When I was in college, I got into baking as a way to mitigate the stress brought on by taking classes I didn’t really enjoy with the goal of getting a job I didn’t really want. One Christmas, my dad gave me Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess, and my roommate wrapped up a copy of Ken Haedrich’s Pie. I don’t bake all that much anymore — it’s too similar to the synthetic chemistry labs I had to take in school — but I can bake if forced, thanks to Lawson and Haedrich.
I still struggle with pie, mostly due to impatience. Pastry cannot be rushed (though it can be streamlined), which is why I always gravitated to crusts made with crushed up cookies.
Even though I loved the taste and texture of a cookie crust, making them felt like cheating, like I was cheating myself out of the authentic pie-making experience, and cheating my guests out of real pastry.
Looking back, this was obviously silly. People are generally thankful to be given pie, no matter what kind of crust it comes in, and the combination of crushed up cookies and butter tastes very good.
If the only thing preventing you from making pie is an aversion to proper pastry pie dough, then please, just make a cookie crust. There are several bangers to choose from.
Think beyond graham crackers and Oreos
Chocolate wafers and graham crackers are by far the most popular cookies to crustify, but I never was one of the popular girls. Vanilla wafers, ginger thins, shortbread cookies, and Italian amaretti can be used to tailor the flavour profile of the crust to your filling. (I personally think an apple pie with an Anna’s Ginger Swedish Thins crust would be pretty dope.)
According to the Pioneer Woman, a combination of 1-3/4 cups cookie crumbs with 6-8 tablespoons of melted butter, and two tablespoons of sugar should get the job done. (Some cookies, like graham crackers, are veritable butter sponges, so start with 6 tablespoons and add more if the mixture looks dry.)
Switch up your sugar
Haedrich prefers brown to white sugar in his graham cracker crusts “because brown sugar has a certain amount of stickiness that helps hold the crust together.” I also has a deeper, molasses-y flavour and aroma that I enjoy.
In addition to switching up the sugar, Haedrich also likes to add half a teaspoon of cinnamon to his graham cracker crusts, and an ounce of unsweetened coarsely chopped chocolate to his amaretti crusts, so don’t be afraid to season your cookie crusts with powdered spices, salt, or cocoa powder.
What to do if your crumbs are too crumbly
As Haedrich explains in his book, there are two ways you can help a too-crumbly crust come together. “Incidentally, a tiny bit of water will make a graham cracker crust easier to press into the pan,” he writes. “While you’re mixing your crust and your hands are still covered in crumbs, dampen your fingertips under running water, then shake them into the crumb mixture. Continue to mix; you’ll see the difference right away.”
If a bit of water doesn’t do it, you can “mix 1 tablespoon of flour into the dry ingredients, then add about 1 teaspoon water along with the butter. Mix well, using your hands to rub everything together thoroughly” to make the crust a little more cooperative.
How to assemble your cookie crumb crust
Once you’ve decided on which cookies to crumble, you’re ready for the easy part — making the crust. Again, I follow Haedrich here: Crumble your cookies by pulsing them in the food processor, or chuck ‘em in a big Ziplock bag and smash ‘em with a blunt object. Add sugar and any seasonings, then mix with your hands. Add melted butter and mix with a fork, then get in there with your hands, rubbing everything together to make evenly dampened crumbs.
Scatter the crumbs in a pie pan, and press them into the bottom and up the sides. Chill in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
Bake at 350℉ on the centre rack of the oven for seven minutes, then let cool completely before filling and baking according to your pie recipe. If you’re making an ice cream pie or icebox cake, chill the crust in the fridge for 10 minutes before filling.