How to Make Paper Bag Apple Pie—and Why You Should
This simple trick is a game-changer for making perfectly golden, tender fruit pies.
Baking a perfect fruit pie is a delicate balancing act. Leave the pie in the oven too long and you run the risk of burning your crust. But take it out too soon and your fruit filling will not have thickened up, leaving you with a watery mess.
Enter paper bag apple pie.
While there are plenty of secrets for making pies, like using a pie shield to protect your crust from over-browning and precooking your filling, the paper bag trick is an all-in-one pie hack. It yields a golden, flaky pie crust loaded with tender filling.
Who Invented Paper Bag Apple Pie?
This technique has been around for generations. It first appeared in an old Amish cookbook called The ABCs of Paper Bag Cookery. The method was later made famous by The Elegant Farmer, a farm kitchen in Mukwonago, Wisconsin.
Why Baking a Pie in a Paper Bag Works
OK, let’s talk science. What does baking a pie in a paper bag even do? The paper bag functions as both a steamer and a shield for the pie. It locks in moisture, which helps to make the apples tender but not mushy. At the same time, the bag provides a protective barrier from the oven’s direct heat, ensuring the pie crust bakes evenly without over-browning.
The best part about this trick? The big reveal! Since you can’t see the pie through the bag while it’s in the oven, there’s an element of surprise when you tear open the bag after the pie is done. In it goes blonde and unbaked, and it comes out golden and bubbling with apple goodness.
What Type of Bag to Use When Making Pie
Use a plain, kraft paper bag that’s free of inks or dyes. As we researched this method, we learned that paper bags printed with ink run the risk of releasing unpleasant odors and/or toxins when exposed to high heat.
You can also create your own “bag” out of several large pieces of parchment paper. Just be sure to secure your pieces together with plenty of folds and staples. The purpose of the bag is to lock in all that precious steam!
How to Make Paper Bag Apple Pie
This recipe makes one 9-inch pie.
- Dough for double-crust pie
- 3 pounds apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1/2-inch thick (we used a combination of Granny Smith and Honey Crisp)
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon tapioca flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 beaten egg for egg wash, optional
Step 1: Prepare the crust
Prepare your crust according to this recipe or unpackage your store-bought crust. Lightly grease the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate that’s 1-1/2 to 2 inches deep. Lay your first crust in the pan, pressing it gently to line the pie plate. Cover and chill until ready to fill.
Step 2: Prepare the filling
In a large mixing bowl, combine the peeled and sliced apples, sugar, brown sugar, tapioca flour, cinnamon, salt and lemon juice. Toss to coat apples in the dry ingredients and let stand for 5-10 minutes.
Step 3: Assemble
Preheat the oven to 425°F with your oven rack set at its lowest position. Remove your chilled crust from the fridge. Fill with the apple mixture, mounding it toward the middle. Top the filling with your second crust and trim off any excess crust to a 1-inch overhang. Fold the crust over and under itself to seal and then crimp or flute edges as desired. Finally, cut a few slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape and brush the entire pie with egg wash.
Editor’s tip: When adding fruit filling to a pie crust, leave behind a bit of the fruit juice pooled at the bottom of your mixing bowl. Leaving out this extra bit of moisture will help ensure your bottom crust remains crisp and doesn’t develop a soggy bottom as it bakes.
Step 4: Bake
Place the assembled pie into a plain, large paper bag. Take special care to ensure the pie crust does not touch the insides. Fold over the opening on the bag a few times and secure with staples. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and place into the preheated oven. Make sure the bag is not touching the side walls or heating element of your oven.
Bake for 50-60 minutes.
Step 5: Cool and serve
Remove the pie from the oven and carefully open the bag, avoiding any hot steam as it releases. Remove the pie and let cool on a wire rack for at least 60 minutes before slicing. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
How to Make Paper Bag Apple Pie with Crumb Topping
Elegant Farmer’s classic Apple Pie in a Paper Bag is a double-crust pie. However, a common variation is to swap the top layer of pie crust for a delectable streusel crumb topping. Interested? Here’s how to do it.
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 8 tablespoons butter, cold and cut into small cubes
Combine the first three ingredients in a small bowl. Then, using a fork or pastry blender, cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles small, pea-sized crumbs. Chill for 30 minutes and top your pie with the crumb topping instead of the second crust as outlined in step 3. Continue onto step 4 and bake as directed.
Next, check out 10 more delicious pie recipes.