Slab pies are one of my most favorite sweet treats. I love their rustic good looks, the ease with which they feed a crowd, the filling to crust ratio, and the fact that there are often leftovers (for breakfast the next morning, of course). Mixed berry is most definitely my most beloved filling (I’ve even been known to make it in the dead of winter with frozen super market berries, if you must know). As a child, I loved Pepperidge Farm Raspberry Turnovers, and a slice of mixed berry slab pie (although a different shape and made with a pate brisee as opposed to puff pastry) brings me right back to eating warm turnovers a la mode with my brother post-dinner and pre-homework. I like to make my slab pies extra big, so my recipe calls for using a half sheet pan – or standard rimmed cookie sheet – as opposed to many recipes which call for using a jelly roll pan. My dough recipe here is a bit labor intensive, but truly makes the flakiest of piecrusts, hands down. Feel free to substitute your own go-to pie dough recipe, or buy store-bought, just make sure you are doubling a double crusted pie dough recipe (or buying two packages of double crusted dough). Rolling out such large sheets of dough can be tricky, no doubt, but be patient, keep your dough cool, and fix any rips with your fingers.
I recently made mixed berry slab pies for a farm dinner at Edgemere Farm in Far Rockaway, Queens and Food & Wine was kind enough to come out and document the dinner. Click here to read all about it and see mixed berry slab pies in the wild.
To take a peek at the original blog post for my mixed berry slab pie, and to peruse my collection of original recipes, click here.
FOR THE PIE DOUGH
- 4 3/4 cup, pastry flour or all-purpose *see note
- 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 4 sticks, high-fat, salted butter, cold
- 1/4 cup vodka, ice cold
- 1/4 cup cold water
FOR THE FILLING
- 12 cups of mixed berries, fresh or frozen, do not defrost if using frozen
- 1 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 6 Tbsp arrow root (or corn starch)
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
- one large egg
- 2 tsp heavy cream
- Turbinado Sugar, for decorating
TO MAKE THE PIE DOUGH:
whisk the pastry flour and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. slice each stick of butter into about 12 pieces. toss the butter into the flour and place the bowl in the freezer for 30 minutes. combine the vodka and water and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
remove the bowl from the freezer and dump the contents on to the counter. using a rolling pin, flatten/smear the butter into the flour (i recommend using a rolling pin to fraisage the dough, rather than the palm of the hand, as hands can get awfully toasty and melt the butter). your goal is sheets of butter, crumbly bits of butter/flour and almost no loose flour (this is important (the no loose flour-thing) otherwise the dough is too dry and it is hard to roll out later). use a bench scraper to move the dough around as you work, periodically bringing it all back into a pile in front of you. break up any large-ish sheets of butter with your fingers so all the butter bits are (relatively) uniformly shaped.
once your pile consists of butter sheets and crumbly dough, sprinkle a little of the vodka/water mixture over your pile, and use your hands to gently incorporate the liquid into the flour and butter (i kind of toss the dough around in my hands and move it around a bit on the counter with the bench scraper). continue sprinkling and incorporating until the dough is uniformly crumbly, damp, and flour-y (as if that makes any sense at all) – about 4 sprinkles in total. don’t be afraid to spend some time here tossing the dough with your fingers, to really help the flour absorb the liquid (but tossing is the operative word here – don’t over work the dough by smooshing it, kneading it, etc). form the dough into a ball (as best you can) and transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap . use the plastic wrap to mold the dough into a disc. wrap it tightly and place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
lightly flour a work surface, remove the disc from the fridge, and place it on the surface. flour the top of the disc, and let it rest on the counter until it softens a bit – about 10 minutes, or so (a little rest keeps the edges from cracking). now, using your rolling pin (and your fingers, if necessary) begin rolling/molding the dough into the shape of a rectangle. it will come together as you work – even if when you first start rolling it out you panic, as the edges crack, etc. if it is not cracking, but is instead extra sticky, sprinkle extra flour on the disc and your work surface to combat the stickiness. once in the shape of a rectangle, take one of the ends of the rectangle and fold it a little more than halfway across the rectangle towards its other end. then take the other end and fold that over the first (as if you are folding a long and skinny “business” letter). this first fold you make, might be made with dough that is both sticky in places and crumbly in others: not a problem. trust me.
once the dough is folded, roll it out again into a rectangle (re-flouring beneath it and on top, if necessary), and fold up the ends, like a letter, for a second time. repeat this one or two more time (3 to 4 times in total). by the third time, your dough should have transformed into something much more pliable and easier to work with. cut the final rectangle in half, form each half into a disc (or keep it in its rectangular shape, if making a slab pie), tightly wrap each disc/rectangle in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes.
remove one disc/rectangle from the refrigerator, roll it out, generously flouring your work surface as you go, and place it in the bottom of your half sheet sheet pan. if your kitchen is toasty, the dough may develop a hole or two; just patch away with a bit of extra dough. place the rolled-out dough back in the refrigerator. prepare your filling.
TO MAKE THE FILLING:
combine the berries, sugar, salt and arrowroot powder in a large bowl. using your hands, or a wooden spoon, toss the ingredients together until the berries absorb all of the arrowroot. add the lemon juice and toss again.
remove the dough-lined sheet pan from the fridge and fill it. take out the second disc/rectangle, roll it out, and cover your filling with the second rolled-out disc, crimp the edges, and using a paring knife make several cuts in a decorative pattern on the top of the pie.
in a small bowl, whisk the egg and cream together and, using a pastry brush, brush the top of the pie with the egg wash. sprinkle Turbinado sugar over the pie and place in the freezer for one hour (freezing the pie before baking it, prevents shrinkage).
preheat the oven to 425 degrees and bake the pie for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the juices are bubbling through the vents.
i recommend King Arthur pastry flour, if you can find it. please don’t use arrowhead mills pastry flour (it is whole grain and SUPER hard to work with). or, even better, make your own pastry flour by combining all purpose four and cake flour: the pie and pastry bible (page 7) recommends a ratio of 2/3 all purpose to 1/3 cake if measuring by weight; and if measuring by volume, combine 4 cups all purpose with 2 1/4 cup cake (measuring by volume provides you with a stash of almost 2 lbs. of homemade pastry flour)