Stock up on fresh cherries in the summer and you can make this delicious cherry slab pie all year long from frozen berries. Missed cherry season? Just pick up a bag of frozen cherries at the store. No need to thaw!
On any given day of the year, you are likely to find a bag of frozen cherries in my freezer. We have the best uncle ever who supplies us with cherries fresh from his orchard every summer and I love to spread the joy out throughout each season.
This year, I found a whole new way to use our family’s favorite fruit. It turns out that using frozen cherries is the secret key to making an extra-flaky pie crust! Who knew??
The best pie crusts start with very cold dough. Frozen cherries help to keep the crust chilled as you prepare the top crust.
You can assemble the entire cherry slab pie and store it frozen or bake it with the frozen berries the same day you assemble it.
Either way, the slices come out neat and clean from the pan and the crust is so crispy you can almost eat it like a pop tart with your hands!
We enjoy cherry pie all year long but I thought you might particularly enjoy it with Thanksgiving and Christmas baking season coming up soon. This is the perfect make-ahead dessert for your holiday menu.
P.S. If you love make-ahead frozen fruit desserts for the holidays, don’t miss freezer-friendly apple crisp.
How to make a perfect cherry slab pie with frozen cherries:
Helpful tools for making any slab pie:
I invested in a few key pieces of equipment and have been using them over and over for a variety of slab pies I’m excited to share with you. These are the items that will help your pie turn out just like my pictures:
- Slab pie pans: This pair of pie pans are so useful for making slab pies or bars. I simply love this pair of baking pans.
- A pastry mat: This is a really handy work surface for rolling out pie dough. Not only does it have a nice ruler for measuring built-in, but I can use it for rolling up a pie crust and keep it in the fridge really easily. I have one from Pampered Chef but this pastry mat is very similar.
- A food processor: You can make the pie dough by hand, but it takes just seconds with a food processor like this.
Step 1: Prepare the pie dough
I like to make my pie crust the day before I assemble the pie for a few reasons:
- It breaks down the work into really easy small chunks.
- I only have a small handful of dishes to clean at a time.
- It gives the crust plenty of time to chill before rolling out.
Making the dough takes less than 5 minutes if you have a food processor. The time comes in with the need for it to chill and rest before rolling. If you do that ahead of time, the crust is ready when you are to bake.
If you don’t have time to make it the day before, you’ll need to plan for 4 hours of chilling time before rolling the dough. I make the crust first thing in the morning so it can chill before lunchtime and then finish the pie in the afternoon.
Step 2: Roll out the dough and prepare the pie pan
Cherry pies create a lot of moisture from all those lovely fruit juices. Since we’re using frozen berries, there’s even a little more moisture as they thaw and steam in the oven.
To help prevent a soggy crust, you’ll want an open style top crust for the slab pie. One of the easiest methods for making this crust is to use a cookie cutter to cut shapes to scatter over the top, leaving plenty of space between them for the moisture to escape.
You can use a single cutter or pick two in varying sizes/shapes for variety. I loved the sweet and simple hearts scattered over this pie but if you’re making this for Thanksgiving, maybe consider a leaf shape. Christmas time could call for Christmas trees or snowflakes. Such a fun way to add some personality to your pie.
First, you’ll divide the dough into two pieces — one for the top crust, one for the bottom.
Roll out the bottom crust first. Drape it gently into your slab pie pan and form a pretty edge. Place the pan in the fridge immediately to keep it cold.
Then roll out the top pie crust. Don’t cut it with the cutters just yet. Roll it up and store it in the fridge to keep cold while you prepare the filling. You can roll it up on a piece of parchment so it doesn’t stick, but I roll my pie crusts out on a baking mat very similar to this one and then just roll the entire mat up for keeping in the fridge.
Step 3: Prepare the cherry filling
There is no need to thaw the cherries before preparing the pie filling. You just want to be doubly sure that the cherries have already been pitted. I always pit my cherries before I freeze them. If you bought frozen cherries at the store, just double-check the pits have been removed.
Toss the berries with sugar, cornstarch, and almond extract. Once they are completely coated, scrape the entire mixture into the pie pan and spread into an even layer.
Step 4: Make the top crust for the pie and chill or freeze for later
Now that your pie pan is filled with frozen cherries, it’s time to make the top crust. Unroll your reserved top crust and use your favorite cookie cutter to cut shapes for scattering over the top of the pie.
Start at one edge of the pan and work your way across the pie. I made sure that my shapes gently touched the edge of the pie crust all around the pan perimeter. Each piece of pie crust touches at least one other cut shape but there is still plenty of room for the cherries to breathe
Brush the crust with an egg wash and then chill in the fridge while the oven preheats OR freeze the entire pie at this point for baking another day. You’ll bake the pie directly from frozen, so this is a great make-ahead recipe for the holiday season.
Step 5: Bake the cherry slab pie from frozen
While the oven preheats to 425 degrees, you can store the pie in the fridge or the freezer. The colder, the better.
Be sure to place a large cookie sheet upside down inside the oven while it preheats. Put the pie on this flat surface for baking and it will help to ensure your bottom crust is baked evenly and comes out perfectly crispy.
Bake the pie for 20 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Continue to bake for 40 – 45 minutes more or until the crust is golden brown on top and the cherry filling is bubbling.
