In the ideological world of baking, the slice refers to a small shortcake made from crumbly pastry, pressed into a tin. When baked on a high heat and allowed to cool, it forms a firm layer that can be topped with all manner of flavours and cut into bite-size portions. In saying that, brownies, some cheesecakes and no-bake cakes also fall into this category.
The American term for a slice is ‘bars’, like flapjack bars. The French use the term ‘petite fours’, which are very elaborate and intricate. But who needs a category anyway? Slices are often jumbled in the biscuit chapter of a recipe book, because a ‘proper’ slice recipe usually starts with two basic ingredients, butter and flour. The rest is mixing up the flavour and adding the accessories to form a small, usually sweet, and somewhat indulgent treat.
A slice base starts with plain flour, or other binding starch, and can be made more crumbly, dense or chewy depending on the amount of butter added. This fat is the natural binder for the flour and sugar and creates the crispy gluten crunch of a good base.
Slices can be chewy, crunchy, or brittle, depending on the ratio of each of the ingredients. The shortcake base can then be leavened with baking agents and eggs, bound with sugar or sugary syrups. They can also be made gluten-free, dairy-free or even sugar-free, but will need a worthy substitute to retain the same characteristics.
THE SLICE TIN
Logically, the slice is so called because it is a slice of a slab, so the best shape is in a straight sided tin. Slices are made so much they have afforded it a sole purpose tin, which we call a slice tin, or sometimes termed a Swiss roll tin, most often a 20 x 30cm rectangle shape. They can be made of metal, ceramic or glass. The darker and thicker the metal the quicker it will cook.
Measure the base of the tin to find out how large it is, this will determine how much filling is needed. With baking it is important to follow the recipe and accurately weigh the ingredients, to make sure the tin is filled correctly.
It is important to get the tin size closest to what is mentioned in the recipe otherwise the cooking time needs to be adjusted. Too small a tin can create problems with the slice bubbling over or falling out of tin, so opt for larger tin if needed. However, if the tin is too large, this can make the base dry and brittle.
LINING A TIN
Non-stick tins are good, and imperative if not lining a tin. In older tins, it pays to line all surfaces to prevent the metal tainting the flavor. Either way, lining the tin with baking paper is a good idea for getting the slice out. Leave enough paper hanging over the sides so they can be used as handles to lift the slice out.
Baking paper has a dual surface, with a non-stick coating on both sides. Simply cut a piece of baking paper by first measuring the length, then the width of the tin, adding extra to allow for overhang along the longer edges of the tin.
Grease the tin with a little butter or spray oil to help the baking paper adhere to the tin. Cut the baking paper inwards at the corners and then fold it into the greased tin.
Always check your slice for doneness five minutes before the end of cooking time, in case your oven is running too hot or not hot enough.
Like all baking, it’s best to have all the ingredients at the same temperature. For slices, the shortcake pastry usually requires cold butter. Some professional bakers will refrigerate the flour and sugar as well, to keep everything the same temperature.
TIP: Rubbing the butter into the flour is best done with your fingertips, because they are cooler than the rest of your hands.
Find our Takaka Ginger Crunch here.