Four and Twenty Blackbirds' Bio

Sisters and partners-in-pie, Emily and Melissa Elsen are cut from the same crust. Their Brooklyn pie flagship, which now has four satellite locations around the city, is named after a nursery rhyme, “Sing a Song of Six Pence”—a fitting name, since the sisters were around nursery-age when they first learned the craft from their Grandma Liz. In other words, “We grew up in the business,” Emily says. Grandma Liz would bake pies for their mother’s popular local restaurant in South Dakota using whatever fruit was in season, and they’re keeping the tradition alive. The result? Hard-to-rival golden-crusted masterpieces, from the more creative matcha custard to classics like lemon chess.

The sisters’ shop in Gowanus, which opened in 2009, has grown a cultish following and earned international praise. The Elsens were named “Artisans of the Year” by Time Out New York in 2011, and their pies have been featured on Oprah and in the New York Times.

Out of all the desserts out there, why pie? “Cake is kind of specific to a celebration…to me, pie is any time of day, it’s casual, it’s homey, it’s rustic,” Emily explains. “We felt there was potential for it.” Pie that lives up to that potential requires the best ingredients, which is why in our pie-baking class, the Elsen sisters aim for the sweetest cherries to sprinkle with streusel and the juiciest peaches to blanket with their signature pinwheel-design crust. Combined with a few key spices like nutmeg and Angostura bitters (their secret ingredient!), those fruit flavors truly sing. Another reason these pies are special? The Elsens mix their rich, flaky crust by hand. As they demonstrate in our pie-baking class, hands, not blades, are the best tool for sensing the right texture and temperature for framing fillings and weaving lattices.

When you bake with Melissa and Emily, you’ll discover why pie tastes best when it’s homemade: because pie is more than a baked good, it’s both an act of love and a work of art. You’ll learn everything from crimping crust to storing leftover pie properly. (The eating, we trust, you won't need any help with!)

Four & Twenty Blackbirds (Brooklyn, NY)

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