My husband tells me I have a temperature tolerance of two degrees. Fahrenheit, not Celsius. I thrive at 72 degrees. Lower than that, I complain. Higher than that, I really complain. Can you imagine how pleasant it is to live with me during a prolonged heat wave? Andy suggests you don’t even try.

I used to be heartier. During the summers of 2016 and 2017 I was paid to test recipes for two pie cookbooks, each comprising about 100 recipes. I tested each recipe a minimum of three times. Half were slab pies, some were free-form galettes, and others were highly portable hand pies. We’re talking over 600 pies, people! I certainly know my dough. But other than the sour cherry pie I make for my dad when I happen to find a pint or two of those for sale in July in Maine and a quiche or two I might make with bacon grease , I just don’t do the whole double-crust, butter pastry pie thing in the summertime.

That’s not to say that I don’t make pie. I simply opt for a pat-in-the-pan crumb crust with cool filling — the flavor combinations are endless (original Oreos and mint in grasshopper pie, strawberries and ginger snaps for an ice box pie, or the Biscoffs, bourbon and banana cream pie I’ve included here); the oven time is minimal (10-15 minutes, tops); and the resulting desserts are typically served nice and cold on a hot day.

The ratio for a crumb crust is simple: 1 part sugar, 2 parts melted butter, 8 parts crumbs. If your butter is unsalted, add a pinch of salt. For a standard nine-inch pie crust, the ratio amounts to 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup melted butter and 2 cups crumbs. If you’re working with a low-sided 9-inch tart pan, you’ll need only half of this formula. For a 9- by 13-inch pan, one and a half times the formula works well.

The crumbs can come from any dry cookie you have on hand, even if they’ve become stale from the summer humidity, or have been frozen to prevent them from getting to that stage. I make the cookies into crumbs before freezing them because they take up less real estate in that state. You can pull out the food processor to get the fine crumb, but in a pinch, say you are making do in a vacation cabin kitchen, a Ziploc bag and a heavy pan does the trick.

When you first combine the ingredients for a crumb crust in a bowl, it never quite feels like there will be enough butter to moisten all the crumbs. Resist the temptation to add more, though, as cookie crumbs are like mushrooms in that they will suck in all the fat you give them but if you give them too much, you’ll have a soggy, greasy end product.

Cookie crumbs await

Cookie crumbs await even pressing into a pie plate to form a cookie crumb crust, which requires less than half the oven time than a pastry crust does. Photo by Christine Burns Rudalevige

When patting the crust into the pan, it’s best to use a flat-bottom measuring cup or metal cup to get an even spread across the bottom and up the sides. This part is by no means rocket science and is a great way to get little hands involved in the process. Unlike with a pastry pie crust, you can’t overwork a crumb crust. Do throw the unbaked crust into the freezer for 10 minutes before you put it in an oven as it will hold its shape better.

I usually don’t turn on my big oven just to make a crumb crust because what you’re looking for here is more of a set than a bake. It only needs 8-10 minutes at 325 degrees F to set it so that will hold any creamy, fruity concoction you fill it with, so it’s fine to bake in the residual heat of a cooling oven or in a toaster oven if yours is big enough to hold your pie plate.

To avoid a crust with a soggy bottom, cool the set crumb crust completely before filling it.

Stay cool, and eat more pie.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester, and a cooking teacher in Brunswick. Contact her at: [email protected].

Cookie stacks

All sorts of cookies, processed into crumbs, can be turned into a crumb crust, so use whatever you’ve got on hand. Photo by Christine Burns Rudalevige

Biscoffs Banana Cream Pie

This combination materialized in my kitchen when I’d planned to make a raspberry cream pie but had forgotten to put the “Do Not Eat These” sticky note on the 2 pints of berries I brought home from the market. The offending eaters left a few, which I threw on top, but the star of the pie became the bananas that remained on the counter long after the raspberries were history.
Makes a 9-inch pie

2 cups cups Biscoff cookies (from one 8-ounce package)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt, if butter is unsalted

4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2 3/4 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 medium bananas
2 cups freshly whipped cream

To make the crust, preheat the oven or toaster oven to 325 degrees F. Combine the crumbs, butter, sugar and salt in a food processor until combined. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Freeze for 10 minutes. Bake until set and starting to turn slightly darker than it was when you slid it into the over, 8-10 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the filling, whisk the yolks in a heatproof bowl. Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium saucepan; whisk the milk and vanilla seeds and pod into the dry ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking; cook at a boil, still whisking, 2 minutes more.

Pour the hot milk mixture into the yolks in a slow, steady stream, whisking until combined; do not hurry or your eggs may scramble. Return the mixture to the saucepan; return to a boil, whisking the whole time. Immediately, remove from heat. Pass the custard through a fine-meshed sieve into another bowl to remove any inadvertently scrambled eggs and the vanilla bean pod. Whisk in the butter until melted. Whisk in the bourbon and cool to room temperature.

Peel and slice the bananas. Arrange the slices around the bottom of the pie crust and spread the cooled custard over them. Chill the pie for at least 4 hours. Top with whipped cream and serve cold.

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