Part of City Fruit’s harvesting efforts involve diverting hyperlocal fruit to partners in the community to maximize potential and minimize waste. Thus far this season, cherries have been distributed to FamilyWorks Seattle, and diverted for fermenting to Dirty Couch Brewing. Another avenue of diversion to keep fruit from the compost is baking. City Fruit has previously delivered fruit to local restaurants and home bakeries. Baking with locally harvested sour cherries is a current feature in Seattle’s harvesting season.
While sour cherries can be eaten off the tree (unlike almost all varieties of quince, which are inedible unless cooked), these cherries are extremely tart. After pitting, sour cherries are enhanced by butter, sugar, and flour: perfect pie fruit.
One option for a sour cherry pie is a slab pie. If you haven’t heard of this, it’s a pie for those who prefer some filling with their crust, rather than the more generous portion of fruit. These are probably the same people that prefer a higher cake to frosting ratio.
The “slab” refers to shape: pie dough lines a baking sheet, the size of which can depend on the amount of fruit included or the amount of people standing around, salivating. Average home baking sheets are referred to as half sheets, which would be a very large pie. If you have a quarter sheet on hand (roughly half the size of a half sheet, as one can imagine, sometimes referred to as “jelly roll pan” size), which would measure approximately 9 ½ by 13 inches, this would be the best selection for a single recipe of double crust pie dough.
Slab pie can also be easier to accomplish than the traditional deep dish pie. Anyone who feels overwhelmed by rolling dough into a circle, weaving a lattice, or creating perfectly crimped crust may delight in the simplicity of using a baking sheet. Additionally, slabs don’t need a fork, creating a much more portable dessert. Think of a giant homemade pop-tart.
I used Smitten Kitchen as a starting point, using freshly harvested sour cherries from the generosity of tree owners. Fresh fruit does a lot of the work in baking, as starting with quality ingredients will mean a greater chance for a delicious bake. Usually, my quintessential pie dough recipe is from Kate McDermott, author of The Art of Pie, which uses half lard and half butter. Through some trial and error, I’ve discovered that the taste of leaf lard isn’t always neutral, so I have substituted shortening for the amount of lard specified. This is also a good swap for vegetarians, since lard is animal fat, not an animal byproduct. Beware of adding too much liquid when swapping fats. I find that shortening seems need very little liquid compared to butter and lard. Vegans can go 100% shortening. The flavor of butter is obviously absent, but the texture makes up for it. I have yet to experiment with vegan butter substitutes, but this might be worth a try for any vegan bakers out there!
The following is a collection of tutorials and recipes for how to make slab pie.