Slab pie fascinated me. How can it not? It is an oversized pie that embraces the crust-and-filling characteristic of its circular brethren yet has the portable sensibility of fussy pop tarts. It is streamlined to feed a huge crowd without extra work for the baker. Seems to me slab pie is the ultimate dessert for a backyard barbecue bash with 80 of my closest friends. Yes, 80.
My cooking friends and I gave ourselves the moniker Asian Food Mob. Last weekend, we hosted our first pig roast to great success. Roasting a whole pig was quite involved and handling the pig both in its raw and cooked state was inevitable. Kudos to my friends who took the initiative and gifted us with tender juicy roast pork and crispy crackling! Obviously the pig was the star of our party. I gladly played supportive role by providing many vegetarian sides and desserts. I volunteered to bring slab pies.
Martha Stewart’s slab pie is the gold standard and food52 summed up the ingenuity nicely. I examined the recipe closely and concluded that a 10x15” slab pie uses equivalent amount of dough as two 9” round double crust pies. I turned to my favourite Foolproof Pie Dough recipe and made six batches in one night. My plan was to have enough pie dough for three double crust slab pies. Thank goodness pie dough freezes beautifully so I could spread out my work ahead of time. Two nights before baking day, I moved my stack of dough to the fridge to defrost at its own pace.
The beauty of fruit pie is taking advantage of seasonal fruit. Although I had high hopes of serving at least one apple pie at the party, early season baking apples were simply nowhere to be found. Instead, we were still blessed with last hurrah of peaches and raspberries. Naturally I made a Peach Melba Slab Pie to send off Summer 2014 in style.
The ratio of fruit, thickening agent, and crust for slab pie is quite different than regular round pies. I was a little concerned by the large amount of cornstarch in the filling but Martha knows best. The fruit filling was pronounced without turning into watery mess. The slab pie could be sliced neatly into squares and held in hands without any plates. The kids helped themselves to squares of pie totally mess-free! I was amazed and ridiculously happy.
Slab Pie #2 was Spiced Plum gently spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger. Italian prune plums have always been my favourite baking plum thanks to their intense mix of sweet and tart along with vibrant ruby colour. I slashed a grid of X’s for the steam to escape and painted egg wash between the X’s for a fun decorative pattern. Swedish pearl sugar added a bit of crunch. The effect was whimsical.
My crowning achievement was indisputably the Sour Cherry Lattice Slab Pie. I stashed away pitted sour cherries in my freezer earlier this summer and I could not think of a better way to enjoy them. Making the filling was easy as can be since all the cherries were already pitted. Instead of covering up those beautiful colours with a full double crust, I went with the classic lattice top crust. Weaving the crust for a slab pie was no different than a regular round pie. I only got confused once and got the over-under wrong a wee bit in the corner. The practical side of lattice is that it allows steam to evaporate from the filling. The sour cherry slab pie was met with great enthusiasm at the party. It was the pie that everyone clamoured for.
I would have stopped at three pies except for the large pile of dough trimmings they left behind. In fact, I had enough extra dough to line a single crust slab pie! I did the only sensible thing and made a bonus pie. I made a variation of my favourite Spiced Apple Cranberry Crumb Pie with pears, dried figs, cranberries, and walnut streusel. This one tasted especially heavenly with a generous pour of chilled crème anglaise.
600 square inches of pie later, I am all pie’d out. I swear I will not making another pie again. Well, until next year’s Pi(e) Day. Or perhaps Thanksgiving. Or Canadian Thanksgiving. Oh wait, that’s in two weeks. I guess there will be more pies in my future soon enough.