- 1 batch of butter pie crust for slab pies
- 5 cups frozen cherries, pitted
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tbsp cold water
- 1 tbsp sugar
- PREPARE THE PIE CRUST & CHILL THE DOUGH:
- Prepare the butter pie crust using this pie crust recipe at least 4 hours before you assemble the pie and store it in the fridge to keep it cold. Using a food processor will make it a quick job, about 5 minutes total. Chill the dough for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight.
- ROLL OUT THE PIE CRUST:
- Lightly flour a working surface. Take the chilled pie crust and cut it in half, making one half just a smidge larger than the other half. Roll the larger half out to an 11 x 15-inch rectangle.
- Gently drape it into the bottom of your slab pie pan and carefully press it up the sides and into the corners of the pan. Tuck the raw edges under to make a pretty crust edge. Place the pan in the fridge to keep cold.
- Roll out the second half of the crust to a 10 - 14-inch rectangle and roll it up in a piece of parchment to store in the fridge while you prepare the filling.
- MAKE THE FILLING:
- Using frozen cherries helps to make a flaky pie crust, do not thaw them before using. In a large bowl, combine the frozen cherries with the sugar, cornstarch, and almond extract. Stir together until they are coated in sugar.
- Pour the cherries and scrape all the sugar into the prepared slab pan. Spread them out evenly in a single layer as best you can.
- PREPARE THE PIE TOP:
- Unroll the prepared top crust dough. Use a cookie cutter to cut shapes and scatter them evenly across the pie top. You definitely want to leave spaces in between the shapes for steam to escape. You can use different size cookie cutters for a fun variation pattern or keep it uniform with just one size.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, water, and sugar. Brush the mixture over the cut-out shapes (but not the bottom crust's edge).
- CHILL THE ASSEMBLED PIE WHILE THE OVEN PREHEATS:
- Place the assembled pie in the fridge or freezer for 30 minutes while the oven preheats.
- Place a large baking sheet upside down on the center oven rack. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Place the pie on a large piece of parchment paper to catch any drips from the cherry juices. Place the pie and parchment paper directly on the preheated baking sheet inside the oven. Bake for 20 minutes.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue to bake until the juices are bubbling and the crust is toasty brown, about 45 minutes longer.
- Cool for 3 hours before serving.
The pie crust can be made and chilled up to 24 hours ahead of time and kept wrapped tightly in plastic wrap in the fridge.
The whole slab pie can be assembled ahead and frozen, unbaked, for a month. Do not defrost it, simply bake straight from frozen and add 5 minutes to the baking time.
The best pie crust recipe for this cherry slab pie:
This pie crust recipe has been tested for the exact slab pie pan recommended for the cherry pie. The recipe is shared here for your convenience, but if you want more details you’ll want to click here for tips on how to make a perfect pie crust dough.
- 16 tbsp (2 sticks) butter, cut into large cubes and chilled
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup ice water (fill the cup with 1/2 cup water and then add lots of ice)
To Prepare the Dough:
- Chop the butter into large chunks and then place back in the fridge to chill for 20 minutes. (If you're in a rush, just work really quickly and get the dough back in the fridge as fast as possible.)
- Add the flour and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Sprinkle the cubes of butter over the top. Pulse 10 - 15 times or until the butter is in small pieces all throughout the flour.
- With the lid on the processor, slowly drain the ice and drizzle in the water through the feeding tube of the lid while the dough runs. Process the dough until a ball just begins to form. Less than one minute, usually.
- Pat the dough ball into a squat rectangle shape on a piece of plastic wrap. Wrap and cover it and place in the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours before you bake. Don't rush this step if you can avoid it, the resting period is what helps to make the crust extra flaky.
To Roll the Dough:
- Divide the dough into two sections -- 1 slightly larger than the other. The larger half will serve as the bottom crust.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the bottom crust and lay it into your pie pan. Be sure to flour your rolling pin so it doesn't stick. Place in the fridge to chill.
- Sprinkle a little more flour on your surface and roll out the top crust. Roll it up in the baking mat and store in the fridge to chill.
To Assemble the Pie:
- Any filling you use should be COLD. Do NOT try to put a hot filling directly into your chilled pie crust. Prepare hot fillings earlier in the day so they can chill before using.
- Fill the bottom crust with your filling of choice. Gently unroll the top crust and lay it over the pie. Crimp the edges together and cut venting slices in the top.
- Place your assembled pie back in the fridge while the oven preheats.
To Bake the Pie Crust:
- Place a cookie sheet upside down on the oven rack you plan to bake your pie. Let it preheat inside the oven.
- Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Place your pie directly on the preheated cookie sheet. The hot surface will help to evenly cook your bottom pie crust.
- Bake for 40 - 45 minutes or until your filling is done and the crust is golden brown.
The pie crust can be made the day before you plan to roll it out and bake it. Keep it tightly wrapped in plastic wrap so it doesn't dry out.
The dough itself can be frozen for several months. Let thaw in the fridge overnight before you use it.
You can also assemble several pie recipes that use this crust and freeze them unbaked, covered in aluminum foil. Bake from frozen, baking time will need to be adjusted depending on the recipe.