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Apple Pie: It's in the Bag

Neither our editors nor Mrs. Overby are responsible for oven fires, but a brown paper bag truly adds something to a pie.

Ruth Overby has been baking pies in a bag for years. "That way your pie won't brown unevenly," she says. "So often they will brown only on the edges or on top, but not underneath."


Ruth Overby’s two daughters deserve some of the credit for her pie baking skills. “When my girls started 4-H, they entered a category for pies,” she says. “I really figured out what a good pie was with them.” Each sister made a pie every day to prepare for Spink County’s Achievement Days; the Overby family even ate pie for breakfast. All of their practicing paid off; both qualified for the State Fair in Huron.

Ruth and her husband, Glenn, will celebrate 63 years of marriage in September. They still live on the family farm near Mellette. Her daughters outgrew 4-H pie contests long ago, but Ruth still enters competitions. She placed first among 31 pies at Crisco’s American Pie Celebration at the South Dakota State Fair in 1991 with her “Apple Pie in a Bag.” Asked how she created it, she says, “I wanted a classy name for my pie so I tried a pie in a bag and loved it.” Ruth Overby has been baking pies in a bag for years now. “That way your pie won’t brown unevenly,” she says. “So often they will brown only on the edges or on top, but not underneath.”

Huron celebrates “Pie in the Park” in August. The event includes a pie contest with first through fifth place. One year, Ruth entered two pies, rhubarb with blueberries and an apple. The crowd waited a long time for the judges’ decision because they couldn’t decide between the top pies. Finally they announced that Ruth Overby was the second place winner. And then they announced that the first place prize “goes to … Ruth Overby.”

“A good pie is not a soggy crust — it’s a flaky crust, a good filling and an attractive appearance,” Ruth says. There are several things she does to ensure a “good pie.” All of the crust ingredients should be cold, so she stores her shortening and flour in the refrigerator. A “good pie” can’t be hurried, either. “You have to rest the dough before rolling because that makes the gluten work,” Ruth says. She also swears by a rolling pin sock and a pastry cloth. And, just before popping the pie in the oven, Ruth cuts apples or hearts from the leftover dough to decorate the top of the crust. “It’s my signature,” she says.


Apple Pie in a Bag

"A good pie is not a soggy crust -- it's a flaky crust, a good filling and an attractive appearance," Ruth says.

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter flavor Crisco
1/2 cup cold 7-Up
2 tablespoons cream or

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup and 1 teaspoon
granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
6 med. (2 lbs.) firm
apples peeled and sliced (6 cups)
3 level tablespoons
minute tapioca or flour
1 tablespoon cold butter
cut into small pieces

In medium bowl mix flour and salt for crust. Cut in Crisco using a pastry blender. Slowly add 7-Up, tossing with fork until dough forms ball. Mold into two balls. Let dough rest for 10 minutes in refrigerator. Flour rolling surface and rolling pin.

Roll one ball of dough into circle. Place in 9” pie pan and trim edge. Combine brown sugar, white sugar and tapioca or flour with nutmeg and cinnamon. Toss this mixture lightly with sliced apples. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar on bottom crust to prevent it from getting soggy. Add filling. Dot with butter.

Moisten edge of bottom crust with cream or milk. Roll top crust. Lift onto pie, seal edge and decorate (optional). Slit top crust to allow steam to escape. Place pie in large brown paper bag.

Bake in pre-heated oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until crust is lightly brown and apples are tender.

More Tips From Ruth:

  • The print on the bag should go on the bottom. If the bag isn’t big enough, staple it or fold it over a couple of times.
  • Turn the oven on at 400 degrees, but don’t put the pie in the oven until the element is no longer red.
  • While baking, the pie won’t have a typical pie smell; it will smell more like hot paper.
  • The bottom of the bag will quite often be scorched, but that doesn’t matter.
  • After removing the pie from the oven, slit the bag to see if it’s brown and bubbly, and then stick it with a fork to see if the apples are done. 


EDITOR'S NOTE – This story is revised from the July/Aug 2009 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order this back issue or to subscribe, call 800-456-5117.

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