Kitchen safety 101

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

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

Middle:
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

Bottom:
one 9-inch pie pastry, prepared but not baked

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

Roll:
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.

Mix:
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.

Cover:
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.

Wrap:
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.

Bake:
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 leahreskin@aol.com.

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