For a sweet afternoon tea treat try our favourite slice recipes from the MiNDFOOD Baking Club.
What is a slice?
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 crumbly 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 slices all fall into this category. But who needs a category anyway, often jumbled in the biscuit or cookie chapter of a recipe book, because commonly a ‘proper’ slice recipe usually starts with two basic ingredients, butter and flour. The rest is mixing up the flavor and adding the accessories to form a small, usually sweet, and somewhat indulgent treat.
Any base starts with 100g flour, and can be made more crumbly, dense or chewy depending on the amount of butter. This fat is the natural binder of flour and sugar create the crispy gluten crunch of a good base. They 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 Americans term them “bars”, like flapjack bars. The French use the term petite fours, and are elaborate and intricate, and yet small. some would have become wrapped fast food or confectionary.
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 in home cooking, they have afforded it a sole purpose tin, which we call a slice tin, most often about 20 x 30cm, and can be made of metal, ceramic or glass. The darker and thicker the metal the quicker it will cook.
– Measure base of tin to find out how large it is, this will determine how much filling is needed.
– Get the size closest to what is mentioned in the recipe or the cooking time needs to be changed.
– Too small a tin can create problems for the slice bubbling over or falling out of tin, opt for larger tin if needed. But if too large can make the base dry and brittle.
– Non-stick tins are good. If not lining a tin is imperative. Either way baking paper to line the tin is a good idea for getting the slice out.
– Always check your slice for doneness 5 minutes before end of cooking time, in case you run a hot oven.
How To Line A Tin
– A good non-stick pan tin, doesn’t necessarily need lining. However, what is handy is when there is a single sheet of baking paper, that act like handles, that can make the clean-up easier and can be protective of the cake base while moving it.
– In older tins, it pays to line all surfaces to prevent the metal tainting the flavour.
– Grease the tin with a little butter or spray oil. The oil or butter will help the paper adhere to the sides of the tin.
– Baking paper has a dual surface, with nonstick coating on both sides. Use baking paper and simply cut a rectangle that leaves a wide gap of paper around the outside.
– Cut inwards of the corners (as pictured) and then fold the piece of paper into a greased tin.
– The baking paper should fit neatly into the tin, without creases, with a little overhanging for the “handles”.
Like all baking it is best to have all the ingredients at the same temperature. For slices, the shortcake pastry usually requires cold butter. Some professional baker will refrigerate the flour 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.
Some slices need to cook the base before adding the filling and topping. Usually done by blind baking and ensures the base stays firm or crisp and not made soggy by the filling. Use the back of a spoon to evenly press the mixture in the tin.
When cutting slices, especially chocolate ones, dip the knife into hot water, wiped dry before cutting.
For even slicing, always use a clean ruler. This way you won’t be disappointed with uneven slices sizes.