Have you ever baked a turkey in a brown paper bag? I have. The turkey comes out beautifully tender and moist. I don’t know why the bag doesn’t burn up in the oven. And I don’t know why it creates such a good turkey. But it does.
With one or two brown bag turkeys under my belt I was certainly curious earlier this fall when a fellow quilter, who was hosting me in her home in Oklahoma for a few days, asked me if I had ever baked an apple pie in a brown bag. No. I had not. But suddenly, I wanted to!
I brought the recipe home with me and set to work making a Brown Bag Apple Pie.
Following the directions I rolled out the bottom crust and lined a pretty pie plate. I peeled and sliced the apples, a mix of Jonathon and Jonagold, and tossed them with sugar and spices and poured them into the unbaked shell. I mixed my crumb topping and sprinkled it atop the apples. Then came the leap of faith – putting the pie into a brown bag, crimping the opening tightly shut and sliding it into a piping hot oven. Fingers crossed, I closed the oven door and went away for an hour.
60 minutes later the timer rang. I couldn’t see the pie so I didn’t know if the filling was hot and bubbly. How would I know if the apples were fully cooked? I couldn’t peek as it baked to see if my crust was getting too brown – or worse, not done enough. But the kitchen smelled of hot apples and cinnamon, butter and nuts so I called it “Done” and removed it from the oven.
Unrolling the end to open the bag, I took a look – “Oh MY!” It’s a pretty pie!
Carefully, least I burn myself on the hot steam flowing off the pie, I tore the bag open to reveal the pie in all her glory.
The apple filling was still bubbling up along the edges – a good indicator that the filling was fully cooked. The top, lightly golden, was crunchy but not overly browned. With a fingernail I brushed a tiny section of the fluted crust – it flaked against my nail. Done.
While the pie cooled, I wondered, “Why does it work? Who ever thought of putting a pie in a brown bag, anyway?” To my surprise I learned, from a quick internet search, that in 1911 a whole cookbook was published with recipes for brown bag baking: Soyer’s Paper Bag Cookery, by Nicholas Soyer – a reproduction of the original can be found in online bookstores. Who’d of thought!
AFTER I baked my pie in a brown bag, and it came out just fine, I read to avoid using a bag with printing on it or glued on handles. (The heat causes fumes, or worse – flames).
I still wasn’t sure what the big deal was – yes, my pie was pretty but I’ve made other pretty pies without a brown bag. So I served up a slice and bit into it. The apples: tender and juicy, the spices: just right. The crust: flaky and golden, evenly baked. Then there was the crumb topping – oh, the crumb topping! There, blanketing the apples, I found the goodness of a Brown Bag Apple Pie! Crunchy, nutty, buttery – it was like no other topping I have baked nor eaten. It was like an apple pie with a pecan speckled shortbread cooky on top!
Forget the turkey! The next time you feel like baking something in a brown bag, try apple pie!!