Slab pie: A new trend?
At last month’s Baltimore Book Festival, I discovered a food with an odd name - slab pie. Demonstrating in the makeshift kitchen on the Food for Thought Stage, Cathy Barrow introduced the audience to her specialty and the subject of her upcoming book, “Pie Squared: Irresistibly Easy Sweet & Savory Slab Pies.” These pies are pastries baked in a jelly roll pan and cut into rectangular slabs like a bar cookie.
For those of you unfamiliar with this specific pan, a jelly roll pan is a kind of sheet pan designed to make thin sponge or sheet cakes. The size of the pan specified in the recipe ensures the cakes are sturdy enough to coat with creme, jelly or other fillings and then to roll neatly into a cylinder.
In a commercial bakery, you’ll find jelly roll pans in several sizes: full-size, half- and quarter-size. To make one of the slab pies in Barrow’s book, you’ll want a quarter-size pan that is 9 inches wide, 13 inches long and one inch deep. When you’re not using it to bake sweet or savory slab pies, it’s good for roasting vegetables, baking cookies or browning dinner rolls.
Although Barrow (and a few of the reviewers who covered her book) assert that slab pie is a new trend, it’s not. We’ve seen these done with puff pastry for years, yet I’d never heard them called “slab pies.” Barrow claims she baked 193 pies researching the recipes, and she introduces some interesting ingredients. She also extolls the virtues of slab pie versus traditional pie – it’s definitely easier to roll out a rectangle than a circle of dough.
The recipe she demonstrated in Baltimore was called Just-Like-Artichoke-Dip Slab Pie. She started with a cream cheese crust made in the bowl of a food processor, instead of using a pastry cutter to incorporate butter in the dough. Her secret to tender and flaky crust is making sure all the ingredients are perfectly cold and giving the dough at least four hours in the refrigerator to rest before rolling it out.
To make sure the rectangles were exactly the right size, Barrow used blue (removable) painter’s tape to create a frame on the counter in which to roll each piece of dough. The bottom crust measured 11-by-15 inches, and what became the lattice top was 10-by-14 inches. Once the bottom piece of dough was fitted into the jelly roll pan, Barrow assembled the filling.
If you’ve ever made artichoke dip, you’ll recognize the list of ingredients: artichoke hearts, mayonnaise, cheese, herbs and seasonings. She spread the thick mixture evenly across the bottom crust and sliced the top crust into strips to make a lattice. Because the dough would melt together as it baked, Barrow didn’t actually weave the lattice; she simply set the long strips in place and then the cross pieces in the opposite direction.
A brush of egg wash followed, along with a generous sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese. Another key to success is to place the jelly roll pan over a preheated baking steel or stone in the oven. This will transfer heat to cook the bottom crust instead of leaving it soggy. Of course, the schedule for her demo was too short to actually bake the slab pie for an hour, so she served the audience samples from one she’d prepared earlier. We left nothing but crumbs.
I’ve included Barrow's recipe for the artichoke slab pie in the photo and one of my own that uses prepared puff pastry - slab pie, perfect for breakfast.
Just-Like-Artichoke-Dip Slab Pie*
Cream Cheese Crust
2 1/2 C plus 2 T flour
8 T unsalted butter, cubed & chilled
8 T cream cheese, cubed & chilled
1/4 t salt
1/2 C ice water
Combine the flour, butter, cream cheese and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 15 times. Add the water and process until the mixture forms a rough ball. Quickly form the dough into a 4-by-6-inch rectangle and seal in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Remove from the refrigerator and allow to soften slightly. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Roll out the larger piece into an 11-by-15-inch rectangle. Place dough in a quarter-size jelly roll pan, pressing it into the corners and allowing the excess to drape over the sides; refrigerate. Roll out the second piece of dough into a 10-by-14-inch rectangle. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate. Preheat oven to 400 F and place a baking steel or stone on the center rack.
2 14-oz cans artichoke hearts
3/4 C mayonnaise
1 C grated Parmigiano Romano cheese
1/2 C chopped parsley
1/2 C snipped chives
2 garlic cloves
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 t pepper
1 egg yolk
1 T water
3 T grated Parmigiano Romano cheese
Drain the artichoke hearts and roughly chop. Combine in a mixing bowl with mayonnaise, cheese, parsley and chives. Stir to combine and grate garlic cloves over mixture. Stir in lemon juice and pepper. Spread filling evenly across bottom crust. Cut top crust into strips and arrange in a lattice over the filling. Trim excess crust and crimp together top and bottom. Whisk together egg yolk and water; use a pastry brush to glaze the crust. Sprinkle with 3 T cheese and bake until brown and glossy, about 50 to 55 minutes. Yield 15 servings. *Adapted from “Pie Squared” by Cathy Barrow.
Breakfast Slab Pie
2 sheets puff pastry, defrosted
3 T unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
8 ounces thin-sliced ham
salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 t paprika
1 1/2 T Dijon mustard
4 oz shredded sharp cheddar
4 oz shredded Swiss
2 t snipped chives
1 T water
Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a quarter-size jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Roll out puff pastry to 1/4-inch thickness and place one sheet in the pan; set aside. Melt butter in a skillet over medium. Add onion and cook until slightly caramelized, about 6 minutes. Cut ham into small pieces and add to skillet. Cook until starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. Add paprika and mustard, stirring to combine. Scatter half of each cheese evenly over puff pastry, followed by the ham and onion mixture and the remaining cheese. Sprinkle with chives. Place second pastry sheet over the filling and crimp the edges together. Whisk together egg and water; use a pastry brush to coat the pastry with egg wash. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before serving. Yield: 6 servings.