The idea of making a pie can be intimidating, and nearly all of the related anxiety stems from the idea of having to make pie crust. Making a good pie crust relies on so many visual clues that can’t be adequately conveyed in most written recipes, and if you’re not someone who has made quite a number of pies in their lifetime, there’s no way to judge how things are going (or how to fix mistakes) with the all-important “baker's instinct.”
Even worse than that nightmare: making pie crust makes such a mess. You’ve got to clean off your countertops, move all your stuff around, dust flour all over the place—it’s such a massive production just to make a dessert that’s going to be gobbled up in a small fraction of the time it took to make. Why drive yourself crazy over all that nonsense when graham cracker pie crusts exist to save your holiday, and your sanity?
When to Use a Graham Cracker Crust
Graham cracker pie crusts are so beyond simple to make, you’ll never think of buying a pre-made one again. Not only that, they’re perfect for every pie, no matter what the current pie zeitgeist might be telling you. Apple, pumpkin, pecan, sweet potato — all the pies you can dream of can be made in a crust that involves no rolling out, no fancy lattice work or scalloped edges, no panic attacks over your dough cracking or shrinking. Plus a graham cracker crust means you get to eat pie and cookies at the same exact time, which is all sorts of winning.
Speaking of cookies: though everyone knows about graham cracker crusts, what many don’t realize is that you can use any sort of cookie you damn well please to make a pie crust. Seriously! While baking is a precise art in many ways, none of those rules apply when you’re talking about making a crust out of crumbs. Go ahead and grind up Oreos (sans cream filling), gingersnaps, chocolate chip cookies, shortbread — whatever your heart desires.
If you’re making something savory, like a quiche, or are making a super-sweet pie (like shoofly) that could benefit from an unsweetened crust, try using saltines or another type of crust.
How to Make a Graham Cracker Crust
To make a crumb crust you need cookies, butter… and that’s it. You don’t need extra sugar, you don’t need extra spices, because the cookies taste perfect just the way they are.
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Step 2: Grind up enough cookies in your food processor so you get 2 cups of fine crumbs. This takes about 14 standard size graham crackers, but don’t base your measurements on what goes into the food processor — measure what comes out, and put it into a mixing bowl.
Step 3: Melt 6 tablespoons of butter (¾ stick), then pour into the crumbs and stir until everything is combined. The mixture shouldn’t look greasy, and will easily hold together if you give it a little pinch.
Think of your mixture like sand at the beach: if it’s the perfect consistency for building sandcastles, you’re good.
If, for some reason, you feel as if you’ve made a mistake, there’s no need to be upset! If it seems too greasy, add another spoonful of crumbs. Too dry? Add a touch more melted butter.
Step 4: The key to making a good crust is all in the packing. In a 9” pie pan, start adding the crumbs ¼ cup at time, using your hands to press them well onto the sides of the pan to make a crust about ¼” thick. Once the sides are done, dump the rest of the crumbs into the pan and spread them across the bottom of the pan. Grab a measuring cup, or a glass with a flat bottom, and use it to firmly pack the bottom crust.
Step 5: Bake the crust for 10 minutes to set. You can fill your graham cracker crust and bake your full pie immediately, or cool completely if you’re making a pie with a cold filling, like pudding.