Four and Twenty Blackbirds Strawberry Balsamic Pie-Famous Fridays

The trees are blooming, the birds are chirping, the shorts and flip flops are reappearing--yup, it's definitely pie season! So what could be better than highlighting the fabulous The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book for this edition of Famous Fridays?!! If you like to bake pies or just drool over gorgeous pictures of them, you will love this cookbook, dedicated to pies, pies and more pies, some fairly traditional and some kinda on the wild side. Today's recipe for Strawberry Balsamic Pie is sort of a hybrid between the two--it's a fairly traditional strawberry pie spiked with the lush tartness of balsamic vinegar and it is out of this world good!!

Melissa and Emily Elsen are the two sisters behind the cookbook and the wildly popular Four & Twenty Blackbirds Bakery in Brooklyn, NY (I really hope to get there one day!) The girls grew up with a grandmother and mother who were both wonderful pie bakers and they have included and updated many of those original recipes in the book. I also love that the cookbook is organized by season, which follows the sisters' motto of using local, fresh, seasonal ingredients--no baking peach pies in the dead of winter with tasteless hothouse fruit!!

Not only is the strawberry filling so amazing that you will be helpless against consuming spoonful after spoonful, but the pie crust is also terrific and I think it will be my new go-to dough. I've made a lot of pie crusts over the years and this one is so easy to work with--rolls out like a dream and the lattice crust was easy to make and assemble as well. Just a reminder for when you're making pie crust:  1) Keep things cold (butter, water etc.) and 2) Don't over mix and you'll get flaky pastry. Anyway, after the dough has chilled and been rolled out, you crimp it in the pie plate and chill it--

Then you cut strips for the lattice crust and chill them till you're ready to put the whole thing together.

The strawberry balsamic filling is quite easy to make. You let the berries sit for half an hour in some sugar to bring out their juices and then combine them with some shredded apple, the balsamic vinegar, and a mixture of arrowroot (for thickening), brown sugar, granulated sugar, black pepper and salt. 

Next you pour the berry mixture into the prepared crust, weave the lattice crust (I'll give you a link in the recipe for a step-by-step tutorial), sprinkle the top with demerara sugar and then bake it.

This pie is so juicy, full of sweet strawberry goodness with a little spicy bite at the same time and the crust is everything you want a homemade crust to be--light, flaky and with rich, buttery, feel- good mouth appeal. Serve it with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream and people will bow down to you! 

So get into the pie spirit with Four and Twenty Blackbirds, bake up some pie and have a great weekend! Happy Mother's Day!!

Four and Twenty Blackbirds Strawberry Balsamic Pie-Famous Fridays

Serves 8-10

Prep Time:  For the crust:  15 minutes (plus at least 1 hour of chilling), For the Filling:  30 minutes for strawberries to macerate, plus another 15 minutes to put rest of ingredients together; Assembly Time:  30 minutes (plus time for dough to chill); Bake Time:  About 1 hour


For the Pie Crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and refrigerated until ready to use
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup ice

For the Strawberry Balsamic Filling

  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 pounds fresh strawberries, rinsed and quartered
  • 1 small baking apple (I used Golden Delicious)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 3 tablespoons ground arrowroot
  • 2 grinds of fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Egg wash (1 large egg whisked with 1 teaspoon water and a pinch of salt)
  • Demerara sugar, for sprinkling on crust right before baking

The Recipe

For the Pie Crust

1.  In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt and sugar. Add the butter cubes and using a rubber spatula, coat them with the flour mixture gently. Now use a pastry blender and cut the butter into the flour mixture, working fairly quickly until you mostly have pea-sized pieces of butter. If some of the pieces are a bit larger, that's ok--you don't want to over-mix.

2.  In a large measuring cup, combine the water, vinegar and ice. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and toss it with a rubber spatula until it is fully incorporated. Continue to add more of the ice water mixture, about 1-2 tablespoons at a time, and mix with either the spatula or your hands until the dough comes together in a ball. If there is some floury mix at the bottom of the bowl, add a few more drops of water to that and then add it to the large ball once it's been incorporated. Squeeze the dough with your fingers to make sure it's all well combined. Divide the dough in half, flatten each piece into a disc, wrap well in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

3.  Flour a wooden board and a rolling pin. Remove 1 disc from the refrigerator and roll out to about a 12 inch circle, rolling from the center of the dough and lifting and turning by degrees so that you get a fairly uniform circle and so that dough isn't sticking to the board. Fold the dough in half carefully and transfer to a 9 inch pie plate. Unfold the dough and push gently into the pan, being careful not to stretch or pull at the dough. Trim the edges and crimp the dough as you like. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for about 30 minutes.

4.  Remove the other piece of dough from the refrigerator and roll out into a 12 inch circle as well. Trim the edges so that the ends are squared off. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut 8 equal strips of dough and transfer to a parchment lined sheet to chill. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill while you prepare the filling.

For the Strawberry Balsamic Filling

5.  Place the quartered berries into a medium bowl and sprinkle with the 3 tablespoons of sugar. Stir gently and let stand, stirring every so often, for about 30 minutes to 1 hour until berries have softened and released a lot of their juices.

6.  Peel the apple and shred on a box grater, using the large holes. Drain the strawberries of the excess liquid and combine them with the shredded apple in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the balsamic vinegar and toss gently.

7.  Into another bowl, place the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, brown sugar, arrowroot, black pepper and salt and mix well.  Fold the dry mixture into the berry mixture and pour the filling into the refrigerated pie shell. Now arrange the chilled strips across the top, lattice style (there's a great pictorial of this in the cookbook--here's a link you can look at to understand the process:  Now chill the pie for 10-15 minutes to help set the pastry.

8.  Place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven (believe me, this pie is very juicy and you will thank me!) and preheat oven to 425ºF.  Brush the pie with the egg wash and be careful not to drag the filling onto the pastry as you do this or it will burn. Sprinkle with a generous amount of the demerara sugar.

9.  Place pie on the baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until pastry is set and beginning to brown. Reduce the oven temp to 375ºF and move the pie to the center oven rack. Bake for another 35-40 minutes until the crust is a deep golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

10.  Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool for 2-3 hours (yes, I know it's hard to wait, but this pie is so juicy it will completely fall apart if you don't). Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. It's even more amazing with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream.

11.  If there are any leftovers, pie keeps covered and chilled for 3 days.


Note:  Recipe adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book by Melissa and Emily Elsen. I pretty much followed their recipe but left out 2 dashes of Angostura bitters from the strawberry mixture because I didn't have it in the house. Add it in when you add the balsamic vinegar if you like.


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