Some crushed-up graham crackers, lots of butter and some sugar is what it takes — along with some elbow grease — to make a crumb pie crust. Why is it, then, that my homemade versions are never quite the equal of those store-bought crusts?
Perhaps it's in the convenience of the aluminum pans in which they are packaged. Or, it could be the consistency — some of the homemade ones I've created and sampled are too crumbly.
Taster's Choice judges found five varieties of pre-made crumb pie crusts on grocery store shelves. All were 6-ounce crusts that did not require baking.
Their favorite was the inexpensive Great Value brand ($1.08 from Wal-Mart). Judges awarded the crust 81 of 100 possible points, far more than any of the others.
The Great Value crust was a soft, caramel color, with a buttery flavor. All four judges said they would buy the brand.
The winning crust was the sweetest, thickest and crunchiest of those in the competition.
"This would be great for a key lime pie," said one panelist.
Nabisco's crust ($1.89 from Sweetbay), made with the company's familiar Nilla Wafer crumbs, was the next choice. Judges gave it 58 points, and three of the four said they liked it enough to buy it.
The Nilla Wafer crust was thinner than the others, lighter in color and texture and more sugary.
Judges compared it to a sugar cookie, and one said she detected a cherry-vanilla flavor in the slice.
The Honey Maid crust ($1.89 from Sweetbay), the one we found at most of the stores we visited, scored third, with 57 points. Judges raved about the nutty flavor in the mix, and three said they would buy it.
"Delicious and crunchy," said one judge.
Panelists also sampled pre-made graham cracker crusts from Keebler ($1.29 from Sweetbay) and Hannaford (99 cents from Sweetbay).
Panelists were: Nan Jensen, registered dietitian with Pinellas County Cooperative Extension; Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620; Jim Yockey, aesthetician at Anu You Institute; and consumer and mother of four, Julie Overton. All foods were tasted blind.
Send suggestions for product tastings to Taste, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past columns, go to www.sptimes.com/food.