The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, our Cookbook of the Week
All images courtesy Grand Central Publishing
Publishers love to send us cookbooks here at Fork in the Road, and often those books come straight from the chefs at some of New York's best restaurants. So we decided to share the love, and each week, we'll feature a new book, a recipe, and a few thoughts on cooking from the authors. Check back every Tuesday for a new book.
The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book
By Emma Elsen and Melissa Elsen, 224 pages, Grand Central Publishing, $30
Happy Thanksgiving week. Why not bake a pie?
Four & Twenty Blackbirds (439 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-499-2917) founders Emma and Melissa Elsen didn't mean to open a pie shop, or at least not at first. But when the economy tanked in the late-aughts, their careers in fine art and finance weren't really working out, and the sisters, having grown up in their family's restaurant in Hecla, South Dakota, already had a lifetime of food-service experience and a particular fondness for baking.
So they got busy testing recipes: They baked for friends, family, anyone they could.
Desserts that began in their Crown Heights kitchen quickly found their way to loft dinner parties in Bushwick (circa 2008, before the neighborhood totally blew up), and word traveled quickly that these sisters could really bake. They started taking catering orders but never thought of opening their own shop until late 2009 when they stumbled on an empty corner storefront in Gowanus, an area that was having quite a moment at that point.
And no baker in New York City was fully devoting their time to making great pie, and that was a shame -- and these ladies happened to be really, really great at it. So they built out the space with their own four hands and help from friends, and Four & Twenty Blackbirds opened in 2010.
The shop immediately garnered a following for creative, ingredient-driven, seasonal pies and tarts like salted caramel apple, Bluebarb slab, malted chocolate pecan, and many, many others.
Their focus on seasonality translates to the book, where pies are helpfully organized by season: apple, grape, and nut pies for fall, citrus for winter, rhubarb for spring, and blueberries and stone fruits for summer. The book also includes eleven crusts -- traditional ones grounded in butter or lard, as well as gluten-free and vegan choices, and the crumbles and streusels you'll want to put on top, and tips on ingredients, sourcing, and technique.
Pie-lovers, this could just be your bible.
On the next page, the Elsen sisters dish on their grandma's pies, Alice Waters and baking failures.