"Use good fresh butter. Pure, fresh fruit in season always makes for a better pie. Use plenty of salt. And always make your own crust."
These are Emily Elsen of Four & Twenty Blackbirds bakery's simple rules for making good pie.
A slice of grapefruit pie
She and her sister, Melissa, ought to know--the two grew up in South Dakota learning the art of pie making at the elbow of their grandma Liz, who baked all the pies for their mother's restaurant. The pair grew up to open a wildly popular all-pie shop in Brooklyn, and have just released a cookbook together, The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book: Uncommon Recipes from the Celebrated Brooklyn Pie Shop ($30).
The book has 60 intriguing recipes, many of which are classic combinations with a gentle twist, such as the shop's all-time best seller, salted caramel apple, along with salty honey, black bottom oatmeal and malted chocolate pecan pies.
Dough scraps | Grapefruit pie
The crusts are just as inventive. Naturally, the book covers the standard all-butter, but there are ten others, including pistachio-coconut crust and one made from animal crackers. But it was the humble idea of using Saltine crackers for a simple-press-and-bake crust that really caught our eye (see the recipe).
Now that's how you slice a pie.
It's a perfect option for the novice holiday baker. The Elsens' advice: "Use a metal (not a disposable) pie pan when making crumb crusts. The rougher material seems to grab the crumbs, making pressing in easier."
Elsen, who describes the salty crust as "tasty and fun," recommends pairing the crust with the eggy, boozy grapefruit custard, which leans on bitters to add a little color and kick (see the recipe).
As for the sisters' Thanksgiving plans? Elsen laughs and says, "We bake all night and then are at the shop until the last pies are sold out the next day. Then we go home and take a nap before going to a friend's house for Thanksgiving. It's such an intense and exhausting week, we run production for 24 hours for four day straight."
We'll raise a slice in their honor.
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