Despite the recent craze for cupcakes, pies have always remained the humble, much-loved staple. Crumbs and Magnolia might have the name recognition, but in Brooklyn, N.Y., locals have flocked to Four & Twenty Blackbirds for a cup of coffee and a slice or two of crumbly, buttery pies.
Naturally, sisters Emily and Melissa Elsen decided to document their self-taught practices in a cookbook, out Oct. 29, 2013, just in time for the holiday season. And while their unconventional fillings (think paprika peach or green chile chocolate) may be the initial draw, as many pie lovers know, a great pie filling isn’t quite as delicious without a great crust.
"A mutual passion for executing the perfect pie crust was probably what truly started us on our journey into pie-making," the sisters write in the cookbook. The classic all-butter crust has the perfect amount of cider vinegar for tenderness and tang, while an oat crumble crust and topper works perfectly with juicy fruits. "The bourbon pear pie is excellent with lattice," Emily Elsen told The Daily Meal, "but with crumble, it’s amazing. The pear is so juicy, so the oat toppings soak up the juices in the fruit."
Of course, it’s not always about what type of crust works best with what filling (although Emily is partial to custard pies with a crumb crust, like pecan, saltine, or animal cracker crusts). Instead, it’s about mixing and matching, and experimentation. While streusels and crumbles work beautifully with juicy fruits, it doesn’t mean an apple crumble won’t be equally delicious. "The point is to look at the book and think, 'maybe I can try it like this, or try that on top of a full-sized pie, with different toppings and working with different things,'" Elsen said. "It’s about experimentation and having fun."
To help you out with your holiday experimentation, Elsen shares three recipes to get you started on your holiday baking. First off, their all-butter crust, the classic, malleable crust that works with custards, fruits, and nuts. Second, the Four & Twenty Blackbirds oat crumble, which can be pressed into a crust or used to top any pies. Finally, the salted caramel apple pie, an undisputed classic and bound to be a hit any season.
And next up for the pie sisters? "Maybe a savory pie book and more crust technique," Elsen said. "We decided to focus on our sweet pies, because that’s what we began with, but we love savory pies and we have a whole bunch of ideas."
Recipes From The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book: