Today: How to stretch a pie to feed a crowd, with whatever fruit is in season near you. Happy 4th of July!
There are a lot of ways to make a slab pie, and Martha Stewart, bless her, has made them all. She might have invented the whole genre.
Now, if you haven't heard of slab pie, you're not alone -- it's surprisingly under the radar still. Let's change that.
A slab pie is simply a shallow pie that's made in a rimmed baking sheet, usually a jelly roll pan. It feeds more revelers than a standard 9-inch pie will, with less mess and fuss.
It's a pie in a sensible bar cookie outfit; a hand pie, without having to shape a bunch of hand pies; a boon to crust-lovers everywhere. It is, essentially, a Pop-Tart.
And I'm not kidding that Martha has made them all. She's published slab pies in strawberry-rhubarb, peach-raspberry, and quince. She's fluted and folded and twirled their edges, given them peek-a-boo slits and polka-dots. (Just look at how in her element she is -- here and here. She was born for this.)
In Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, there is a pure distillation of all of these recipes: a slab pie template, for any fruit growing near you. Here we used mixed berries, because we're feeling patriotic.
Here are the bones of the recipe, with a lot of pictures: Make a simple pate brisee in your food processor (or by hand).
Mix fruit with sugar, lemon, and salt, and cornstarch to thicken.
Roll out two wide sheets of dough.
Layer them in a jelly roll pan with fruit filling sandwiched between.
Paint the top with cream and rough it up with sanding sugar. Bake.
I'll be honest: trying to roll out pate brisee into a perfect 18-by-13-inch rectangle could rattle even the most experienced baker (and I'm not the most experienced baker) -- so don't worry about it. Just because Martha can do it, blindfolded and perched on one stiletto-ed foot, doesn't mean you have to.
Don't let dough get you down! If fissures emerge, you can patch them by repurposing longer, scraggly edges. If it starts to stick, put it in the fridge (or freezer) for a timeout, then flour and smooth any sticky patches when it's cooler and more trustworthy.
And if your 18-by-13-inch rectangle is more of a trapezoid or triangle or trippy freeform starfish, don't worry -- there's plenty of extra dough in this recipe to keep rolling till you can trim it down to a rectangle-ish.
For the filling, you have a couple options. If you want to serve it on plates with forks, you can bump up the fruit amount -- it will be sloshy and ooze molten berries (or peaches or cherries) as you plate it. But if you want people to be able to snatch it up like a Pop-Tart while they mill around drinking, stick with 6 cups of fruit.
Most important of all, remember this thing is called slab pie -- it sounds like something Barney Rubble made. Rustic is a good look for it. Call it shabby caveman, and even Martha would approve.
Martha Stewart's Slab Pie
Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook (Clarkson Potter, 2005)
Makes one 15-by-10-inch pie
All purpose flour, for dusting
6 cups fresh sour cherries, stemmed and pitted; or 6 cups fresh mixed berries; or 7 medium peaches, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 8 cups)
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Juice of 1/2 a lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sanding sugar (or granulated sugar)
5 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon coarse salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 pound (4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
12 to 16 tablespoons ice water
Photos by James Ransom