour cherries. I balked, imagining my beautiful Jersey cherries drowning a syrupy death, and used 3/4 cup, which yielded a lightly-sweetened pie with the tartness of the cherries still coming through, just as we like. Please adjust this to your tastes, and according to the tartness of the cherries you brought home.
Some tips for replacing the sour cherries with other fruit: This pie is roughly 100% of a regular pie filling with 150% percent of the crust. Thus, if you’re looking to use something besides sour cherries, you can swap in 6 cups of any other fruit. Adjust the sugar accordingly — you’ll probably want less sugar with peaches or berries than you would with very sour cherries, or the same amount, if you like your pies on the sweeter side. (Remember, I kept this one very lightly sweetened.) Adjust the cornstarch accordingly too — peaches and berries usually let off more liquid than apples, but only slightly more than cherries.
One other route you can take is to use the filling part of your favorite pie recipe, as most standard fruit pies contain 6 cups of berries or chopped fruit. This way you’ll already know what spices, if any, you want to add and that the amount of sweetener and/or cornstarch/thickener is already spot-on.
And do share your tweaks in the comments: I am sure that others would love to benefit from your experimentation!