Pastry pie crusts can be intimidating in the best of circumstances. In the summer, when it's sticky out, pastry gets even more finicky. Keeping it cool enough to roll out without the butter melting is a real chore, and usually, in my tiny and very hot kitchen, I avoid it altogether betweeen the months of June and September. Instead, I tack towards making the kind of pies that are best in the fridge, like Key Lime Pie and Atlantic Beach Pie.
A structural element that these kind of pies have in common is that they have crumb crusts instead of pasty crusts. Rather than putting together butter and flour, you crumble up cookies or crackers, mix them with melted butter, spices, and sugar, and press the crust into the pie pan. Then they go into the oven for a short time to set the mixture into a crust.
Easy never tasted so awesome.
WATCH: Foolproof Key Lime Pie
Traditionally, many pies like these ask for graham crackers, chocolate wafers, or even Ritz crackers in the recipe. The flavor of the crackers gives the crust a richness, and they work well for applications with salt and spices. But recently, I've discovered an unsung cracker hero for making pies like these: Saltines.
Saltine cracker crust works the same as any other crumb crust, but with one difference: The salt is already in the mixture, and the crackers themselves are less buttery than the Ritz or and less sweet than the graham cracker options. That makes it a perfect counterpoint for the tangy, sweet filling of fruit curd pies like this Grapefruit Atlantic Beach Pie or the Mango-Lemon Buttermilk Icebox Pie pictured above.
RELATED: Crumb Crusts vs. Pastry Crusts—How to Choose the Best Pie Shell for the Job
Like the salted butter that Alison Roman calls for in her famous cookie recipe, I find that having salt in the cracker crust gives it a deep saltiness that adding salt to crackers doesn't quite do. You can adjust the sweetness to your liking. Saltines sop up flavors like any other cracker. But they also give a pie that extra salty-sweet oomph that some of my favorite desserts have. And best of all, you might already have some lying around your kitchen or pantry. Dig them out and give them new life in a crumb crust.
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