19 December 2015

Weekend Cooking: The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book by Emily Elsen and Melissa Elsen

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

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The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book by Emily Elsen & Melissa ElsenConfession time: It's not that I dislike chocolate, but if given a choice of desserts, I pick fruity or spicy over chocolate every time. And among the classic fruit desserts, pie comes in near the top of heap.

Thus I'm not sure why it took me so long to investigate Emily Elsen and Melissa Elsen's The Four & Twenty Blackbird Pie Book. The recipes within its pages hits all my flavor buttons. Most of the pies have fruit fillings, and many are enhanced with warming spices.

In case you don't know (I didn't) Emily and Melissa are sisters who (after other, separate, careers) moved from the great Midwest to Brooklyn, New York, and started baking pies professionally. They now own a pie and coffee shop called, duh, Four & Twenty Blackbirds.

So what makes the Elsens' pies so different? It all starts with the crust, and Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book contains recipes for about a dozen different varieties--not one containing solid vegetable shortening (one common brand being Crisco). Instead, the crusts call for butter or lard or both. There are cracker crusts, butter crusts, nut crusts, and chocolate crusts. Sounds intriguing, yes?

copyright The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book by Emily Elsen & Melissa ElsenBut, of course, the heart of any pie is the filling, and I can't tell you how much the flavor combinations in this book call to me, just the names give you some clues:
  • Wild Ginger Strawberry Pie
  • Farmer Cheese Thyme Pie
  • Black Currant Lemon Chiffon Pie
  • Salted Caramel Apple Pie
  • Rosemary Honey Shoofly Pie
  • Pear Anise Pie
  • Maple Lime Custard Pie
  • Cranberry Sage Pie
Okay, seriously, I might as well list the entire contents. I'm not sure there's a loser among the sixty or so primary recipes. Those of you who are true pie lovers (Hi, Care!) could spend a lovely year baking one heavenly Four & Twenty Blackbird Pie each week. You wouldn't be sorry, and your family would love you for it.

Delicious sounding is all well and good, but are the pies doable for the home baker? Why, yes they are. The recipes are arranged seasonally, and all the filling ingredients are readily available at any grocery or farmers market. For the handful of ingredients that might be hard to find in a small town, check out the resources section at the back of the book or read the tips on substitutions.

The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book by Emily Elsen & Melissa ElsenThe instructions are well written and very clear. Each step is described in detail, and the Elsens provide additional hints and tips when needed. In addition, there are absolutely stunning photographs of the pies (check out the scans), so you can see where you're headed. Finally, I appreciate the storage information for each pie, so I know how far in advance I can bake dessert for a specific occasion.

Here's another thing that I love about this book: Not all the pies are baked in a traditional round pie pan. I'm intrigued by the concept of the slab pie, which is baked in a 16- by 11-in. baking sheet: This is, as the recipe introduction says, the perfect size and shape to feed a crowd. I think it'd be great on a buffet at a cookout. There are also recipes for mini tarts, individual pies, galettes, and other variations.

Emily Elsen and Melissa Elsen's The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book is not your ordinary dessert cookbook. The unique spice combinations are geared to make the fruit flavors pop. This is the perfect cookbook for the baker who wants to push gently into new territory without turning her back on tradition. For a couple of recipes from the book, check out this article from Edible Brooklyn. Other recipes pop up on a simple Internet search, if you care to look.

Published by Hachette Book Group / Grand Central Publishing, 2013
ISBN-13: 9781455520510
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


11 comments:

bermudaonion 12/19/15, 7:18 AM  

I immediately thought of Care when I saw the title of this cookbook. Those pies you listed sound great!

JoAnn 12/19/15, 7:20 AM  

Hmm, I wonder if Care has seen this? Will definitely take a closer look...all the pies you listed sound delicious!

(Diane) bookchickdi 12/19/15, 8:03 AM  

I can't believe I haven't eaten one of their pies yet! My older son doesn't like chocolate either, he is more of a fruit guy too. I'm going to look for this book for sure. Merry Christmas to you and Mr. BFR, and may you have a healthy and happy New Year.

Tina 12/19/15, 8:09 AM  

I love pie & so does my husband but I seriously don't need an entire pie around the house! Because we'd eat it. I see you mentioned individual pies and galettes so perhaps I will take a gander at this book.
Your review is appealing, makes me want pie now. Thank you....

Molly Totoro 12/19/15, 9:11 AM  

I LOVE pie - especially fruit pies (I'm not a fan of chocolate either), but I always struggle with the crust.

Does the book give detailed no-fail instructions for making flaky pie crusts? I am in desperate need...

jama 12/19/15, 9:25 AM  

Thanks for featuring this book. I'd seen it around forever and kept meaning to pick it up and take a look. Good to hear the recipes are doable for home bakers. Crust remains my greatest challenge. Love the sound of those unique fillings, different flavor combinations.

jama 12/19/15, 9:35 AM  

Sorry for entering the wrong link to my post. I've listed the correct link.

Katherine P 12/19/15, 11:05 AM  

I made the recipe for the butter crust from this book (found it on Pinterest) and it was absolutely amazing and I've been wanting to get my hands my hands on the book ever since. Now I'm sitting here with my mouth watering. This sounds amazing. I definitely need a copy!

Vicki 12/19/15, 2:17 PM  


I've seen this book a few times before and thought I'd like to get a copy.

From the pies you listed, the Farmer Cheese Thyme Pie, Black Currant Lemon Chiffon Pie and Rosemary Honey Shoofly Pies sound really good, but the one I'd want to try first would be the Salted Caramel Apple Pie. I love anything caramel.

Joy 12/19/15, 7:28 PM  

Those sound like delicious pies! Like Tina, I can't have pie around the house, but this gives me an idea for a trip to New York!

Cecelia 2/29/16, 12:59 PM  

Ah, I didn't see this when you originally posted it! I'm so glad you liked this cookbook. It's one I pick up multiple times a year, and am always happy to see on my shelf.

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