Kitchen safety 101

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Pie in a bag sounds odd, but tastes delightful. My friend Alison served me one imported from Wisconsin, where The Elegant Farmer makes elegant work of apple, pie and brown-paper bag.

The bag serves as steamer and shield, ushering the apples from crisp to tender and the pastry from tender to crisp — without scorching.

I studied bags, seeking a snug fit, no handles, and — given the heat — little printing. On break, I ordered carryout and when it arrived, snapped into action. I quickly unpacked the bins of curry, stashing them in the cold oven, then turned to admire the paper bag: perfect for pie.

I had to calm the concerns of the local safety officer, who maintains that paper bag and 425-degree oven make a bad combo.

I rolled pastry, sliced apples and mixed a sugar-cookie top. I slid pie into bag and bag into oven. Soon the kitchen filled with fumes. "It's the pie," I smiled. Our safety officer muscled open the kitchen windows and glowered: "It's not the pie."

Research revealed that I had left a takeout tub in the oven. A takeout tub made of plastic. Which had melted. Dripping molten plastic goo onto the bag-covered pie, the baking sheet and the oven rack.

Once molten plastic goo cools, it's permanent. I had to toss the baking sheet. And the oven rack. But the pie — cozy in its paper bag — smiled safe, golden and thoroughly delicious.

Brown-bag apple pie

Prep: 45 minutes
Bake: 1 hour
Serves: 8

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
¾ cup flour
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

3 pounds (about 6) apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1/2-inch thick (thinner would collapse into applesauce). Choose at least 2 tart, crisp apples, such as Granny Smith, Northern Spy or Idared
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons instant tapioca
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon fine salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

one 9-inch pie pastry, prepared but not baked

To make top, cream butter and sugar. Work in flour. Mix in vanilla to form a soft, sticky dough.

Pat dough into a puck; sandwich between 2 stretches of parchment paper. Roll to an 11-inch circle. Slide (paper and all) onto a baking sheet and chill.

To make middle, pile apples into a big bowl. Stir together sugar, tapioca, zest, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Sprinkle over apples. Toss. Let rest 10 minutes. Heap apples (and any juices) into prepared bottom.

Peel parchment off top dough. Cover pie with dough, tucking it between bottom crust and apples. Don't worry about tears or folds, this is a casual contraption.

Slide pie into a brown-paper bag (pie resting on the side, not bottom, of bag). Fold excess bag under pie. Set bagged pie on a rimmed baking sheet.

Slide baking sheet into a 425-degree oven. (A note from our safety officer: Be sure bag isn't touching heating element. Can't imagine how it would, unless you turned on the broiler.) Bake 1 hour. Pull out pie. Tear open bag. Cool on a rack. Enjoy.

Email Leah Eskin at

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