Crumb crusts for pies such as cream cheese topped with
fresh strawberries can be made of graham crackers or
cookies, and enriched with chopped nuts.
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A graham cracker crust recipe follows from "Cook It Light Desserts" by Jeanne Jones (Macmillan, 1994, $24).
"The Great American Chocolate Contest Cookbook" by T.K. Woods (Hearst Books, 1995, $20, call 1-800-469-5595) suggests that in place of graham crackers, home bakers may substitute confections such as Oreo cookies, peanut butter sandwich cookies, vanilla or other sandwich cookies, Chocolate Teddy Grahams or coconut macaroons.
Also, make a nutty crumb crust by combining 1 cup crushed cookies and 1/2 cup crushed salted nuts or salted sunflower seeds - lightly toasted for added flavor.
Barbara Hill in "The Cook's Book of Essential Information" says 1 cup of crumbs results from rolling 28 vanilla wafers, 15 ginger snaps or 15 chocolate wafers. Some refrigerated pie recipes call for crumb crusts that are left unbaked.
Maui caterer Bonnie Mandoe in her "Vegetarian Nights - Fresh from Hawaii" cookbook (Celestial Arts, 1994, $17.95) devises unique press-into-the-pan-and-bake crusts with about equal measures of ground rolled oats, whole wheat pastry flour and ground nuts, such as macadamias, toasted almonds, walnuts or cashews.
16 graham cracker squares (about 1 cup crumbs)Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) corn oil margarine, at room temperature
Put the graham cracker squares in a large plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin until they are fine crumbs. Put the crumbs in a bowl and add the margarine.
Using a pastry blender or a fork, mix the crumbs with the margarine until completely mixed and the consistency of a stiff dough. Reserve 2 tablespoons of this mixture to use later.
Place the remaining mixture in a 9- or 10-inch pie plate and, with your fingertips, press out evenly over the entire inner surface of the pie plate. Place the reserved 2 tablespoons of the mixture in another baking dish to be baked at the same time as the crust. Bake both the crust and crumbs until lightly browned, about 8 minutes.
Cool the crust to room temperature before filling. Sprinkle the crumbs over the top.
Makes 1 pie crust or 8 servings.
Cinnamon Graham Cracker Pie Crust and Topping: Add 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the crumbs and mix thoroughly before adding the margarine.
Chocolate Graham Cracker Pie Crust and Topping: Use only 14 graham cracker squares and add 2-1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder.