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The Egg & Grog, Four & Twenty Blackbirds' new holiday pie, is made with an egg nog custard with rum, nutmeg and cinnamon, and a gingerbread crumb crust. Photo by Donny Tsang

Four & Twenty Blackbirds is more than just a pie shop. It’s like a pie sanctuary, a serene and welcoming space nestled like a jewel amidst the grit of 4th Avenue in Gowanus, perfect in some way for the reverie, worship, and eating, of pie. At least, of Emily and Melissa Elsen’s pedigree of pie.

We checked in with Emily to chat about their new holiday pie – The Egg and Grog- a rum, nutmeg and cinnamon infused egg nog custard pie cradled in a gingerbread crumb crust.

Emily, tell us about the new holiday pie.

It’s called the Egg and Grog pie, and it’s based on egg nog. We’d been talking about it for a long time. We love to make custard pies. We’re interested in the creative potential in custard pies, and our kitchen is well suited to making them.

Egg nog itself is basically a custard. When you make a traditional egg nog recipe, it’s very close to a custard recipe – it’s cream, eggs, sugar, spices…So for a long time we’ve thought it would make a great pie.

This year we decided to do it. We started discussing how to approach it, and we thought it would be really nice to do it with a crumb crust. A gingerbread crumb crust. We had never done a crumb crust for the pies we sell in the shop, so figuring that out was a little bit of a diversion, but we were really excited about the potential for a pie with all those classic Christmas flavors.

The egg nog custard we use has rum and nutmeg and a little cinnamon and other things – it’s got a nice hint of rum, but it’s not too boozy. And those flavors go really well with the gingerbread crumb crust. It’s got all those classic Christmas flavors in one pie.

And you know, with egg nog, it’s got great flavor, but people don’t always like to drink it. A lot of people thing it’s too rich. So we thought using it in a pie would be a great way to work it into a meal – as a dessert.

What are your other holiday pies this year?

We’ve got our Cranberry Sage pie. That’s a very different flavor profile from the Egg and grog. In the wintertime there’s not a lot of fruit around here to work with, so cranberries are an obvious choice. We love to use aromatics and herbs in our pies, so we were looking for something that would pair well with cranberry, and we thought sage would be nice. We created a sage sugar and blended it with the cranberry, so you get just an essence of sage from the oils in the fresh herbs. It’s sweet, tart, herbal and aromatic, with the all-butter crust and a lattice top. It’s pretty good.

We only do that one in December and January.  We’re also featuring our Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan and our Salted Caramel Apple pies, which are around more frequently.

Last year at the holidays, the pie shop famously had lines of people outside, waiting for pies. How are things going this year?

Yeah, last year we didn’t do pre-orders because it was our first year and we really didn’t know how many pies we could make. So we figured we’d just bake around the clock for a few days and make as many as we could.

Waiting for pie at Four & Twenty Blackbirds. Thanksgiving 2010. Photo by Samantha Storey for the New York Times

It was kind of terrifying last year, because people started lining up outside the store on the day before Thanksgiving at like 5am. I knew pretty quickly that we weren’t going to have enough pies and I felt terrible. Last year was stressful.

This year was better. We were fell a little short with pies on the day before Thanksgiving, but on Thanksgiving day everybody that came out for pie got pie.

This year we’ve got a much better gauge on what we can do, so we were able to combine pre-orders with walk-ins and everything has worked out. Last Thanksgiving we did four hundred pies. This year it was eight hundred!

What are you guys doing for the holidays?

We’re actually hosting Christmas dinner at our house with our mother and any of our friends and staff that don’t have a place to go, so it’s kind of an open house. We’re going to smoke some fish, brine and roast a turkey…one of our employees makes tamales every Christmas, so she’s going to make those…it’ll be a big, varied feast.

We didn’t do that last year. We were too exhausted to host anything. So I guess we’re making progress. This year we have the energy for a holiday party!

To order a Christmas or New Year’s Pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds, place an order on their website. Pies


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