Most pies are described by their filling, but in this case the dominant flavor is the graham cracker crust, lightly scented with cinnamon.
A good old-fashioned pie for March, when in most places we still don’t have a lot of fresh fruit.
Graham Cracker Pie is a “homey” pie—nothing fancy, but a nice blend of flavors and textures: the crunch of the graham cracker, the creamy vanilla filling, and the light meringue top.
I remember my mother making this pie—I’m not sure where she got the recipe, but there’s a good chance it came from Aunt Alice.
Although for most graham cracker crusts I prefer not to use sugar, since the crust is so dominant in this pie I think the sugar is good. And the cinnamon adds a wonderful touch (and makes the kitchen smell great). I’m not sure what the teaspoon of flour adds, but I put it in since my mom did!
1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 10-12 whole crackers)
1 tsp flour
4 TB melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 TB cornstarch
2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
3 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
4 TB sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Prepare graham cracker crumbs by food processor or hand (see Tips from Jane, below). Add sugar and melted butter and combine. This will require a few pulses in the food processor or a few seconds mixing by hand in a bowl.
Reserve about 1/2 cup of crumbs for sprinkling on top of pie.
Press the remaining crumbs into a 9-inch pie pan, spreading them evenly over the bottom and sides.
Bake for about 8-10 minutes.
Lower oven temperature to 325°F.
Mix sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.
Beat egg yolks in a kettle, and then add the sugar/cornstarch and stir well. Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly. Heat over medium burner until it is thick and boiling; this will take about 5-10 minutes. Add the vanilla and pour into prepared pie shell. Cover filling with plastic wrap while you prepare the meringue.
Beat egg whites until frothy, then add the cream of tartar, beating until soft peaks begin to form. Gradually add the sugar and beat until the meringue forms stiff peaks. If you lift some with a spoon or spatula, it should form a peak that stands up. The meringue will also look shiny. Beat in the vanilla.
Remove the plastic wrap from the pie and spread the meringue over the hot filling. Start by spreading it around the edges, being sure to seal the edges. Sprinkle the top with the reserved graham cracker crumbs.
Bake at 325°F until lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
Tips from Jane
• Prepare graham cracker crumbs by one of two methods:
– Coarsely break crackers and place in the food processor. Process with metal blade until finely pulverized
– Place crackers in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin
• You can buy crushed graham cracker crumbs. I have to admit I was surprised to see them for sale, since it really doesn’t take much to make them. But if you prefer, buy a box and see if it makes life easier!
• You can also buy pre-made graham cracker crusts. They tend to be more solid than home made ones and hold their shape better, but they also tend to be higher in fat and include preservatives. The advantage is that you can buy some and keep them in the cupboard for when you need a pie in a hurry. If you buy for this recipe, you’ll still need some crumbs for the topping.
• This meringue recipe is a little simpler than the meringue I recommend for Lemon Meringue Pie or Grapefruit Meringue Pie. Since the meringue is topped with crumbs on this pie, it is not as visible and doesn’t require the extra work of adding cornstarch to stabilize the egg whites. If you prefer, however, you may use the Pie-Top Meringue recipe.
• Want to be a little more daring? Try my Chocolate Graham Cracker Pie Crust or the pies made with it: Chocolate Meringue Pie and Dark Chocolate Meringue Pie.