Change Up Regular Pie Crust By Using Your Favorite Stale Bread

Perhaps you baked more bread than you needed, or your eyes were bigger than your stomach when you went shopping at your local bakery. For whatever reason, you have an artisan loaf of bread starting to go stale, but you'd hate to throw it away. Sure, you could turn the loaf into crunchy croutons for your next Caesar salad, but is there a way to take your stale bread in a different direction? Enter the pie crumb crust, a pastry base that doesn't discriminate between cookies, crackers, or breadcrumbs for its edible mortar.

Blitzed into breadcrumbs and combined with a bit of seasoning and butter, your leftover bread will work as a press-in crust just as well as the usual suspects. Not only is this a perfectly creative way to reduce your food waste, but it's also a great way to bring a boost of flavor to your favorite pies. Breadcrumb crusts can introduce nuanced aromas to standard formulas, like a sourdough bite to lemon meringue pie, or a nutty bran taste to a jammy strawberry pie. Or you can watch how it provides savory goodness to your dinner pies, like a classic chicken pot pie with a seeded rye breadcrumb crust. The very best part? This crumbly crust is quite simple to make.

Making a breadcrumb pie crust

To start, you need to transform your loaf into proper breadcrumbs. This can be done with either a food processor (if the bread is still soft) or by hand (if the bread is extremely dry). Most cooks will toast small cubes of their bread before processing them into breadcrumbs, as this ensures that your breadcrumbs will be as crisp as possible. A general crumb crust will call for about 1-and-a-quarter to 1-and-a-half cups of breadcrumbs. You'll combine your breadcrumbs with a quarter cup of melted fat (butter, shortening, and tallow all work here) and seasoning. If you intend the crust to be sweet, toss in a few tablespoons of sugar. If you want it only to be savory, stick to adding just a bit of salt. Once pressed into your chosen pan, you'll par-bake it like other crumb crusts (10 to 12 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit).   

As for flavor combinations, let your tastebuds be your guide. A leftover cinnamon swirl loaf could be an excellent base for both a custardy pumpkin pie and a fruity apple pie. A hearty whole wheat boule could be quite nice with a chocolate hazelnut tart, doubling down on nutty flavor. And imagine what a rye or caraway seed bun-based crust would do for a salmon or chicken-packed pie. Whatever you choose, you'll be delightfully surprised at the crunchy and tasty results.