EMILY ELSEN AND HER SISTER MELISSA STARTED THEIR BROOKLYN BASED PIE EMPIRE - FOUR & TWENTY BLACKBIRDS - IN 2009, RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF AMERICA’S INFAMOUS RECESSION. SIX YEARS LATER THE BUSINESS LOOKS A WHOLE LOT DIFFERENT, BUT THE MAIN INGREDIENTS – HUMILITY, INTERGRITY AND COMMUNITY SPIRIT - HAVE REMAINED THE SAME. EMILY IS ALSO PROUD TO SAY, DESPITE THE AMOUT OF PIE SHE’S EATEN, SHE DOES NOT HAVE HIGH CHOLESTEROL.
Emily learned the art of pie making at the elbow of her grandmother on their grain farm in South Dakota. Aside from having the perfect crust, what fills her pies is of equal importance: she sources most of the fruit from Wilklow Orchards in upstate New York, and also works with with Evan Strusinski—a forager who starts his treks in Pennsylvania, working his way up to Maine to safely and sustainably harvest wild edibles.
“He’s really, really cool and cares a lot about doing this sustainably – because you can totally over forage,” Emily says. “Our milk and butter is regional, from Battenkill Valley, and our coffee is from Stumptown - which is roasted locally.”
Being in constant contact with her suppliers and farmers means the heavily seasonal menu at Four & Twenty Blackbirds is ever changing. “It’s personally really important to me, but I didn’t really understand a lot about fruit until I started working with pies,” Emily says. “I’ve learned cherries will produce big one season, and not so much for the next two and how if there’s an early bloom and a late frost it’s going to affect the fruit season.”
Makes one 9-inch pie & serves 8 to 10.
- All-Butter Crust for a 9-inch single-crust pie, partially pre baked.
- 1½ cups pecan pieces
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (55% cocoa)
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- ¼ cup barley malt syrup (see “Ingredients” section for sourcing)
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ cup sour cream
- 3 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. To toast the pecans, spread them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the nuts are fragrant, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool.
- Bring an inch of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Combine the chocolate and butter in heatproof bowl large enough to rest on the rim of the saucepan, above the water. Melt the butter and chocolate over this double boiler, whisking occasionally until smooth.
- Remove from the heat. Add the brown sugar, barley malt syrup, salt, cinnamon, and ginger, and stir well. Mix in the sour cream, then the eggs and egg yolk one at a time, stirring briskly after each addition. Stir in the cooled toasted pecan pieces.
- Place the prebaked pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet and pour in the filling. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 52 to 57 minutes, rotating 180 degrees when the edges start to set, about 35 minutes through baking. The pie is finished when the edges are set and puffed slightly and the center is slightly firm to the touch but still has some wobble (like gelatin). Be careful not to overbake or the custard can separate; the filling will continue to cook and set after the pie is removed from the oven.
- Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
- The pie will keep refrigerated for 3 days or at room temperature for 2 days.