This easy-to-make cherry slab pie is great for a crowd with a firm, not runny filling, that doesn’t require you to pre-cook anything!
I’ve been on a massive baking binge lately, more than usual. The reasoning because seasonal fruit is so…seasonal. And when I see cherries pop up, I need to buy bags and bags of them. But as much as I love to eat cherries, I often buy too many! That’s when I start baking with them in the form of a cherry buckle with cocoa cinnamon topping, apricot, sweet cherry and plum vanilla pie, or in my cherry, plum and peach cobbler. But this time instead of mucking about with combining different flavors, I decided I wanted to do something classic with all the cherries. That meant baking up a sweet cherry slab pies!
What is a slab pie?
A slab pie is similar to a standard round pie but made in a sheet pan. It is in a rectangular slab form, thus the name, slab pie. It’s ideal for those who love crust as there’s a higher crust to pie filling ratio. But it’s also a great dessert for large parties, gatherings, and picnics. It’s easier to serve folks, as they can cut small portions for themselves, which is harder to do with a traditional round shaped pie.
This slab pie is made in a short 9 x 13-inch baking sheet that is 1-inch deep. You can also make this in a 9 x 13-inch 2-inch pan (like the kind you bake brownies in) if you that is all you have. But you might want to line the pan with parchment paper, with the edges of the paper overhanging the sides of the pan. This will allow you to grab the paper and lift the entire pie up from the pan, making it easier to serve so you aren’t “digging” into the pan for slices.
How do you make this cherry slab pie?
Like the typical pie, you first start with making pie crust. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl, then add in cold cubed butter. Smash the butter into slivers with your fingers, then drizzle and toss in ice cold water until a dough forms.
Once you have the pie dough, divide it in half and form 5-inch disks, about 1-inch thick. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of an hour or overnight.
When the dough has chilled and you’re ready to make the pie, combine 2 pounds of pitted and halved sweet cherries with sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, balsamic vinegar, almond extract, a grated granny smith apple, and salt.
Roll out the dough to fit into a 9 x 13 x 1-inch pan. Pour the filling into the dough, evenly distributing the filling through the pan. Dot the top of the filling with a little extra butter, then roll out the other dough and fit it over the top of the filling.
Brush the edges of the pie crust with an egg wash, then seal the top and the bottom together and decoratively crimp the edges. Brush the top of the crust with egg wash, sprinkle some sugar on top, cut a few steam holes, and then refrigerate the pie while you preheat the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Once the oven is preheated, bake and then let cool for an hour before serving.
What makes this pie different than other cherry slab pies?
Most cherry slab pie recipes result in a runny filling or have you pre-cook the filling juice to thicken it. This cherry slab pie has a firm filling that isn’t too starchy and skips the pre-cooking stage, making it easier to prepare!
The addition of the grated Granny Smith apple is what keeps the filling from running! Most pie fillings rely on a lot of starch or flour to thicken the fruit filling. This is good solution to prevent runny filling, but can make the pie taste starchy or give the fruit filling an odd “bouncy” texture.
But the Granny Smith apple is filled with pectin, a natural thickener that is what makes fruit jams and jellies thicken. The grated apple helps thicken the filling naturally, without extra starch. Despite the addition of the apple, you don’t taste the apple flavor at all in the filling. Instead, the apple adds a subtle fruit sweetness as well as thickens the filling, resulting in less sugar needed for the filling as well.
There’s also an addition of balsamic vinegar in the filling. This ingredient is optional but highly recommended as it adds a touch of acidity to the filling, balancing the sweetness and bringing out the bright cherry fruit flavors even more. If you don’t have balsamic vinegar, try adding lemon juice instead, which isn’t quite as rich as balsamic but still highlights the bright acidity of the fruit.
Tips and tricks
- Cold ingredients for pie crust: When making pie crust, always start with cold ingredients, including cold butter and cold water. Make sure to chill the pie crust for a full hour or make it up to 2 days ahead of time, so the butter in the crust can fully solidify. Cold pie crust equals flakey pie crust!
- Use an apple in the filling: As I mentioned above, the addition of the apple sounds odd, but it naturally thickens the pie without extra starch or flour. Don’t skip this ingredient until you want your pie filling to be runny.
- Refrigerate the pie after assembling: Refrigerating the pie after assembling means the pie crust can chill again after it’s been rolled out and manipulated at room temperature. Chill the entire pie while you preheat the oven then. That way the crust is still cold when it goes into the oven.
- Use store-bought crust: For a shortcut, you can totally use store-bought pie crust. However, you might need to use 2 boxes of the pie crust and cobble together the top and bottom crusts to fit into the pan. Just brush some of the egg wash on the dough and overlap the dough to form a larger crust for the top and bottom. Use the egg wash as a “glue” to hold the dough together.
