Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you’re all spending a good Christmas with friends or family (or with yourself, curled up in a fluffy bathrobe and not dealing with any stress! lol!) This whole section of the national food holidays calendar is filled with holiday-related foods and treats you love to enjoy during this season. Just yesterday we celebrated National Egg Nog Day; tomorrow, it’s National Candy Cane Day. And while we usually consider pumpkin pie to be a Thanksgiving tradition, it’s also got its roots set in the family dinner on Christmas Day. That’s why we celerbate National Pumpkin Pie Day on Christmas! Usually made with only the bottom crust, pumpkin pie is a sweet and spiced fall harvest treat. Pumpkins were sliced in half, baked, the innards scooped out and pureed to make that silky-smooth pumpkin pie filling we all know and love. Nowadays, it’s much easier (and sometimes cheaper) to buy the filling in a can if you plan to make it: I tried using pureed, real pumpkin I prepared once in a pumpkin cheesecake, and let me tell you, the can would have saved me hours of work and tasted much better. My family has never been big on pumpkin pie–we’re much more of a sweet potato pie people, lol–but I really love the deep spices the hearty pumpkin filling can hold up to, so you get a mouthful of nutmeg and cinnamon and allspice along with your pumpkin. Pumpkin pie also lends itself to a number of different crusts, which my mom likes–she loves to make her own graham cracker crust held together with honey!
I highlighted the great Brooklyn pie bakery Four & Twenty Blackbirds back in October for their salted caramel apple pie, but they also do another mean traditional American pie: the pumpkin pie! Theirs includes browned butter instead of regular butter, a process that gives the end product a nuttier flavor. (I’ve tried to brown butter before, too, and I’ve more often than not gotten “blackened” butter–a.k.a., a burned sautee pan!) While the design of the pie, with a pastry crust, is rather traditional, the flavors Four & Twenty Blackbirds gets out of the pie are phenomenal: it feels just like your grandmother baked it. You can buy the pie by the slice or whole–so, share it with all your friends, or maybe just enjoy a slice all on your own!
Four & Twenty Blackbirds
439 3rd Ave (between 7th St & 6th Ave), Gowanus
“Butterscotch and nutty brown butter add depth to this lush pumpkin pie, which is brightened with lemon juice.”–Time Out New York
“We tried a selection including the plum crumble, brown butter pumpkin and the salty honey. All the pies are hand made, and come with the same crust, which is totally the right combination of tenderness and crumble, with a great buttery flavour. The plum crumble was amazing. Sweet and crunchy with a tart punch of local plums, all smoothed out with some lightly sweetened whipped cream. The pumpkin was everything a pumpkin pie should be. Dense, deep, moist, pumpkin-ey custard filling spiked with cinnamon and the surprise addition of a nutty richness supplied by the brown butter.”–Hand To Mouth Blog
“By the slice or a whole pie, Four & Twenty Blackbirds serves up the richest seasonal pies. In season right now? Not only a Pumpkin Pie, but a Honeyed Pumpkin Pie too!”–Becoming Brooklyn
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Got a brown butter pumpkin pie from Four & Twenty for Thanksgiving. One word: Orgasmic. Seriously I’m not exaggerating. It was THE best pumpkin pie I’ve ever eaten. The texture of the pumpkin was perfect and the taste was delicious. It didn’t taste like the typical pumpkin pie; it was better. I don’t know what they did to this pie but I can only assume magic was involved. The crust is always great here, flakey and buttery. I have to be honest, once my family and I tasted the pie we decided not to serve it to the guests coming over. We hid it in the fridge because it was too good to share (no shame in my greedy game).”–Angelique A.
“The pumpkin was in its own category, as the finest piece of pie that I have consumed. Perfect texture. Subtle spices. Lots of real pumpkin flavor. Crust – off the charts.”–Eric N.
But, like I had said before, my favorite kind of pumpkin pie isn’t the kind Four & Twenty Blackbirds make: it’s got a super-sweet, honeyed graham cracker crust, just the way my mom makes it. That’s why, despite all the rave reviews for the former, I will be trying Birdbath’s pumpkin pie when I can get my hands on it. Part of the hugely popular City Bakery family, the Birdbath bakeries are scattered around Manhattan, serving organic, seasonal pastries and pies. You won’t be finding any canned pumpkin pie filling here! Their pumpkin pie filling is looser than Four & Twenty Blackbirds because it’s made more like a custard than a thick pie filling, which I also happen to prefer. The thick graham cracker crust clinches it for me, though: it’s crumbly and sweet, exactly the way I like it to be. Hardcore pie aficionados don’t always consider a graham cracker crust to make a “pie,” but when something tastes this good, I don’t care what you call it, as long as you call it mine!
223 1st Ave (between 13th St & 14th St)
“This was the most polarizing pie of the lot, with some loving its “soft custardy innards” and “hints of nutmeg,” some thinking it was “too loose”; some loved the “nutty, crumbly, sweet” graham cracker crust, others declared it “not a pie crust.” That said, those who loved it, really loved it.”–Serious Eats
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“I have been to this place a few times. Being that it is fall they have started to make their pumpkin pie and I must say it is delicious. The filling was rich but not overwhelming and has a fresh pumpkin flavor and the crust was perfect. Normally I make my own desserts for Thanksgiving but this year I may just have to make their pumpkin pie a part of my tradition.”–Elizabeth D.
“Really expensive — 2 cookies for $5. A slice of pumpkin pie and a cookie costs $8. The pie was very good though – pumpkin was velvety smooth with a super thick graham cracker crust. I’m a sucker for graham cracker crusts.”–Lu H.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!