Why Nancy Silverton Wants You to Bake Slab Pie This Fall
Follow her recipe for cozy and beautiful apple quince streusel slab pie.
Fall means apples and cinnamon, and baking them together in pies. Warm pie on a crisp autumn day, what could be better? While we love a traditional round pie, this fall we’re trading it in and opting for a slab pie instead.
A slab pie is simply a pie in rectangular form, explains Nancy Silverton, James Beard Award-winning chef and co-owner of Mozza Restaurant Group. Baking a rectangular pie means that there’s more pastry to go around and share with others—ideal if you look forward to hosting family and friends for the holidays.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of choosing one or the other,” says Silverton. “What people expect to see when they see a pie is a round, deep-dish version. So it’s always a surprise and more eye-catching when it’s lower.” Silverton also finds that this version allows for a desirable crust (or crumble)-to-fruit ratio. If you like an ample crust situation, then you’ll probably love slab pie, too.
Silverton didn’t grow up eating the rectangular pie. “The only dessert that was allowed at my table growing up was, every once in awhile, an ice cream bar,” she remembers. But she noticed it becoming more popular in recent years, likely thanks to Instagram. “How about that? Instagram made it famous,” she laughs. While it’s hard to find a clear answer on the origin of slab pies, Taste reports that there was a recipe for one in a 1974 recipe booklet, so while social media has brought them back to prominence, they’ve been around for decades.
The dessert is probably about to become even more Instagram famous, though, because Silverton recently released a slab pie baking dish in collaboration with cookware company Made In. There was a slab pie void in the bakeware market and Silverton wanted to fill it—and based on the fact that it sold out within hours of it’s launch date, home bakers are excited about this new dish.
Of course, you don’t need a porcelain baking slab to make a slab pie. A regular baking sheet will do. In fact, slab pies are considered easier to tackle than round pies because of the forgiving nature. Once you roll out your pie dough (possibly the hardest part, especially because you need more dough to fill the larger pan), fitting it into the pan is easy and any bumps or tears can be smoothed out. While you might be able to get away with using store-bought pie dough with smaller pies, you’ll want to go ahead and make your own dough for slab pies since it’s such a prominent feature. And, by the time you try to cobble together store-bought dough, you’ll have wished you’d made your own anyway.
When it comes to fillings, these pies are just as versatile. At Silverton’s restaurant Chi Spacca in Los Angeles, there’s a banana cream slab pie on the menu. “Apple quince is a great filling. Stone fruit. Any filling that you would put into a traditional pie,” Silverton says. Don’t stop at fruit, either. Go ahead and make a slab pot pie, pizza, or focaccia. Just make sure the pie isn’t too saucy or juicy, warns Silverton, to avoid spillovers.
If you want your slab pie to become Instagram famous, Silverton says it’s all about how you finish it and weave your crust. She currently likes to crown her pies with a wide lattice. “The surface area of a slab pie gives you that opportunity of doing a wider weave which makes it more eye-catching,” says Silverton. “You can do all sorts of cutouts with the press and apply them on top, but you got to talk to someone from a younger generation than myself or for that one.”
To create your own work of art, follow Silverton’s recipe for an apple quince streusel slab pie.
Chef Nancy Silverton’s Apple Quince Streusel Slab Pie
Yield: 10-15 pieces
For the Apples
- 2 pounds tart baking apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch cubes
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
- 1 vanilla bean
- ¼ cups fresh apple cider (or apple juice)
- 3 tablespoons lightly packed dark brown sugar
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (grated with a fine Microplane or a nutmeg grater from a whole nutmeg)
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
For The Quinces
- 3 cups dry white wine
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 1 whole clove
- 1 strip of orange peel (peeled with a vegetable peeler)
- 2 quinces or pears (1½ pounds), peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch cubes
For the Dough and Lining the Baking Slab
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons cold water
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen for at least 1 hour, plus more for buttering the pan
For the Streusel Topping
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, cold
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons rolled oats
1. To prepare the apples, put them in a large roasting pan. Add the granulated sugar and toss to coat the apples with the sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour (or refrigerate overnight) to allow the sugar to break down the apples and for the apples to begin to release their juices.
2. To prepare the quinces, combine the white wine, granulated sugar, cinnamon stick, star anise, clove, and orange peel in a 4-quart saucepan. Add 1 cup water and bring to a boil over high heat.
3. Cut a round of parchment paper slightly larger than the pot. Add the quinces and lay the parchment paper on the surface of the liquid to keep the fruit submerged.
