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Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Frugal, Fast, and "Cool" Pie Crust, and Ideas for Filling It



The heat wave continues, but you really want to make a great dessert for tonight's barbecue. Someone else has offered to bring a watermelon carved and full of mixed fruit, so you need something a little more. well, baked and dessert-ish.
Then again, the electric bill that arrived yesterday was a good reminder to keep the oven off until the temperature outside drops...a lot. What to do, what to do.


Here's an idea. Make a pie. Without using the oven. And frugally, with a bread crumb crust.

So how does this...


Become this?



It all starts with good bread that you have dried in order to keep it from going stale or getting moldy. You can use leftover homemade whole grain, a chewy loaf that didn't get turned into garlic bread or even some leftover hot dog buns. Add in ground nuts, sugar, and butter, and you'll have a great replacement for the old standby graham cracker crust. This recipe is very easily doubled, so you can make dessert for a crowd with little extra effort.

Bread Crumb Pie Crust

 1/3 c butter, melted
1 c fine dry bread crumbs (about 3 1/2 oz)
1/2 c ground almonds (approximately 2 to 2/12 oz)
3 to 4 T sugar
1/2 t cinnamon

NOTE:  Be sure the crumbs are well dried and very fine. See hints below on making them
1.  If ground almonds are not available, place about 3/4 cup whole almonds (or weigh out 2 to 2 1/2 ounces) in a blender or processor and process until quite fine. Set aside.
2. Melt the butter in a large bowl in the microwave. Stir in remaining ingredients and blend thoroughly with a fork.
3. Lightly spray a glass 8 or 9 inch pie pan with cooking spray. Pour the crumbs into the pan and press with your fingers to an even thickness across the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
4. Microwave the crust for about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, until the butter is bubbling out of the crust. WATCH CAREFULLY TO BE SURE THE CRUST DOES NOT BEGIN TO BURN.
5. Remove from microwave and allow to cool before filling.
  
Hints for Making Bread Crumbs

 1.  Any breads or rolls can be used, but you should avoid those with raisins or other dried fruits or those with strongly savory ingredients (garlic bread, herb breads, etc.) This can be a good way to use up that one extra hot dog or hamburger bun, the ends of bread or crusts cut off of sandwiches, etc.
2.  For best results, slice whole loaves or rolls thinly or cube already sliced breads in pieces about 1/2 inch square.
3.  Spread the sliced bread or cubes on baking sheets and allow to dry at room temperature OR place in a very slow oven (180 degrees or so) and allow to dry until the bread is crispy and easily broken or crushed. The flavor is generally better if you toast it inn the oven; just drying will sometimes result in a somewhat stale flavor.
4. Pulse the bread in a blender or processor until evenly fine. You can also place the bread in a heavy plastic bag and use a cooking mallet or rolling pin to crush the crumbs evenly.
5. Once the crumbs are made, store tightly covered in a glass jar. Even when dried, these do become more stale so should be used within a week or so.
6. If you find that you don't have quite enough crumbs for this or another recipe calling for bread crumbs, you can add crushed Rice Krispies or even crumbled saltines in a pinch.

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So now you have the crusts. What are some quick fillings that will be quick to make and won't heat up the kitchen?

Any flavor ice cream--soften just enough to spread evenly over the crusts. You can then add whatever trims you might put on an ice cream sundae--chocolate syrup, chocolate chips, chopped nuts, maraschino cherries, etc.

Instant pudding, any flavor--again, you can dress this up with toppings, or you can slice some bananas into the crust before pouring in some vanilla pudding for a quick banana creme pie.

Fruit filling--For blueberry, peach, or raspberry fillings, you can check out these earlier posts:

http://frugalfastfun.blogspot.com/2009/08/surprise-pies-using-microwave.html

http://frugalfastfun.blogspot.com/2010/08/more-summer-birthday-pies.html



For a very patriotic dessert, why not make one blueberry pie, one raspberry pie, and then serve the pies with whipped topping or ice cream? Red, white, and blue at its best!




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