Slab Pie for Every Season

Although it may not technically be summer anymore, we’re using up all the leftover summer fruits and veggies that need their last hurrah!

August meant a sweaty AC at full blast and an excuse to eat endless amounts of ice cream. Oh, but my sweet tooth didn’t stop there. I had my eye on all the peaches, nectarines, plums and berries  strewn about the market. Where did my mind automatically go? Pie!

I thought it was about time WWE did some baking. Plus, what better way to turn our attention away from the beating hot sun and toward one of the season’s best assets, fruit! An excuse to spend the morning at a farmer’s market with Rian wasn’t bad either.

We indulged in the juiciest peaches and two full pints of plump blueberries to fill up our first pie. And there was no way we were going to stop there. The table of 10 different kinds of tomatoes beckoned us and we couldn’t resist. Mesmerized by the abundance of veggies, we couldn’t bare pass them up! Suddenly, we knew what we had to do; we had to make a second pie! The wheels in Rian and my head started turning and we jutted around from farmstand to farmstand raiding tasting tables with toothpicks and sniffing bundles of herbs. Savory was, undoubtedly, our forte and the possibilities were endless! We landed on a tomato pie with fresh ricotta we would mix with a narrowed down collection of herbs (thyme and basil) and garlic.

The average piecrust is made up of butter, flour, salt, sugar and water. There are always those folks who think lard is the rule of thumb, but at the end of the day, it’s whatever you’re used to. There are others that get nervous around pie dough. Is the butter too soft, is the water cold enough, did I work it too much? Trust me when I say, there’s a reason people say, ‘easy as pie’. Indeed the crust part of the whole thing was pretty simple; only problem was that I didn’t have a food processor. In all my years, I’d never actually used one to make piecrust. I’d only ever seen my mom do it by hand and I actually enjoy it that way. So, when I set out to make slab pies, I wasn’t sure I would find this method as charming. My boyfriend spent the evening watching me make three (just incase) piecrusts from scratch with my hands. He thought I was crazy, pounding cubes of frozen butter with a whisk looking thing (pastry cutter). Then I showed him a YouTube of the “knife-method”. Now that’s crazy!

For these slab pies, I used Martha Stewart’s pie dough recipe x2 (cause that’s what Laura uses). It’s all butter, a little gooey and flakey in all the right places. The key is adding just enough water. Once the butter and flour mixture mimics a damp sandy texture, add in just enough water so that when you pinch the dough it sticks together just enough. You know you’ve added too much water when the dough starts to feel or look like cookie dough. In a food processor this happens really fast so stick to quick pulses.

For the fillings we went with a universal sugar mixture that can be mixed in with just about any fruit your heart desires. The same one we use at Copper Beech (one of our best sellers). As for our savory experiment we picked an assortment of heirloom tomatoes, scallions the size of Rian’s head and sweet ricotta with herbs and garlic of course.

The slab-pie, the American cousin to the Galette and forefather to the pop-tart is made with two regular 9×12 sheet trays, a rolling pin, a sheet of parchment and a fork. Roll the dough out until it’s a little larger than the sheet tray. We like to fill two sheet trays, top and bottom to make it easier to assemble later. If there are some missing spots or tears, don’t worry; you can patch them up with the excess overhang. Once they’re rolled out add your filling and flip the top crust over top. Crimp the edges and use a fork to imprint along the edges. It’s important to remember to poke holes in the top layer for ventilation. We also like to sprinkle it with cream to ensure a beautiful golden crust but you can finish with any sort of glaze you like. For a sweet pie we recommend a sprinkle of turbinado (sugar in the raw) and flakey maldon salt and pepper for a savory.

Bake until the crust is golden. There might be some over-flow. This is totally normal and adds a little homemade personality. We recommend keeping a clean sheet tray on a lower rack to catch spills. For a sweet pie, allow it to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving (with a heaping scoop of ice cream, of course). For savory, it’s safe to serve straight away! Yummmm! Pie for dinner and dessert perhaps? Too much? Nah! I’ll be concocting winter squash pies in no time!

Dough (Martha Stewart’s recipe)
5 cups AP flour
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 cups (4 sticks) butter, cut into cubes
1 cup ice water

Sweet Filling
6-7 cups fruit of choice sliced into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of salt
a dash of cinnamon (optional)

Savory Filling
6-7 cups sliced heirloom tomatoes, sliced
1 1/2 cups ricotta
1/4 cup sliced scallions
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

2 tbs. fresh thyme, minced
zest of 1 lemon
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper

Olive oil

To Finish
2 tbsp heavy cream
2-3 tablespoons Sugar in the Raw or (for savory) Maldon salt and fresh ground pepper

Method

To make dough: In Cuisinart, process dough’s dry ingredients. Once incorporated, add in butter cubes and pulse until broken up and flour looks sandy. Now, with the motor on, slowly drizzle in ice water. Stop the second the dough begins to come together. Dump onto clean work surface and knead 3 times until flour is just incorporated. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, gently smoosh into the rough shape of a rectangle (this will make your life easier later on) and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to 3 days.

For the sweet filling: Mix all ingredients together. Voila. Do this right before you’re going to bake your pie so it doesn’t get too runny.

