Crumb Crusts: Easy as Pie!

Cookie and cracker crumbs make rich crusts for creamy, seductive pies. And they are so easy!

By FamilyTime


Crumb crusts are classics for mousse, custard, pudding, and ice cream pies. They are easier to make than pastry crusts and always fit the bill when it comes to flavor and texture.

The Crumbs
Not surprisingly, crumb crusts are made from cracker and cookie crumbs. Usually these are graham crackers, vanilla wafers, ginger snaps, or zwieback. You can also use imported butter cookies, biscotti, or similar high-quality cookies that are dry enough for crumbs.

For chocolate crumb crusts, most recipes call for chocolate wafers. Some cooks like to use the chocolate portion of Oreo cookies for their intense chocolate flavor.

Making Crumbs
Although some companies market pre-ground cracker and cookie crumbs, it’s best to make your own. Packaged crumbs turn stale quickly and won’t provide as much flavor as those you make yourself. Luckily, this is exceedingly easy.

The two most common ways to turn crackers and cookies into crumbs are with a rolling pin and in a food processor or blender.

To use a rolling pin, put the crackers in a plastic bag. Break them up a little first. Seal the bag and roll the pin over it until the crumbs are evenly crushed. This may take a few minutes and you may want to tap the larger pieces with the side of the pin to coax them into smaller pieces.

The food processor is effective, too. Fit it with the metal blade and put the crackers or crumbs in the bowl. Pulse them until ground to an even consistency. Do not over process so that they loose their crumb texture.

You can also make crumbs in a blender, but it won’t hold as many crackers or cookies at one time as the processor. Work in batches.

Forming the Crust
Adding fat to the crumbs forms the crust. The most commonly used fat is melted butter, although some recipes call for a little nut oil or cream. Some rely on melted chocolate, as well. Adding ground nuts to the crust adds a little fat, too.

Follow the recipe carefully when adding fat. Too much butter will cause the crust to soften and slip down the sides of the pan. Too little means the crust won’t hold together, or bind.

Mix the crumbs and fat in a bowl or in the food processor, depending on the particular recipe or your preference. Grease the pie plate or cake pan and press the moist crumbs into it.

The best way to do this is to start pushing the crumbs up the sides of the pan and then pat them evenly over the bottom. Use your fingertips and don’t be afraid to exert gentle pressure.

A good trick is to lay a sheet of plastic wrap over an imperfectly formed crust and press it again with your fingertips. Remove and discard the plastic wrap.

Finishing and Filling the Crust
Crumb crusts are always firmed up before they are filled. This is done by baking them or chilling them. Again, follow the recipe. Baking results in crispier crusts but chilled crusts are easy and fast.

If you bake the crust, only bake it until the surface is set but the bottom is still soft. This usually takes eight or nine minutes in a moderate (350°F.) oven. Use your nose as a guide, too: When you can smell the crust, it’s probably ready. Set the baked crust on a wire rack and let it cool completely. It will firm up as it cools.

Never fill a warm crumb crust. The crust will never firm up and won’t slice properly.

If the recipe suggests refrigerating or freezing the crust, leave it in the refrigerator or freezer until it’s firm all the way through.

Both baked and chilled crumb crusts can be made hours ahead of time.

Most crumb crusts are filled with luscious creamy fillings such as chocolate mousse or vanilla pudding, custards, and ice cream. They are served chilled or at very cool room temperature.

Best of all, everyone loves them!