The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book: Uncommon Recipes from the Celebrated Brooklyn Pie Shop

Pie Friday

Some people are aware I have what my friend Vivian ever so politely calls a Cookbook Collection. Being a book reviewer and having hundreds of cookbooks it’s natural I’d drift toward writing cookbook reviews. As we rapidly head toward Thanksgiving and I descend into pie planning, I thought it would be a great time to review some pie and pastry books. So now, for the month of November, we’ll be having Pie Fridays.


     Author: Emily Elsen                                             Melissa Elsen

     Publisher: Grand Central

     Rating: 4 stars

     Buy Links: Amazon

     Type: Cookbook

     Purchased by Reviewer


Blurb: From the proprietors of the renowned Brooklyn shop and cafe comes the ultimate pie-baking book for a new generation of bakers.

Melissa and Emily Elsen, the twenty-something sisters who are proprietors of the wildly popular Brooklyn pie shop and cafe Four & Twenty Blackbirds, have put together a pie-baking book that’s anything but humble. This stunning collection features more than 60 delectable pie recipes organized by season, with unique and mouthwatering creations such as Salted Caramel Apple, Green Chili Chocolate, Black Currant Lemon Chiffon, and Salty Honey. There is also a detailed and informative techniques section. Lavishly designed, FOUR & TWENTY BLACKBIRDS PIE BOOK contains 90 full-color photographs by Gentl & Hyers, two of the most sought-after food photographers working today.

With its new and creative recipes, this may not be you mother’s cookbook, but it’s sure to be one that every baker from novice to pro will turn to again and again.


Review: I fell in love with this book before I bought it. I came across the recipe for Salty Honey pie on a food blog and had ordered the book before the pie was fully baked and out of the oven. I am a very adventurous eater and love the recipes that push the boundaries of what we currently consider the usual dessert flavors. Whereas you will see cinnamon spicing up a fruit pie, you’re also likely to encounter paprika and white pepper. Custards are flavored with chamomile and lavender. These are flavors that could be referred to as esoteric, consequently, if you’re looking for Snickers pie or a basic Banana Cream, this is not the book for you.

The recipes themselves are arranged by season, starting with spring. Seasonal produce is highlighted. The summer section is a bonanza of variations on berry and orchard fruit pies. The fall section has seasonal favorites such as Apple and Pumpkin, albeit they’ve got their own spin.

If you’re a beginning baker or cook I would advise you to approach this book with respect and maybe a touch of caution. Many of the recipes require multiple steps that alone are not at all daunting, but can combine to be a little overwhelming. Also, as many beginner cooks have relatively thin pantries, be aware the ingredient lists can be quite long and possibly not what you’d expect from a typical baking book. I would recommend you opt for the inclusion of Angostura bitters, or any other variety of cocktail bitters, when it’s listed, but that does require purchasing a bottle if it’s not something you’ve already got on hand. I am totally the kind of person with Angostura on hand. At all times. In the large bottle.

Crust is kind of the great sticking point with pies. Pies are an appreciable amount of work and can be expensive depending on ingredients. No one wants to go through all that effort to have a crust that tastes plain and feels like cardboard. I, personally, wasn’t really enamored with the basic pastry crust recipes in this book. I tend to make the same pastry crust, over and over, and the Pastry Police have not shown up at my home. The animal cookie crumb crust however, was totally awesome. Use the crust that makes you happy, because you’re the one that gets to eat it. The descriptions of how to roll out dough, create a basic lattice, and prebaking were all well thought out and easily understandable for a cook at any level of experience.

I would like to add the book itself is absolutely gorgeous. This is truly top notch food photography that showcased these pies beautifully.


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