For the savory filling: Lay heirloom tomatoes evenly in one layer on the surface of the dough. Then mix the following ingredients until well combined and sprinkle on top of the tomatoes. Finish with a glug of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

To form and bake slab pie: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove dough from fridge about 30 minutes before you’re ready to work with it. Slice dough into two pieces, one about two-thirds of the dough, the other about one-third of the dough. The fact that you wrapped this in the shape of a rectangle should help make this and rolling it out as a rectangle a little easier.
On a floured work surface and with a rolling pin, roll the bigger slab of dough out into a rectangle a little bigger than a 15×10″ sheet pan. You want to be able to fold excess dough over to create the outside crust. Don’t be scared, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Move the dough and add more flour to your work surface as necessary to prevent sticking. Once you’re there (or as close to it as you’re going to get), transfer the dough to the sheet pan. Roll out the second slab of dough to approximately fit the top of the pie in a similar fashion.
Add filling to the slab pie, then lay the second sheet of dough over the top. Fold the bottom layer’s excess dough over the top and either pinch or crimp the two dough slabs together. Next, brush the top lightly with heavy cream, poke it all over with a fork and generously shower over the raw sugar and malden salt.
Into the oven is goes for about an hour. Check it after about 50 minutes. If the top is nicely golden, you’re good. I like to err on the side of well-browned versus just-bronzed, but that’s up to you.

Enjoy with vanilla cream!

Sweet pie dreams!

Charlotte

 

 

Orange Zest Olive Oil Cake

Olive oil cake with pistachio, orange zest and ricotta

It was a typical Friday morning. I arrived in Red Hook at around 10am, marketed for my clients** and headed to their studio with plenty of time to casually prepare lunch and clean up for the weekend. As I took my time in the kitchen, chatting with the crew who were stopping in to say hello and pour themselves some much needed coffee, one of them brought up a special request. It happened to be a team member’s birthday and the studio had a tradition of celebrating with cake. Could I throw something together? Sure! No problem.

In fact, there was a problem. After taking a brief inventory, I learned that we were out of milk and butter. Posit you this: How do you make lunch and a cake in two hours for ten+ people with no milk, or butter? Challenge accepted.

One of the most important skills of a private chef is the ability to pivot. There is no saying what obstacles could get in the way. Sometimes a recipe does not go as planned, other instances the grocery store runs out of stock of certain crucial ingredients. (I am on a first name basis with most buyers at the grocery stores I frequent) Finally, there are even times when I arrive at a clients home, only to discover that some of the ingredients I had stocked in prior weeks are now gone.

After a short panic, I enlisted the help of Laura, Rian and Charlotte via group text and true to form they didn’t let me down! Within minutes I got the enthusiastic resolution to my puzzle, make an olive oil cake! They immediately sent me a number of recipes of which I could combine and alter to my needs. Due to my aforementioned pantry issues, I ended up throwing together my own take on olive oil cake, adding in some scraped vanilla bean and orange extract that was on hand.

Mind you, I tend to hate baking. This is a skill completely different from cooking, an enjoyable task in which you can taste and alter your creation at will until you reach the desired result. Baking is a terrible game of precision in which you must measure to a T (literally) without tasting (but really who doesn’t love raw batter?) and then tuck it away in an oven for an hour to do its thing. Little wiggle room for mistake there my friends.

I threw the cake in the oven and went about my lunch duties. I pulled the cake out when the crust was browned and fretted over the cooling process, making a glaze for the first time since culinary school and praying that it would hold shape on top of the barely room temperature cake when I poured it on top. I left for the day feeling victorious that I had prevailed over all the odds stacked against me.

Imagine my shock to come back the following week to rave reviews! Apparently the olive oil cake had been a hit. I was proud but let it roll off my shoulder. Fast forward months later to the new year when it turns out that the memory of the cake had not quite faded in the minds of all others. Within days I was approached by three separate people, all lamenting that they could not find another dessert to stand up to my famous olive oil cake and could they please have the recipe? Once again, panic ensued. I had no idea what I threw together to make the dessert!

Mise en place for olive oil cake

In a pragmatic effort to solve this new mystery, we decided to make a day of recipe testing olive oil cakes to definitively document our own What We Eat signature recipe! We each got a say in different variations and set to work on baking one classic orange zest olive oil cake, one pistachio cake, and one ricotta lavender cake. Once finished, we wrapped and transported the cakes to the office for final scrutiny. (though not before we got a taste ourselves!)

When the time finally came to serve for tasting in the studio, results came back almost entirely in favor of the original version. Though all were tasty and some preferred the nuttiness and delicate profile of the pistachio cake, it seems as though it is best to stick with the original. Why mess with a good thing?

**Note from Laura: You will never miss Kristina in the supermarket. She’s the weirdo with gargantuan headphones that literally dances her way through every aisle. Not a hint of embarrassment. One of the reasons I love her.

 

Orange olive oil cake

Serves 8

1¾ cups All Purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

½ cup marmalade

Grated zest of 2 oranges

1 ¼ cups olive oil

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 vanilla bean, scraped

Glaze

1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons fresh orange juice, plus more if needed

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 325°F, with a rack in the middle position. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease the paper.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and orange zest and mix well with your fingertips, rubbing the mixture together until well blended. Add the oil to the sugar mixture, and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and marmalade until combined. Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, beating on low speed and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl after each batch, until just combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly pressed. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes, then remove from the pan, peel off the parchment paper, and allow to cool completely on the rack.

To make the glaze:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and orange juice to make a thick but pourable glaze; add more orange juice if needed.  Set the cake, on the rack, over a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the glaze on top of the cake, letting it run down the sides. Let the glaze set for at least 30 minutes before slicing the cake.