In our Supplier Stories series, we’re featuring our wonderful suppliers! So many of them have special stories, from women entrepreneurs to family farms to mission-driven folks who want to make a difference. Some are local — only available in a couple of stores or states — while others are growing along with us. Follow as we share their tales.
Emily and Melissa Elsen, the pie-making sisters behind the Brooklyn-based bakery Four & Twenty Blackbirds, spent their childhood winter holidays in South Dakota. That meant Grandma Liz’s buttery candied sweet potatoes, roasted pheasant on the table and of course pie. From making the crusts by hand to insisting on baking with the best ingredients, the lessons they learned at their grandmother’s elbow inspired the sisters to set out on their own.
What began as a fun project in their kitchen quickly grew into a pie-fueled adventure that’s taken them around the world. Emily and Melissa now have multiple Four & Twenty Blackbirds outposts and co-wrote a cookbook. (The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book: Uncommon Recipes from the Celebrated Brooklyn Pie Shop is considered required reading for any serious pie maker.)
Today, Grandma Liz might be pleasantly surprised to learn that they traded in her use of lard for butter in their pie dough and that they regularly incorporate nontraditional pie ingredients such as matcha and hojicha tea, and foraged edibles like wild ginger. The Elsen sisters are pushing pies forward, balancing their innovative flavor profiles while paying tribute to the time-honored tradition of this classic dessert.
Just for the 2017 holiday season, Four & Twenty Blackbirds is loaning us their recipe for their Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Pie, available in all of our stores and for special order on shop.wfm.com while supplies last. Staying true to their complex yet balanced approach to flavors, the pie combines Guittard 72% cacao bittersweet chocolate, a just-sweet-enough custard, vanilla and rich pecan pieces in their signature buttery crust. Per Emily and Melissa, you could pair it with a scoop of well-made ice cream, but lately they’ve been exploring other pairings, such as dry port or a coffee stout. They encourage plenty of experimenting.