How to use up your holiday cookie surplus by baking a pie
At Grist, we are always writing about recycling the things in your kitchen you don’t want to eat — plastic bags, aluminum foil, jars with that last pesky bit of almond butter in the corner. But what about things you do like to eat, but have already had (more than) enough of? Like holiday cookies.
Last week, in an interview with EPA food-waste-reduction expert Ashley Zanolli about how to put the whole seasonal bounty in tummies not landfills, I asked her if there are better ways to avoid wasting abundant sweet treats than via pure gluttony. One of Zanolli’s suggestions caught my attention: “With sugar cookies, for example, you can actually throw them in the food processor and make a really quick pie crust.”
I was intrigued. Not only is this a flavorful way to sidestep food waste, cookie-crumb pie crusts also add pleasing texture, especially for smooth fillings like pumpkin or cream. Plus, that texture will keep well, fighting off sogginess for longer than a typical butter crust, according to Craftsy’s super-helpful “How to Make a Cookie Crumb Pie Crust” guide, which has the answers to all your questions about recipes, variations, and how finely to crumb your cookies.
Generally, I am a cooker, not a baker, because following recipes is scary. And because when I make sweets, I eat them all immediately … if I didn’t already snarf up all the dough before it made it to the oven. But my family was going to make a Christmas pie anyway, so this cookie-crumb crust project seemed like a good way to have fewer cookies lying around.
So, I embarked on my first-ever adventure in pie crust. Soon after, I’d taken my first-ever photograph of food I’d prepared. It’s hard to capture just how insanely yummy it turned out. (Said every food writer, ever.)
Here’s what I used for my crust:
- sugar cookies
- mexican wedding cookies (or russian tea cakes, or whatever you call them)
- graham crackers
- flax seeds
I started with just the cookies, but ran out before I had enough matter to make an entire pie crust. That led me to throw a lot of pecans in the mix, a delicious match for the apple-pecan pie that eventually filled it. If you, too, don’t have on hand boatloads of cookies, you can use pretty much any nutty, sugary, grainy, or fatty ingredient in your crust concoction.
After transferring my crumby crust mix into a bowl, I stirred in about half a stick worth of melted butter. (You might not need this much if you’re using very buttery cookies, like shortbread, so add it gradually.)
This wasn’t quite enough to make all my ingredients stick together, so I poured in a drizzle of maple syrup, which made the mixture clump nicely and paired sweetly with the pecans.
Then I pressed the crust into my pie pan and tried to crimp the edge to make it look pretty.
Caveat: Pre-baking the crust led to some nasty-looking char this time around, but I later learned you can avoid this by covering the crust in foil after it’s lightly browned. Luckily my family ate it all anyway; we’re into that sort of thing.