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Recipe: Strawberry Balsamic Pie from 'Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book'

Relish Austin: From pie to tequila, put strawberries to work this Valentine’s Day
Gentl & Hyers

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Love strawberries? Better pick up a copy of today's paper, in which we share a handful of recipes for everyone's favorite berry-that's-not-a-berry, including a margarita made with strawberry vanilla infused tequila from El Chile.

One of the recipes that helped inspire this package in the first place is from “The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book: Uncommon Recipes from the Celebrated Brooklyn Pie Shop” (Grand Central Life & Style, $30), a new book from sisters Emily and Melissa Elsen, who in 2010 opened Four & Twenty Blackbirds.

It's a pie and coffee shop in Brooklyn that has since gained them national fame for their seasonal (and exceptional) pies, but this book, a rare baking book that is both homey and nostalgic yet challenging and modern, will help introduce them to a whole new audience. From a chocolate and oatmeal pie inspired by the “poor man’s pecan pie” of yore to cranberry sage pie that’s perfect for Thanksgiving, the book uses 60 pies to take you through a year of baking, including this beautiful strawberry balsamic pie made with the sisters’ signature all-butter crust that has just “a hint of cider vinegar for tang and tenderness.”

Strawberry Balsamic Pie

A note: This recipe calls for ground arrowroot, a thickening agent that is available in the baking section of most grocery stores. You can substitute cornstarch, if desired.

For the crust:
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 lb. (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup cold water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cup ice
For the filling:
1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp. granulated sugar, divided
2 lb. fresh strawberries, rinsed and quartered (5 to 6 cups)
1 small baking apple (such as Northern Spy or Golden Delicious)
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 dashes Angostura bitters
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3 Tbsp. ground arrowroot
2 grinds fresh black pepper, fine setting
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Egg wash (1 large egg whisked with 1 teaspoon water and a pinch of salt)
Demerara sugar, for finishing

To make the pie crusts, stir the flour, salt and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture using a bench scraper or spatula. With a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-sized pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are OK; be careful not to overblend).

Combine the water, cider vinegar and ice in a large measuring cup or small bowl. Sprinkle 2 Tbsp. of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix and cut it in with a bench scraper or spatula until it is fully incorporated. Add more of the ice water mixture, 1 to 2 Tbsp. at a time, using the bench scraper or your hands (or both) to mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining.

Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more small drops of the ice water mixture, if necessary, to combine. Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, to give the crust time to mellow. If making the double-crust version, divide the dough in half before shaping each portion into flat discs that can cover a 9-inch pie pan. (You can cut the top crust into strips to form a lattice top, if you’d like.) Refrigerate crusts as you prepare the filling.

To prepare the filling: Sprinkle 3 Tbsp. of the granulated sugar over the strawberries. Stir gently to combine and allow the fruit to macerate at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Peel the apple and shred on the large holes of a box grater. Drain the strawberries of excess liquid and combine with the shredded apple.

Sprinkle on the balsamic vinegar and Angostura bitters. In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, arrowroot, black pepper and salt. Gently fold the sugar mixture into the strawberry mixture.

Pour the filling into the refrigerated pie shell, arrange the lattice or pastry round on top, and crimp as desired. Chill the pie in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes to set the pastry. Meanwhile, position the oven racks at the bottom and center positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Brush the pastry with the egg wash; if your pie has a lattice top, be careful not to drag the filling onto the pastry (it will burn). Sprinkle with the desired amount of demerara sugar. Place the pie on the rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pastry is set and beginning to brown.

Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees, move the pie to the center oven rack, and continue to bake until the pastry is a deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling throughout, 35 to 40 minutes longer.

Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. The pie will keep refrigerated for 3 days or at room temperature for 2 days. Serves 8 to 10.

— From “The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book: Uncommon Recipes from the Celebrated Brooklyn Pie Shop” by Emily Elsen and Melissa Elsen (Grand Central Life & Style, $30)

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