Atypical and Appetizing … Pie and Cheesecake Crusts

I’m a savory-sweets person.  Perhaps this is why I prefer pies and cheesecakes over any other type of dessert.  I’m all about the CRUST, and I love to experiment!

I’m sure we have all tried graham cracker crusts and chocolate sandwich cookie crusts in desserts, but there are so many other delicious options to add a sweet, savory, or salty kick to the crust of your next refrigerator pie or homemade cheesecake.

Here are some fun twists on a traditional crust:

  • Cinnamon-Ginger Cookies – you may recognize these cookies as the sweet treats served on some airlines.  These cookies are available in many supermarkets and gourmet food stores.
  • Amaretti Cookies – these little, round, Italian cookies have a crispy crust and great, spicy flavor.  Most often, they come individually wrapped in white/colored paper in tins or boxes.  Check specialty markets and food stores if you want to try them.  These cookies are widely used in Italian desserts, and I love the flavor and crunch they add to recipes.  You can even use them as a garnish by crushing them in your hands and sprinkling the crumbs over the top of desserts.  They look especially pretty over whipped cream.
  • Vanilla Wafers – most of us probably grew up eating these golden brown wafers as children.  Vanilla wafers are readily available in supermarkets.
  • Peanut Butter Cookies – I like to use these sandwich cookies and break them apart.  Then I eat remove the filling and process the halves to make crust.  These cookies are readily available in supermarkets.
  • Ginger Snap Cookies – I love the sharp flavor of a ginger snap.  I like to use these for cheesecakes, because I think that the robust flavor of the cookies goes well with the soft, richness of a cheesy filling.  You can find ginger snaps at your local market.
  • Crushed Nuts – I use nuts in my desserts all the time.  Two of my favorite nuts to use are almonds and hazelnuts.  Almonds go with everything, and hazelnuts add a wonderful bitterness to pies and cheesecakes.  Pistachios are also delicious.  Just be sure to buy enough to make your crust!
  • Cereals – You can experiment with your favorite cereals: rice or wheat squares, oat bran, or corn cereal.  Just be mindful of the texture, and try not to go overboard on the sugar factor!
  • Pretzels – I love the combination of salty and sweet, so I use pretzels for many desserts, not just for pies and cheesecakes.  I also enjoy the crunchiness that pretzels add to my favorite refrigerator pies.  This is one variation on pie crust that I think everyone should try!

To Make: choose a crust ingredient from the list above and process it to a fine consistency in a food processor, or place it in a plastic bag and use a rolling-pin to crush it thoroughly. 

Side-note:  The rolling-pin trick can be a great stress-reliever at the end of a long day!

Next, add a bit of melted butter to the ground crust you have made.  You can also add a sprinkling of sugar for sweetness (optional).  Combine well.   You want to use the melted butter to achieve the right crust consistency, so that when you go to press the crust into a pie plate or cheesecake tin, it will bind together.

Finally, press the crust into the pie or cheesecake pan and prepare your favorite dessert as you normally would.

♦♦  The cookies, wafers, and snacks above tend to work best with desserts that set up in the refrigerator or freezer.  I have not tested these crusts with recipes that require the dessert to be baked in the oven.

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