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If you've ever thrown away a batch of rock hard, over baked cookies, know that they can be salvaged. Maybe not always in the form of cookies but who would turn down layers of cookies, cream cheese frosting, fruit, caramel, and more cookie crumbs? I sure wouldn't. Unless of course those layers of goodness included gluten and dairy. None of that here so lets continue!
Ever since I started this blog back in 2014, I've been trying to make a sunbutter cookie recipe. It's not that I can't make one, but I've been looking for a very specific taste and texture that I miss. I've been making attempts on and off but the past few months, I've probably experimented with ten or more batches. To make things cheaper, I've switched to using peanut butter until I get the texture right. I've never included peanuts on my blog since so many people are allergic and it's such an easy swap but I can eat them no problem.
To make a long story short, in my efforts to make the cookies a little crispier, I ended up with a pretty large batch of peanut butter cookies that were over baked and not just crunchy but too hard to eat. I had an initial idea to repurpose them but it didn't work out. My second idea was to crush them and make them into a graham cracker style crust for a dessert.
So yes, this has a graham cracker style crust and yes, it's served in a pie pan. Yes, I called it a pizza instead of a pie. Let me explain.
This is a fruit pizza. It has a cookie crust with a cream cheese based frosting and fresh fruit on top. It doesn't get baked after it's assembled. The recipe is based off of a Pampered Chef recipe my mom told me about that uses a more traditional crust you'd find on a fruit pizza where you freshly bake a large sugar cookie. I wanted to make my over baked cookies into a graham cracker style crust so they didn't go to waste and she suggested taffy apple pizza and told me how she made hers.
I almost renamed the recipe "taffy apple pie" but I didn't want to be misleading in how it tastes. To me, that sounds like a traditional apple pie with caramel baked in which isn't even close. It definitely tastes like a fall version of a fruit pizza.
So it's settled then, right? This is a fruit pizza, not a pie. You can also swap out the pie pan for a springform pan if you prefer yours less pie-like 😉
Swapping out the serving dish doesn't really have much impact but you can really get creative with the types of cookies you use. I used peanut butter but sunbutter cookies have a very similar flavor if you're allergic to peanuts. Other flavors I think would be good include gingersnap, chocolate, snickerdoodle, shortbread, and sugar cookies but I think the stronger, less neutral flavors (peanut, sunbutter, gingersnap, snickerdoodle,...) are better in this recipe.
The cookies wouldn't have to be completely inedibly hard to work in this crust either. And if you don't have any but want to make the recipe anyways, know that I intentionally over baked another batch while experimenting with my "save the cookies" recipes and fully support you doing the same.
If you don't want to make a batch of cookies just to turn around and make another recipe, there's no reason you couldn't use store bought cookies. Enjoy Life makes some really good crunchy cookies in a few different flavors and they're pretty allergy-friendly.
With there being so many different options for the cookie crust, I think there will be lots of variation in what you guys end up making. I'd be curious to know how you decide to make yours. Let me know in the comments!
Salvage your rock hard, over baked cookies by using them in the crust of this taffy apple pizza. This easy fruit pizza is gluten free and dairy free.
- approximately 8 extra crunchy gluten free/dairy free cookies (need 1 ½ C after crumbling plus about a half a cookie's worth of larger crumbles for topping) *see notes
- ¼ C + 2 tablespoon coconut oil or dairy free butter, melted
- 8 oz Daiya plain cream cheeze style spread
- ¼ C brown sugar
- ¼ C unsweetened, unsalted Sunbutter (or peanut butter if tolerated)
- ½ teaspoon gluten free vanilla extract
- 2 oz (9-10 pieces) Cocomels in original or salted caramel flavor *see notes
- ¼ C sweetened condensed coconut milk, store bought or homemade
- 1-2 granny smith apples (I used one very large apple)
- juice from ½ lemon
- Crush the cookies into a fine crumb using either a food processor or by placing them in a sealed gallon freezer bag then crushing them with a rolling pin. Reserve a handful or two of larger crumbs to garnish the finished dessert.
- Measure out 1 ½ C of the fine cookie crumbs and mix in ¼ C melted coconut oil or dairy free butter. Continue adding oil/butter a tablespoon at a time until the mixture has a slight hold when packed together (I used 2 additional tablespoons but the amount will vary due to your cookies moisture, oil content, etc.)
- Press the cookie crumb mixture into the bottom of a 9 inch pie pan or springform pan. Do not go up the sides of the pan like you would with a pie crust. Use a ramekin or flat bottomed cup to firmly and evenly pack down the crumbs. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator for 1-2 hours or until the crust is set (I find that coconut oil sets faster and more firmly than dairy free butter but either one should set in that time range).
- Meanwhile, you can set the dairy free cream cheese out on the counter to soften. Once it is completely softened, use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese with the sunbutter (or peanut butter if using), brown sugar, and vanilla extract. Spread this evenly over the cookie crust and place back in the refrigerator for the time being so the crust stays firm.
- In a small saucepan, combine the dairy free caramels with the sweetened condensed coconut milk. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often until completely melted.
- While the caramel sauce cooks, remember to stir often but you can start cutting apples, see notes.
- Give the cut apple pieces a little squeeze of lemon (careful, they orbisculate! 😉) to prevent browning then toss to coat. Place the apple pieces on top of the cream cheese layer. Drizzle on however much caramel sauce you'd like then sprinkle the finished product with the larger cookie crumbs you reserved.
- Slice and serve. Store any uneaten portions in the refrigerator.
You can use either store bought or homemade cookies for this, just make sure they are very crispy. I used some peanut butter cookies that I accidentally over baked. You can also use your favorite flavor of cookie but some may be better than others for this recipe. I'd recommend sunbutter (or peanut butter if you aren't allergic), gingersnap, chocolate, snickerdoodle, shortbread, or sugar cookies.
Cutting apples: There are two different ways you can cut the apples. Dicing them small will make the fruit pizza easiest to cut and eat. If you like the look of slices and want to do a pattern, cut as thinly as possible so the servings keep their shape when cut instead of falling apart.
Note that Cocomels are currently made on shared equipment with dairy, peanut, tree nut, and soy protein. You can read their allergy statement on their product page. If you react to traces of these allergens, you might try replacing the caramels with this recipe for top 8 free caramels. I haven’t tested this but I believe it will work just fine.
Feel free to substitute the gluten free and dairy free ingredients with equal amounts of their traditional counterparts if you can eat them.