Berry Slab Pie
I have mixed emotions about the last day of summer approaching. I am beyond prepared for cold weather and orange, red and yellow trees. But I will miss the farmer's market in downtown Boulder, with some of the most beautiful, seasonal produce I have ever seen, including Palisade peaches -- these take me back to my days as a waitress and cashier at a small market and restaurant in Steamboat Springs: boxes upon boxes of Palisade peaches, so many we hardly had room to store them -- they were stacked under the produce tables. They were some of the most beloved of produce. Customers would come in and ask for them by name. I plan to go this Saturday and pick up a few of the last Palisade peaches of the summer.
But what -- besides a peach pie -- is more iconic of summer than a berry pie?
What about a massive, 12x15-inch slab of it?
This was my task of the past weekend. The recipe is courtesy of Food52 and Martha Stewart, who made hers with sour cherries -- but I wasn't in the mood for sour cherries. It's a very particular taste. I learned this after making a sour cherry pie a few months ago, at first struggling to even find unsweet cherries, and then finding myself surprised by the first bite of the pie: sour but perfectly sweet, almost like candy.
Anyway, in my opinion, there is nothing like berry pie. I have yet to find anything like it. So when I agreed to bring dessert for a Bible study dinner on Sunday night, I knew a 9-inch pie would be too small and a batch of cookies would be, well, too easy. The solution was slab pie.
You can find the recipe for sour cherry slab pie here, but you can find the recipe for raspberry blueberry slab pie below. I used the same recipe for the pie dough that Martha did; however, I don't believe in making pie dough with anything besides your hands. It is the most effective and best way to mix dough: you learn to feel when the fat has fully mixed into the flour, and you know how the dough should stand in your hand once you've added enough water. It also makes pie-making a much more intimate process. Treat it as you would a dear friend: be patient, gentle, and kind; take a step back when you become frustrated, and it will thank you in the end (in the form of a beautiful, flakey, tender pie crust).
Blueberry Raspberry Slab Pie
For the Crust:
5 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 pound (4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut in 1 and 1/2 tbsp-sized cubes
1 cup water (You may not use all of it)
For the Pie:
3 cups frozen or fresh blueberries
3 cups frozen or fresh raspberries
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup Turbinado sugar (or granulated sugar - Turbinado adds more texture)
1 egg & 1/2 tablespoon heavy whipping cream (for top of crust)
To make the crust: Take a measuring cup and fill it with a cup of water. Plop a few ice cubes in the cup and put it in the freezer while you put together the dry ingredients.
In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar and salt until combined. Make sure to use the "spoon and sweep" method while measuring your flour.
Take your chilled cubes of butter and toss them into the flour mixture. Using your lovely, cold, patient hands, scoop up flour with pieces of fat and press the butter between your fingers, letting it fall back into the bowl. Do this until the dough resembles coarse crumbs with small to larger pieces of butter strewn throughout.
Take the water out of the freezer, and pour it into the flour and fat in a thin stream for about 7 seconds. Distribute the flour by taking your hands again and continuing the same as before: picking up dough, pressing the fat, and letting it fall back into the bowl. The dough should look a bit shaggy and feel tacky. To test whether the dough is done, ball up a handful of dough and toss it into the air, letting it land back in your palm. If it holds its shape in your hand, the dough is done. If not, continue to add water by the tablespoon.
Once the dough is done, divide the dough roughly in half -- making sure one piece is slightly larger than the other to cover the bottom of the pan with 1/2 inch overhang. (Yes, it's a lot of dough.) Gather the dough into two separate balls, form the dough into discs and store in plastic wrap. Try to make your dough as smooth as possible for easier rolling: place the dough on its side, and roll like you would a wheel to create a smooth edge. Be sure to pinch any cracks on the edges to avoid tearing later. Chill in the fridge for at the very least an hour, overnight is preferred -- you can even freeze the dough for a few months until you are ready to use it.
Assembling the Pie: Take the larger chilled disc of dough out of the freezer, unwrap it, and set it on the counter for about 10-20 minutes to warm up a bit before rolling. If it is too cold, the dough will crack and be nearly impossible to roll out. If it is too warm, it will stick all over the place and be nearly impossible to roll out. (I have experienced both of these scenarios, and each is infuriating.) Press your finger into the dough to test its temperature: your finger should leave an imprint without much pressure, but you shouldn't be able to easily poke an imprint in the dough. You want just a bit of pressure.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly spray a 12x15, 1-inch deep baking sheet and set aside.
Now, on a floured surface, roll the dough into an 18x13-inch rectangle. It sounds simple. Martha makes it sound simple. But this is a massive rectangle. Be patient with it. Be sure your surface is lightly floured, your hands are lightly floured, your rolling pin is lightly floured, and you rotate your dough after each roll. Sprinkle dough on any pieces of butter that stick to your pin. Fold and flip the dough every so often to prevent sticking. My rectangle wasn't perfect, and yours probably won't be either -- and not perfect is perfectly okay.
Fold the dough into quarters and carefully unfold it in the baking sheet. Patch any torn areas with leftover dough (don't panic, you will have plenty). Crimp or twist the edges decoratively, and brush the bottom (not the edges) with an egg white. (This helps ensure a not-soggy bottom crust.) Put the pan with the dough in the refrigerator while you make the rest of the pie. (It's an absolute miracle that pan fit in my fridge.)
In a large bowl, stir fruit, cornstarch, sugar, lemon juice and salt. Take the pan out of the fridge and pour the filling into the bottom crust. Using a spatula, spread out the filling evenly, being sure to reach the corners. Refrigerate again while you roll out the top crust.
Using the same method as you did the bottom crust, roll your top crust as best you can, and either fold it on top of the filling in one whole piece, or do as I did and create a lattice and some decorative shapes. If you do the whole top crust on top, be sure to cut generous steam vents. Mix the egg and 1/2 tablespoon heavy whipping cream in a small bowl, and use a pastry brush to spread over top of pie (again, not the crimped edges). Sprinkle that turbinado sugar over the top of the crust.
Take a step back and look at your masterpiece. Nicely done, my friend.
Take another baking sheet and put it on the lower rack of your oven to catch any delicious spillage that might bubble over while the pie bakes. Pop the slab pie into your preheated oven, and bake for 40-55 minutes, or until the crust is a beautiful golden brown and the filling is bubbling.
Cool for an hour and go find an army to feed.