4. Return the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a steady simmer, and simmer the quinces until they are tender, about 1 hour.
5. Turn off the heat and let the quinces cool in the poaching liquid.
6. If you are refrigerating the apples overnight, also refrigerate the quinces, covered, overnight.
Cook the Apples
1. Adjust the oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 300F2. Put the butter in a 4-quart saucepan to begin to make the brown butter. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and with a paring knife, scrape the seeds from the bean into the saucepan, along with the whole vanilla beam.3. Melt the butter over medium heat and cook it for about 10 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally so the butter browns evenly, until the foam has subsided and the butter is coffee-colored with a toasted aroma.
4. Turn off the heat and scrape the bottom to release the solids. Discard the vanilla bean.
5. If you refrigerated the apples, remove them from the refrigerator and take the plastic
6. Drizzle the brown butter over the apples and add the apple cider, brown sugar, cornstarch, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Stir to combine.
7. Spread the apples out evenly over the surface of the pan and roast in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
8. Once they’re tender, but not falling apart, remove the apples from the oven and set aside to cool to room temperature.
Prepare the Quinces
1. If you refrigerated the quinces, remove them from the refrigerator and take the plastic
2. Place a mesh strainer over a medium bowl and strain the quinces. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick, star anise, clove, and orange peel.
3. Add the quinces and ¼ cup of the strained liquid to the roasting pan with the apples and fold them together. Discard the remaining quince liquid left in the bowl.
4. Cover the roasting pan and refrigerate the filling for at least 2 hours, until it is chilled.
Make the Dough
1. Whisk the cream and water together in a small bowl.
2. Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed to distribute the salt.
3. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the flour and butter come together into pea-sized clumps.4. Add the cream and water and mix on low speed until the dough comes together. Lightly dust a large flat working surface with flour and transfer the dough to the floured surface.5. Gather the dough together into a ball, cut it in half, and pat it into a 2-inch-thick block.
Wrap the block in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to chill until the dough is
firm, about 2 hours.
6. Butter the bottom and side of your Baking Slab, lightly dust it with flour, and tap out the excess.
7. Lightly dust a large flat work surface with flour and remove the dough from the refrigerator. Unwrap it and place it on the floured surface.
8. Cut the dough into large chunks and pound each chunk with a rolling pin to soften the dough.
9. Bring the chunks together into a ball and gently knead until the dough is malleable.
10. Pat the dough into a 2-inch-thick block. Dust the dough and rolling pin lightly with flour and roll it into a ⅛ inch thick (at least 13x16 inch) rectangle, dusting the dough, rolling pin, and work surface as needed.
11. Loosely roll the dough around the pan and lower it over the Baking Slab, centering it so the dough hangs evenly over the edges of the pan.
12. Working your way around the pan, lift the edge of the dough with one hand and let it drop down over the slab. At the same time, with your other hand, dip the flat side of the knuckle of your index finger in flour and use it to gently press the dough against the edges and into the creases of the pan to create straight, not sloping sides.
13. Using kitchen shears, trim the dough so there is ¾ inch of dough overhanging all around. Discard the scarps.
14. Roll the edge of the dough under itself to create a thick lip that rests on the edge of the slab. To crimp the pie, press the thumb of your dominant hand on the edge of the dough and pinch around it with the thumb and forefinger of your non-dominant hand to create a scallop shape.
15. Continue leapfrogging your fingers around the perimeter of the pie to create a scalloped edge.
16. Dock the bottom of the piecrust all over with a fork and place it in the refrigerator to chill until the dough is firm, about 1 hour.
Make the Streusel Topping
1. Combine the flour, granulated sugar, and cinnamon in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed to distribute the sugar and cinnamon.
2. Add butter and mix on low speed until the flour and butter come together into pea-sized clumps.
3. Remove the bowl from the stand and add the oats and mix them in with your hands to distribute the oats and form clumps of topping.
4. Place the topping in the refrigerator to chill, about 30 minutes.
Assemble and Bake
1. Adjust the oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 400F
2. Remove the pie crust, filling, and topping from the refrigerator and scrape the filling into the crust, making sure to get all the sugary ingredients out of the bowl. Smooth out the filling.
3. Scatter the topping evenly over the filling and refrigerate until the topping is firm.
4. To minimize cleanup, place your baking slab on a large baking sheet to catch any juices that may bubble over.
5. Bake for 55-65 minutes, until it is a deep golden brown and the fruit is bubbling, rotating the baking slab halfway through for even browning.
6. Remove the baking slab from the oven. Serve with vanilla gelato or ice cream, if you like.