While we were on vacation, we got a real hankering for pie, so we’d sort of look to see if anyplace had pie on the menu. And, while we did find a (not-so-good) cherry pie at the Grand Canyon Lodge, we really didn’t see those pies that we remember from years ago. You know the kind: lemon meringue pie, banana cream pie, coconut cream pie, chocolate silk pie. Especially coconut cream pie. What happened to it? Why is it no longer a staple in piedom? We thought about coconut cream pie for the entire week we were gone, checking menus, watching for diners that might still be making coconut cream pie. But, alas, none. We’d have to make our own.
But, for pie, we need a crust, and the perfect crust for pie is a Graham cracker crust. Right? We don’t have any Graham crackers in the house, but that doesn’t stop us (no, smarty pants, we didn’t run to the store, we made our own Graham crackers), and this recipe reflects that. By the way, this recipe is loosely based on the one provided in The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, by Matt Lee and Ted Lee.
Makes one 9-inch pie shell.
Yes, we did make Graham crackers just for this. Fortunately, they aren’t all that difficult; plus, any leftovers make for good snacking. Note that scratched Graham crackers are much crunchier than the store-bought kind, so you’ll end up with a crisper, crunchier crust. Vanilla: real. Period. Oh, and, always use unsalted butter for cooking and baking — don’t let some corporation help salt your masterpieces.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch pie plate.
Crush crackers. Okay, you baked up your Graham crackers and now it’s time to undo all that hard work. It’s worth it. In today’s world, not that many people even bother to make pie crust, much less the crackers for the crust. But you do, of course. Place the crackers in a food processor, along with the sugar, and pulse it 10 to 12 times until you have crumbs, and everything is mixed. It will take a few more pulses for scratched crackers than if using store-bought. If you don’t have a food processor, you can crush the crackers in a heavy-duty plastic bag using a rolling pin.
Combine ingredients. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the crumbs, the melted butter, and the vanilla with either a rubber spatula or a fork. Use a fluffing motion and keep mixing until all the crumbs are moist.
Press into pan. Pour the crumbs into the pie plate and press them into place. You could use your fingers, but we find a better choice is to use the bottom of a flat measuring cup, or even a glass. It makes for a much smoother and more even crust.
Bake. Slide the crust into the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. It’ll smell good while baking; you might notice a few little spots puffing up, but nothing major. Remove the crust to cool once the crust has browned and fused together.
Cool. Place the crust on a rack and let cool completely before filling.
Made with our own Graham crackers this crust was surprisingly sturdy. While we didn’t try it, we think that we could have picked up a piece of pie and eaten it with our hands, as you can do with pizza. We don’t know for sure, but we doubt that you can do that with a store-bought crust. This time, we made our Graham crackers with both honey and maple syrup, which gave both the crackers and the crust a subtle maple undertone. Made it a bit more distinctive and special. Finally, the addition of the vanilla is a real winner. Five stars. Tomorrow we’ll give you a recipe for filling.