Photo: Kevin Pang

I, privileged Yankee pie consumer, had previously been unaware of the many pleasures of the saltine cracker pie crust. I had thought the pinnacle of pie crusts—let’s face it, the best part of any pie—involved graham cracker or flour and shortening. But it wasn’t until I encountered this recipe for Atlantic Beach tart, a lemon pie popular on the North Carolina coast, that my pastry worldview turned from black and white to Technicolor.

Many pastry chefs will tell you perhaps the most essential ingredients in desserts is salt. We tend to view adding salt as a means to increasing saltiness, when salt’s role is more to counterbalance and reinforce existing flavors (try adding a pinch of salt to watermelon or a strawberry sometime).

With saltine crackers—combined with corn syrup, butter plus an additional pinch of salt—the pie crust it produces is buttery and crumbly and plays exceptionally well against any sweet and tart filling. I would consider this to be in the category of “genius recipes,” a dead-simple crust for dessert pies I’ll likely use exclusively here on out.

Photo: Kevin Pang

Saltine cracker pie crust

48 saltine crackers (about 1 sleeve)
1 stick of butter + 1/4 stick, melted (10 oz. total)
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/8 tsp. salt

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Dump saltine crackers along with 1/8 teaspoon salt into a food processor. You may have to break the pieces apart to fit it all in. Pulse 15 times. Add melted butter and corn syrup into the food processor, and pulse 15 more times. The crumbly pieces should be the size of uncooked oatmeal flakes.

Photo: Kevin Pang

Dump this crumbly mixture into a 9-inch pie plate and spread evenly. Using a straight-sided 1-cup measuring cup, press the mixture firmly into the pan and up the sides. Use your other hand to make sure it doesn’t fall off the edge. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in a 350 degree oven until lightly golden. You now have a par-baked saltine pie crust, which you can freeze or bake with filling.

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Photo: Kevin Pang

May we suggest making the North Carolina Atlanta Beach tart? It uses condensed milk and lemon juice for its filling and is incredibly simple to make. The sweetness, tartness, and touch of saltiness balance is spot-on, plus it’s a crowd-pleaser. This recipe originally came from Cook’s Country magazine, and it’s permanently taped into our recipe book.