- Use frozen cherries: If cherries are out of season but you still want to make a cherry pie, you can use frozen cherries. Just increase the cornstarch to 5 tablespoons as frozen cherries have more liquid when they thaw.
- Split the cherries in half: I often times will just use a paring knife and fingers to pit my cherries but I did write an article for Simply Recipes about the best cherry pitters, and the one I like the most is the OXO cherry pitter (<- affiliate link). But if you plan on pitting a lot of cherries, you might want to invest in a batch “hopper style” cherry pitter (<- affiliate link) which allows you to pit large batches of cherries at once. No matter how you pit your cherries though, split them in half afterwards. This allows you to check to make sure you removed all the pits (even the best cherry pitters will occasionally leave a pit in the cherry). Halving the cherries (I just tear them in half with my fingers) also creates a more even layer of filling in the pie.
This slab pie is best eaten the day it is baked. But you can store the leftover remaining cherry pie at room temperature in an airtight container for 2 days or in the fridge for up to 4 days.
You can also freeze this pie. Let the pie cool completely then either wrap the entire pie tightly in plastic wrap and place it in a large 2 gallon ziplok bag and freeze as is, or slice first, then place slices in an airtight container or in a freezer bag. Thaw it out overnight in the fridge or take a slice out and thaw on the countertop for about an hour before serving.
If you like this cherry slab pie, check out some of these other pies
- Rhubarb Berry slab pie
- Apple slab pie with brandy and prunes
- Blueberry pie
- Strawberry rhubarb pie
- Summer fruit pie with crumb topping
- Grape and blueberry pie
- Fried apple pie
- Meyer lemon shaker tart with strawberry and rhubarb
Easy Cherry Slab Pie
- 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 455 g
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, cold 285 g
- 2/3 cup to 3/4 cup ice cold water
- 4 1/2 cups cherries about 2 pounds or 910 grams
- 3/4 cup white sugar 150 g
- 1/4 cup cornstarch 40 g
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 Granny Smith apple
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- 2 tablespoon turbinado sugar sparkling sugar or white granulated sugar
- Make the pie crust dough by placing the flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut the cold butter into 1/2-inch cubes and sprinkle them over the dry ingredients. Using your fingers, toss the cubes in the flour then smash them into flat pieces, roughly the size of a pea.
- Once all the butter is flattened and broken up, drizzle 2/3 cup of the ice water over the dough and toss with a fork until a dough starts to form. Using your hands massage the dry ingredients gently into the wet parts. If the dough looks too dry, add more water, a tablespoon at a time, until a solid dough forms.
- Divide the dough into two parts and then flatten each part into a disk about 5-inches wide and 1-inch thick. Wrap each dough with plastic wrap and then refrigerate for a minimum of an hour or overnight (or up to 2 days in the fridge).
- While the dough is chilling, make the crust by pitting the cherries and halving them into a large bowl. Add the sugar, cornstarch, vinegar, vanilla extract, and salt. Then peel and core the apple, and grate it into the bowl, using the large holes of a box grater. Toss to combine all the ingredients together.
- When you’re ready to assemble the pie, if you’re using a 9 x 13-inch baking pan (the kind that you make brownies in), lightly spray it with cooking oil, then line it with parchment paper. If you are using a 9 x 13-inch rimmed baking sheet, skip this step. Flour a clean surface and then roll out a disk of dough into an 11 x 15-inch rectangle.
- Fold the dough into quarters. Move the dough carefully to the pan. Unfold and fit the dough into the baking sheet or pan, trying to NOT stretch the dough as much as possible. This will help prevent shrinkage.
- Pour the filling into the pastry dough and then distribute the filling evenly throughout the pan. Cut the remaining unsalted butter into small 1/4-inch cubes and sprinkle them all over the top of the filling.
- Repeat the rolling out of the dough with the remaining disk, making sure it 11 x 15 as well. Place this dough over the filled pie.
- Make the egg wash by beating the egg yolk with the water. Then lift up and brush the bottom crust with some of the egg wash and place the top crust back on top of it, using the egg wash to “glue” and seal the crust together. Trim any excess crust and decoratively pinch and seal the dough all the way around the pie. Place the pie in the refrigerator (uncovered) for 20 to 30 minutes.
- While the pie is chilling, preheat the oven to 375°F. Once the pie is done chilling, brush the remaining egg wash over the top of crust (you won’t need to use all of it). Then sprinkle the top crust with turbinado sugar (or sparkling or white sugar) and cut some decorative vent holes into the top.Place the pie on a large rimmed baking sheet (in case any of the filling bubbles out) and bake the pie for 60 to 70 minutes or until the filling is bubbling through the steam vents in the center of the pie. Let the pie cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before serving.