A classic pastry crust is great for all kinds of pies and tarts, but simple crumb crusts work even better for some recipes. Cheesecakes and key lime pies, for instance, seem to pair even better with crispy crumb crusts than they do with pastry. Graham crackers are the old standby for crumb crusts, as they have a good flavor and texture, but are relatively plain. If you’re looking variety in your crumb crusts, try making a Vanilla Wafer Crumb Crust instead.
This crust starts out with vanilla wafer cookies. Any plain, crispy cookie will work and Nilla Wafers are a good basic choice. I tend to use Trader Joe’s Ultimate Vanilla Wafers. The cookies are pulverized in a food processor with a little sugar, a little more vanilla and some melted butter, then pressed into a baking dish and cooked until crispy. When the crust is finished, you can top it off with the filling of your choice! This basic recipe will work for other crumb crusts (graham or chocolate wafer), too, though other types of cookie sometimes need additional butter. Vanilla wafers tend to be a little bit more buttery than a graham crackers, for instance.
I’ve included the option of brushing the crust with a lightly beaten egg white in the recipe. This step will help create a seal on the crust and prevent it from getting soggy from a moist filling. It is not as good as lining the crust with melted chocolate, but it does help with cheesecakes and things.
Vanilla Wafer Crumb Crust
2 2/3 cups vanilla wafer cookies
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 egg white, lightly beaten (optional)
Preheat oven to 350F.
In the food processor, whiz vanilla wafer cookies until reduced to crumbs (approx 1 2/3 cup crumbs). Add in sugar, vanilla extract and melted butter and pulse to combine. Mixture should resemble wet sand.
Pour into a 9-inch pie plate (or 9-inch square baking dish) and gently spread into an even layer over the bottom and sides. Press crumbs in firmly to create a tight crust. Use a pastry brush to gently brush the beaten egg white over the surface of the crust (you do not need to use the whole egg white).
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until crust just begins to turn golden brown around the edges.
Cool completely before using.
Makes 1 pie crust.