I’m talking to my mother, who has asked me what’s for dinner.

“A peach pie,” I say. “With paprika.”


I can’t blame her. That was pretty much my response when I found the recipe in “The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book.”

But I’m curious. Most peach pie recipes I’ve tried are woefully disappointing. The peaches are either bland or over-seasoned, and the crust is invariably soggy.

I want peach pie that’s the essence of summer: More peach than spice; soft fruit against crackly crust. I decide to throw caution to the wind and trust Emily and Melissa Elsen’s pie recipe. After all, they have a reputation to uphold. They wrote this cookbook, and they’re the owners of Brooklyn’s Four & Twenty Blackbirds pie shop.

But trust doesn’t come easily. Particularly when I realize the Elsens’ peach pie has pepper in it, too. Really, I think, how many savory spices should you put in one sweet dessert?

Turns out, at least two. The paprika turns the peaches a lovely shade of amber and gives the fruit a hint of bittersweet. The pepper lends a slight, slight kick. Lemon juice and aromatic bitters offer tang and extra spice, while a mix of granulated and brown sugars bring out the peaches’ natural sweetness. Everything works together, highlighting and embellishing the “peachiness” of the fruit.

I’ve finally found my peach pie recipe. (And another way to use the paprika in my spice drawer!)

Paprika Peach Pie (Adapted from “Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book”)

 The Elsens are sticklers for pie dough technique. I am not. I’ve made pie dough with my hands, and I’ve made it in a food processor. I prefer the food processor — it takes less time, and the crust is just as tender and crisp. If pie crust freaks you out (and it does a large number of people), buy pre-made crusts. This pie is way too good to forego making it just because you think you have to make your own dough!

For the crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Ice cubes

Place the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine.

Add the butter. Using on/off turns, pulse until the butter is about pea-sized and incorporated into the dry ingredients.

In a glass measuring cup, combine the water and vinegar. Add the ice cubes to chill, then remove them.

Turn the food processor on, and carefully drizzle in the water and vinegar, a tablespoon or so at a time. Once the dough comes together, stop adding the liquid. You may not need all of it.

Turn the dough out onto a plastic sheet. Divide it into two balls, then flatten each ball into a disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

For the filling:

  • 5 cups peeled, sliced peaches
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch or potato starch
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 2 grinds of black or white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • Raw sugar

Mix all the ingredients except the egg, water and raw sugar in a bowl. Set aside.

To assemble the pie:

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Place one rack on the bottom rung of your oven. Place the other in the oven’s center.

Roll out one dough disk and place it in a 9-inch pie plate. Place the pie plate in your refrigerator.

Roll out the second dough disk. Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into inch-wide strips. Refrigerate.

peachesTake out the dough-lined pie plate. Carefully spoon the peaches into the crust, being careful to leave all excess liquid behind.

Remove the dough strips from the refrigerator. Lay them across the peaches, both vertically and horizontally to create a lattice. Tuck the strips into the edges of the pie crust, then crimp the crust:

peach crust

In a small bowl, combine the egg and water. Whisk well, then brush on the dough. Sprinkle with raw sugar.

Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the baking sheet on the lowest rack of your oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Reduce the oven’s heat to 375 degrees. Move the baking sheet to the middle rack. Bake an additional 30 to 35 minutes, or until the pie’s crust is deep golden brown, and its juices are bubbling thickly. Cool for 2 to 3 hours before serving.

peach pie