Story, Recipes and Photos by Sara May
As COVID restrictions ease and we’re able to gather more safely with our friends and family, a slab pie made with local produce is the perfect choice to feed a crowd. But what is a slab pie?
Slab pies are shallow pies made on baking sheets (otherwise known as jelly roll pans), which have the benefit of being infinitely portable. Their rectangular shape allows for more crust than filling—and all pie-lovers know that a flaky, buttery crust is the best part of the pie! I use a standard “half sheet” baking pan for all of these recipes, which measures 18 by13 inches with a 1-inch lip. This size pan is also perfect for roasting vegetables and making all kinds of sheet pan suppers.
Slab pies are great for gatherings because they travel easily, making them a perfect dish to bring to potluck. With the abundance of local fruit and vegetables in our region, it’s easy to pack your slab pie with farmers market produce and local dairy products.
A portable, crowd-pleasing dish that highlights the bounty of the Finger Lakes region? I’m calling it: This will be the year of the slab pie!
A few tips and tricks: These pies are large-format and, as such, a bit of a project.
Plan ahead to break things up into a few stages. The dough will take some time, both to assemble and to roll out. If you’re used to making and rolling out pie dough for a standard 9-inch pie tin, allow at least twice as much time for each of these steps for a slab pie. Once the dough is properly mixed and tightly wrapped in plastic, it can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. If using frozen dough, allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight before rolling out.
The crumble topping for the Peach Almond Crumble Slab Pie can also be made ahead and kept in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Both the parsley-basil filling for the Heirloom Tomato and Onion Pie recipe and the cilantro-pumpkin-seed filling for the Chili Corn Cilantro Pie recipe can be made a day ahead and kept refrigerated until you’re ready to assemble.
Why does the mixed dough have to be refrigerated so long before it’s rolled out? This resting step ensures that the water you’ve added to your dough has a chance to properly permeate all of the dry ingredients. It also gives the gluten in the flour a chance to relax, making the dough much easier to roll out. And it ensures that the butter in the dough will get very cold, which means that it will hold its shape while being baked and yield a very flaky crust.
As with all pie recipes, you’ll want to be very conscious of the temperature of your dough. The crust and filling should be kept as cold as possible until you put the pie in the oven. If the crust starts to warm up and feel floppy and sticky as you work with it, simply pop it in the fridge for a few minutes before continuing. All filling ingredients should be absolutely cold before you add them to the crusts.
Because of the size of these pies, it can be difficult to roll out the crust to the exact dimension of your sheet pan. Have a few missing pieces around the edges? No problem! Simply use the excess dough you’ve trimmed off the sides to patch any holes or cracks. Lining the bottom rack of your oven with foil before preheating the oven ensures that any drips that fall from the pies won’t result in you having to scrub your entire oven after you’ve baked the pie. (Trust me, I learned this the hard way!)
Have a favorite pie recipe that you’d like to convert to a slab pie? As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want to multiply the filling ingredients in a standard 9-inch pie recipe by three to fill an 18- by 13-inch baking sheet. Use your judgement here and be careful not to overfill your pan, as there is not as much room for overflow on a flat baking sheet as there is in a round pie tin!
Celebrate stone fruit season! I call for peaches in my Peach Almond Crumble Pie but plums, apricots or pluots are delicious in this pie as well. Or try a mix of stone fruit! Skip the hassle of peeling any of this fruit before slicing and pitting—I find that the peels add delicious texture and flavor to the pie.
Sara May is a cook, baker and recipe developer who recently moved from Philadelphia to the Finger Lakes with her husband and two cats.