Each week, First We Feast photographer Liz Barclay (@liz_barclay) grabs her camera and hits the streets to explore a different aspect of the food world. Here, she shares her photos and stories.
Whenever fall starts creeping into the air, my mind immediately goes to one food: Pie. So to really get into the spirit, I decided to make the trek out to Gowanus to visit one of Brooklyn’s most beloved pie shops, Four & Twenty Blackbirds, founded by sibling baking wizards Melissa and Emily Elsen. The duo, whose first cookbook drops next week, has gained a cult following for handmade pies in flavors like salted caramel apple, birch beer float, and bittersweet chocolate pecan.
The first thing that hit me when I walked in was the aroma of of brown sugar, pecans roasting, and corn syrup. Girls were working away in bandanas and aprons, covered with flour up to their elbows as they churned through orders and geared for the rush of holiday pre-orders. I circled the kitchen, watching one of the girls roll out fresh pie dough, while two others paired up to prepare some apple lattice pies. They stuffed fresh pie shells to the brim with sliced Granny Smith apples from a local farm, then covered the filling with butter and brown sugar. Each pie got a dollop of caramel before being covered and sent off to the ovens.
The kitchen was small and cozy, and I was impressed by how the Four & Twenty Blackbirds girls were able to create an efficient system despite any space constraints, working silently and precisely. The tight angles and pristine layers of dough and fresh ingredients made it particularly fun to shoot. And when I was done, I couldn’t help but grab a Black Bottom Oat Pie for the road.
The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book: Uncommon Recipes from the Celebrated Brooklyn Pie Shop, by Emily Elsen and Melissa Elsen, will be released October 29.
Visit the shop! 439 3rd Ave, Gowanus, Brooklyn (718-499-2917, birdsblack.com); Thanksgiving pre-ordering now available.