Monday, December 1, 2014


ph: via food52
ph: via food52
ph: via lifestyle mirror
Yesterday I organized an afternoon pie baking soiree with some of my closest friends. Really, it was just an excuse for the girls to get together and have a laugh while we baked pies and drank lots of wine. We baked three pies from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book - Cranberry Sage Pie, Lemon Chess Pie, and Salted Caramel Apple Pie. I'm a huge fan of the Elsen sister's Pie Shop in Brooklyn. They have a knack for giving traditional pie recipes a modern twist by adding uncommon or unusual ingredients. And so far all their recipes have been foolproof.

I went ahead and prepped crusts for two pies as dough needs to rest for approximately 1 hour, preferably 2 or overnight, in the fridge before rolling out. This step in addition to using apple cider vinegar to the dough recipe yields a flakier crust as both actions help to inhibit gluten formation. This doesn't mean your crust will be gluten-free; it just means a flakier, therefore tastier pie crust. Another tip -- if you want your crust to brown in the oven, you'll need to brush on some kind of protein before you pop the pie into the oven to bake. You have two options: milk or cream; or for a glossy finish brush on a mixture of egg and 1 tablespoon of water.

Here is Four & Twenty's dough recipe for one all-butter 9-inch single-crust. See below for their all-butter double-crust dough recipe. 

If you're wondering what a chess pie is, it's a basic pie filling made with a mixture of eggs, butter, and sugar. Sometimes nuts or fruits are added -- in our case, juice of lemons. Chess pies are a Southern specialty but recipes vary with some calling for the addition of cornmeal and others, for vinegar. There are several folklores for the origin of the name, Chess Pie. The most likely explanation is an Americanization of the English word "cheese," referring to the English lemon curd pie filling which is very similar to that of lemon chess pie. Another suggest that it's "chests," said with a southern drawl describing pies with so much sugar they could be stored in a pie chest rather than a refrigerator. And the funniest explanation is that when a plantation cook was asked what she was baking that smelled so good, she replied, "Jes' pie."

All the pies were delicious but my favorite was the Cranberry Sage Pie -- I'll always take tart over sweetness.

Four & Twenty Blackbird Double-Crust Pie
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut int 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup cold water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cup ice
  1. Stir the flour, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. 
  2. Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture using a bench scraper or spatula. 
  3. With a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; be careful not to overblend).
  4. Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large measuring cup or small bowl. 
  5. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix and cut it in with a bench scraper or spatula until it is fully incorporated.
  6. Add more of the ice water mixture, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, using the bench scraper or your hands (or both) to mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining. Tip: Total amount varies but approximately 6-9 tablespoons of water for a double-crust recipe.
  7. Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more small drops of the ice water mixture, if necessary, to combine. 
  8. Divide the dough in half before shaping each portion into a flat disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, to give the crust time to mellow. 
  9. Wrapped tightly, the dough can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 1 month.

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