11/04/2011 02:45 pm ET Updated Aug 31, 2012

How To Make A Graham Cracker Crust

It's simple to make a tasty graham cracker crust at home, says chef Dianne Rossomando of The Culinary Institute of America. To begin, mix together 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs with 1 cup of brown sugar in a mixing bowl, then add 10 ounces of melted butter, little by little, until the mixture looks like wet sand. (If you wanted to make the crust low-fat, you could substitute egg whites for the butter.) Place about 3 tablespoons of the mixture into a small tart shell, pressing the crust along the bottom and up the side of the shell (the goal is to get the crust to make a 90 degree angle; you don't want sloped sides). Once the shells have been assembled, just place them on a sheet pan and bake them at 325F for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crust is dark golden. When the crusts have cooled, chef Rossomando fills them with pastry cream and tops them with fresh berries, though you can be creative and fill them with anything from chocolate ganache to whipped cream.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Chef Rossomando from the Culinary Institute of America, and today I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to prepare a cookie crust.

Today we're going to make a cookie crust. We're going to use graham cracker crumbs; you can also use chocolate wafers. We have about two cups of graham cracker crumbs, a cup of packed brown sugar, and ten ounces of melted butter. I'll start off by adding my brown sugar into my graham cracker crumb and just combining the two dry ingredients - just fold them over, you're looking for the brown sugar to incorporate into the dry graham cracker crumb. Then I'm going to moisten the graham cracker crumb with the melted butter, just a little bit at a time - you don't want to pour it in all at once. I'm going to toss that around until the graham cracker crumb gets absorbed with the melted butter. If you wanted to do a low-fat version of this, you could use egg white instead of the melted butter. Please remember that both of these must be baked off to set the shell.

Our last small amount of butter is getting added in, and the result is basically the consistency of wet sand, I would say. Then we're going to take a small portion of it and line our teflon-coated tart shells. You could also spray the pan to help with easier removal. I'm going to portion out - for this case, for this shell, which is roughly a four-ounce shell - about three tablespoons of my mixture. We'll just press it into place. You get all the graham cracker crumb going up the walls at a really nice 90-degree angle. You want to make sure it's straight, so you don't have these sloped walls. You could also use another tart shell to help you press it in place, to really sandwich it in and make it really secure. This other one's a fluted edge, which just gives you a finished edge. The wetter the mixture, the easier it is for you to get it into the pan. Don't be worried if you see pools of butter; it'll toast off nicely. I'm going to take the shells and put them on a sheet pan, just for easy removal. We'll bake these off at 325 degrees, in a regular oven, for about fifteen to twenty minutes.

Now we can see that our tart shells are done. We're looking for a really golden-brown edge, and if you were to touch the center you feel some resistance; it wouldn't be completely soft. We'll let them sit for about five to ten minutes and let them cool, then we'll fill them.

Now our tart shells have cooled, so I'm going to remove my sheet pan and we have our tarts. All you have to do basically is invert them and flip them out, place them on the surface where you're going to fill them. I'll fill them with a pastry cream. I have a star tip on the end of the bag, but you could use a straight tip. I'll just do a couple of rosettes around the circle, and the same on the inside just to fill the shell, with a nice finished edge. For the smaller tart shell, a slightly different variation, which is a piped shell shape. You could fill this tart shell with basically anything: whipped cream, chocolate ganache, fresh fruit - it's a great vessel for any kind of filling.

In this case we'll finish it off with some raspberries, so you can just finish the perimeter and show the interior. That's one way of finishing it. And the other would be maybe more of a rustic finish, where you can just throw the berries on without any method to your madness. There you have your finished tart shells, with a super-easy graham cracker crust - three ingredients, you can just whip it together.