Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Strawberry Pretzel Jell-O Salad

Foodies will probably keep on moving when they see a Jell-O salad post.  Of course, if I need to find someone of that ilk, I need not look any further than a mirror.  Yes, that's right, I was formerly a Jell-O salad snob.  My apologies but everything I have tasted of this salad variety has usually been bland and those pre-packaged Jell-O salads from the grocery store are outright disgusting.  
My thoughts on this flavor combination have been turned on their head with this recipe.  A creamy, cream cheese filling with the salty pretzels and sugary sweet Jell-O balance each other quite well.  This is one of those desserts you need to make for a crowd.  If you don't, you will end up like me and eating half the pan yourself.  Yes, I really did that and still feeling the shame.

Strawberry Pretzel Jell-O Salad
Slightly adapted from "Baked Explorations", by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Yield:  About 15 Generous Servings

For the Jell-O Layer:
2 (3-ounce) packages Jell-O, 1 strawberry and 1 lime (or whatever flavors you want)
2 cups fresh strawberries (about 14 ounces) sliced

For the Pretzel Crust:
8 ounces salty pretzels (about 4 cups)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar

For the Cream Cheese Layer:
1 (8 ounce package) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream

1.  Prepare the Jell-O according to the package directions.  Add the sliced strawberries and refrigerate until it is partially set (this takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on the depth and type of vessel you use to chill the Jell-O).  Make the other parts of the recipe while you wait for the Jell-O to nearly set.
2.  Make the Crust - preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Spray the sides and bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
3.  In a food processor, pulse the pretzels until they are crumbly.
4.  In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.  Whisk in the brown sugar and remove from the heat.  Stir in the pretzel pieces until combined and turn the mixture out into the prepared pan.  Use your hands and a rubber spatula to press the pretzel mixture into the pan but not up the sides of the pan. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then set it aside to cool completely.
5.  Make the Cream Cheese Filling - put the cream creese and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium speed until well combined.
6.  In a clean bowl, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form.  Use a rubber spatula to fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.
7.  Assemble the Jell-O Salad - Spread the cream cheese mixture over the cooled crust.  Chill for 5 minutes in the refrigerator.  Pour the almost set Jell-O over the cream cheese layer to cover.  Refrigerate the dessert for about 2 hours or more to set before serving.

The Jell-O Salad can be stored, tightly covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days.

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