Wednesday, March 13, 2013

non-graham cracker crust

Graham crackers are an all American favorite, despite the fact that they are dry, crumbly and tasteless except for the cinnamon grahams covered in sugar. And it’s no surprise since they were created as a dietetic food. I once found graham crackers imported from Thailand at the Chinese owned in my Lille neighborhood; they were along side the Arm and Hammer baking powder imported from Hong Kong via Trenton, New Jersey. The crackers were so expensive that I put them away “for a special occasion”. But they went stale before I got around to using them. So, I was forced to find alternatives to graham crackers. 

English friends swear that digestive biscuits are the right alternative, but I find them to be too grainy and nutty tasting. Through a lot of trial and error, I found a suitable replacement for graham cracker crust – half petit beurre cookies (little butter cookies) and half speculoos cookies. Speculoos, which is a dry cinnamony cookie, are readily available in Northern France where they originated. They echo the Spanish influence via the Belgian royalty that once controlled all of Flanders, of which Lille was the capital. Similar cookies exist under the name of Bastogne. Unlike “real” (traditional?) graham cracker crust, this recipe does not include sugar and the amount of melted butter is reduced to balance out the sweeter and fattier cookies, neither of which is particularly dietetic.  I use this crust for key lime pie and cheesecake.

Non-graham cracker crust

100 grams petit beurre
100 grams speculoos  
3 T melted butter

  1. Using a food processor, mixer or hammer and plastic food storage bag, crush the cookies into fine, homogenous crumbs.
  2. Melt butter in the microwave for about 45 seconds or until it is completely melted.
  3. With a large spoon (silicone spatula works best) in a large bowl, combine butter and cookie crumbs.
  4. Line pie plate with parchment paper (you will be thankful for this step later).
  5. When thoroughly combined, press crumbs down on bottom of prepared pie plate. Firmly pack down on the bottom and edges of pie plate.
  6. Bake on 350F for 8 minutes.
  7. Fill pie as directed. 

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