When I was learning how to cook, one of the things that frustrated me most was cutting a freshly made slice only to end up with it looking like someone had taken to it with a chainsaw. No matter how hard I tried, I used to crack the beautiful chocolate surface or get crumbs from the first couple of cuts all over the remaining pieces … sound familiar?
Well, many years, lots of trial and error and loads of practice, here are a few things I’ve learned to help you cut your freshly made slice, perfectly.
- To remove your slice successfully from the baking tin, without it sticking, always line the tin with baking paper. Fail to do this and you risk breaking your beautiful slice before it even makes it to the cutting board. I remove most slices from the tin to cut them up on a cutting board but a softer slice may need to be cut while still in the tin. I try to avoid this if possible because I don’t want to cut or mark the tin with the knife. It can also be difficult to cut the slice as the sides get in the way. To line your tin neatly, tear enough baking paper to fit across the tin from one side to the other allowing extra to hang over the edges (see the photo below). Trim the baking paper if needed so it fits the width of the tin perfectly. The overhanging baking paper will make it easy for you to lift the slice from the baking tray. There will still be two sides not covered with baking paper, simply spray these exposed sides very lightly with some cooking spray.
- Allow the slice to set and cool in the tin before removing to cut it up. I know it’s tempting, you’ve created this masterpiece and all you want to do is slice it up and either eat it or serve it. But first you have to give your slice time to set completely otherwise it could buckle or fall apart as you remove it from the tin. Some slices may need to be refrigerated to harden but that will depend on the type of slice you’ve made. To remove the slice, gently run the fine blade of a knife along the two sides not covered by baking paper to check it hasn’t stuck, then grab each overhanging piece of baking paper with both hands and lift straight up and over to your cooling rack or cutting board.
- Trim the edges. Once I’ve removed the entire slice from the baking tin, I let it cool completely. Some slices I will put in the fridge but others I won’t because some can get way too hard, then split, crack or have chunks literally snap off when cut … it really involves a little bit of trial and error. Once cooled, I pull the baking paper down from the sides and trim the four outer edges. The edges aren’t always as even or as stable as the rest of the slice so I trim those away first. This then allows me to cut even, neat slices rather than ending up with some pieces smaller than the rest because I’ve needed to trim off a messy, uneven edge.
- Select the right knife for the job. This is super important and, once again, may take a bit of trial and error for you to find the knife that gives you the best result. It will depend a little on the type of slice you are cutting but generally I use a large knife with a sharp, serrated edge … the sharper the better. I usually cut across the shortest side of the rectangle so that the knife reaches the full length from one side to the other. I find when I attempt to cut a slice through the longest side, I usually end up with one end wider than the other. Place the knife across the slice, hold it firmly with one hand and use the second hand to apply pressure on the top of the blade on the other side. If needed, rock the blade up and down in a see-sawing motion until the blade reaches the base of the slice. I’ve found that pulling the knife through the slice can cause it to break or crack. Once the slice has been cut into 6 or 7 strips, I then cut each length into smaller pieces.
- Wipe the blade of your knife frequently. While this may seem like a lot of work, it’s a necessary step to guarantee you won’t end up with crumbs all over your slice as you cut. The other equally important reason, is that large, chunky, crumbly bits of slice left on your knife might affect your ability to make a clean, straight and even cut. To make this job a little easier, I usually move the cutting board close to the sink. I rinse my knife under hot water, on both sides, after every single cut and then dry my knife using either a sponge or a tea towel. Once clean and dry, I slice again. Any mess is confined to the sink, which is an added bonus, and the heat from the water warms the knife blade, helping to make a smooth, neat cut. It’s not essential to use a hot blade but it can help, depending on the type of slice you are cutting.
- And one final tip with regards to presentation. If you are preparing your slice for a function or special occasion, it might be important to you that the size of each slice is the same. Here’s a little trick that Mum taught me years ago. Use a clear plastic ruler to act as a guide when slicing. Depending on the topping, lay the ruler across the top of the slice and run the knife down the side … pretty clever, don’t you think!
These simple tips should help you cut your slice perfectly, every single time. Do you have any other tips that would be helpful? If so, please share in the comments below …
Here’s a couple of my favourite slice recipes: