The allure of a homemade fruit pie is real: Just imagine a bubbling double-crusted blueberry number cooling by a breezy window. But the prospect of rolling dough on a steamy day can send even confident cooks packing. To turn out stellar pies showcasing summer’s ripest fruit — without heating up the kitchen — you want the ease of crumb crusts and chilled fillings.
Just about anything you can crush into crumbs, you can use for a no-roll crust. Graham crackers are an obvious choice, but other crumbly cookies, salty crackers and even not-too-sugary cereals can build a tender, cookielike foundation strong enough to hold rich, creamy fillings. You can mix and match crusts and fillings with no limit but your imagination.
There are a few keys to producing an ideal crust. Make sure crumbs are blitzed into a uniform sandy powder before adding sugar and butter. A flat-bottomed measuring cup, preferably one with a fairly squared-off edge, works best for pressing the crumbs into an even layer. Your hands are fine tools, but a cup helps create a more structurally sound shell. Start by compacting the sides first — it’s easier to knock edge crumbs back into the bottom than it is to work excess bits up the side of a buttery dish. Use your free hand to prevent the crumbs from spilling over the edge. Then, press the remaining crumbs firmly across the bottom of the plate, paying special attention to the corners where gaps can go unnoticed.
When it’s time to bake, place the pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet so it’s easy to get in and out of the oven. Sometimes, a no-roll crust will puff or slump while baking, but that’s no big deal: Check it halfway through baking and, while the crust is still warm, use the same measuring cup or glass to gently press it back into place, then bake until set.
Once cool, fill as you like. The recipes below include a panna cotta-like custard, a honey-sweetened pudding and frozen yogurt swirled with berries. They all go into the fridge or freezer to chill so that you can do the same. For an even easier option, fill the cooled crusts with your favorite store-bought ice cream, letting it soften slightly before smoothing and freezing again. Top any of the options with piles of sliced stone fruit or sweet summer berries, and you’ve turned a humble cream pie into a real showstopper.
These desserts are a win for pie lovers everywhere, especially come late summer when most of us would rather be outside. With results so good and reliable, they are exactly what sunny days call for: a light lift for a much sweeter season.