If they’re not already, animal crackers should be in your pie crust arsenal.
They’re one of our favorite crumb crust ingredients for two important reasons: their not-too-sweet flavor and their structurally sound texture.
In the flavor category, animal crackers’ mild vanilla sweetness won’t overshadow a pie’s filling. It pairs particularly well with citrus ingredients such as lemon and sour orange, and it’s perfectly comfortable being the supporting player and not the main character.
But texture is just as important. Animal crackers contain about 39 percent fat and sugar, so they produce sturdy, even crusts that won’t slump.
This percentage of fat and sugar makes them versatile, too. It’s similar to that of graham crackers, so we found that animal crackers are the best substitute for graham crackers in crumb crusts. When we tested using gingersnaps, Lorna Doones, and Nilla Wafers in place of graham crackers, the crusts slid down the sides of the pie plate—the result of their higher fat and sugar content.
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Ready to taste animal crackers in action? Here is a list of our favorite ways to use animal crackers in a pie crust:
For Cream Pies
For the lightest flavors, use a less intrusive pie crust and sweeten as needed.
Coconut Cream Pie with Animal Cracker CrustFor our coconut cream pie, we wanted to get honest coconut flavor by using both coconut milk and shredded coconut.
For a Welcome Contrast
An animal cracker crust provided a sweet, crunchy contrast to the creamy, tangy sour orange filling in this unique pie.
Sour Orange PieMaking sour orange pie without sour oranges required a bit of imagination and a lot of moxie.
For Ice Cream Cakes
Imagine an ice cream sandwich where the cookies stay crunchy.
Frozen Lemonade CakeFor a refreshing, all-American summer dessert, we start with an animal-cracker crust and layer on lemonade-flavored ice cream and sweet-tart lemon curd.
For an Unforgettable Texture
Here, animal crackers are pulsed with sugar and used to dust the work surface before rolling out the pie dough. Then the remaining mixture tops the pie crust before baking.
Apple Slab PieBig enough to feed 20 people, traditional apple slab pie is a two-crusted affair filled with spiced apples, and baked on a baking sheet. Short in stature, the filling is thickened to ensure neat slicing, and it's topped with a sugary glaze.
The Perfect PieBake beautiful, foolproof versions of the corner bakery classics and French patisserie favorites—plus a host of whimsical, modern pies and tarts of all kinds with sky-high meringue pies, uniquely flavored fruit pies with intricate lattice-woven tops, and lush elegant tarts.
For Rich Cheesecakes
Here, animal crackers are used to make a crust thick enough to stand up to all that tangy cheesecake filling.