Strawberry Pretzel “Salad”

We first learned about this odd sounding recipe on Cook’s Country. I suppose someone might enjoy it as a first course however in our home this fits firmly in the dessert category. While a 24 hours recipe might seem daunting there is a lot of downtime between steps and a most of that time can be a long overnight rest in the refrigerator. I think active time is around a hour, spread across maybe 2 hours.

I’ll repeat this hint at least twice more, thaw the strawberries in the refrigerator the night before you want to make the recipe. Maybe you need 48 hours before you start. Trust me, the end product is worth the wait.

This is a fine make ahead recipe. You could make this up to 3 days in advance and the pretzel base will remain fairly crisp.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad
Servings: 8-10
Active time: 1 hour
Total time: 7 hours minimum (24 hours would be better)

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs. frozen strawberries, thawed
  • 12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 6 1/2 oz. pretzel sticks
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 8 oz. room temperature cream cheese
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 lbs. frozen strawberries, thawed
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin (see note)
  • 1/2 cup cold water

Directions:

  1. Take your strawberries out of the freezer, stick the unopened bag in a bowl and slip them into the refrigerator over an overnight thaw.
  2. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Spray 13 by 9-inch baking pan with vegetable oil spray. Take the strawberries and cream cheese out of the fridge so they can come to room temperature.
  3. At any point forward you can slice up 1 pound of the strawberries and set them aside. You’ll need them in step 9.
  4. Melt the butter by your preferred method (see note) and set aside to cool while you complete the next step.
  5. Place the pretzels and 1/4 cup of sugar in your food processor and pulse 15-20 times until you have coarse pretzel crumbs. Pour in the slightly cooled butter and pulse another 8-10 times to incorporate it. Transfer pretzel mixture to the prepared pan and use the bottom of measuring cup to press crumbs into bottom of pan. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Transfer crust to a cooling rack and allow it to rest for at least 20 minutes.
  6. Beat the cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar with a stand mixer on medium for about 2 minutes. Slowly add the heavy cream and, once incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high for 1 minute. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the cooled pretzel crust, cover with plastic wrap and then refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Next up we finally get to those thawed strawberries. Place 2 pounds of the strawberries, plus any juice that came out during thawing, into the bowl of the food processor. Process until pureed smoother, 30-45 seconds. Transfer the pureed strawberries into a fine strainer set over a medium saucepan. Use the bottom of a ladle to gently push the puree thorugh the strainer, leaving behind the seeds.
  8. Stir in the remaining sugar, and the salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until bubbles begin to appear around the side of the pan, about 5 minutes. Note, the sugar should be completely dissolved. Remove pan from heat and set aside to cool briefly.
  9. Add the water to a large bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let sit for about 5 minutes to allow the gelatin to soften. Whisk the strawberry puree into the gelatin and add the sliced strawberries. Refrigerate for 45 minutes to an hour until the gelatin thickens slightly; it should start to cling to the side of the bowl.
  10. Carefully pour the strawberry gelatin over the cream cheese layer. Recover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the “salad” is fully set-up. That’s at least 6 hours; a 20+ hour rest couldn’t hurt.

Notes:
The original recipe I worked from called for 4 1/2 teaspoons of unflavored gelatin. In my experience that is what is found in 1 envelope of the name-brand unflavored gelatin that I see in most megamarts. You might want to check the first time you make this recipe.

Final Reminder – you’ll be much happier if you thaw the strawberries overnight prior to making this dish.

Advertisements

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Squares

I first made these in 2013 for a brunch buffet. I made them Friday morning, traveled ~250 miles for a family event and enjoyed them on Sunday late morning. They held up incredibly well in transit and tasted freshly made against the assortment of sweets that were available. On some level they satisfy that mix of sugar, salt and fat that many of us crave.

This recipe is based off of one I first found in the King Arthur Flour Blog, flourish.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel squares
Servings: 20 pieces
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 1.5 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup ground pretzels (about 6 oz. of stick pretzels)
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pretzel pieces (about 2 oz of stick pretzels)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Make a sling with parchment paper in the bottom of a 9″x13″ metal baking pan. Spray the open sides with baking spray.
  2. For the crust combine the flour, ground pretzels and powdered sugar in a bowl. Add the melted butter to the dry ingredients and combine to make a stiff, somewhat sandy, dough.
  3. Transfer the dough into the prepared baking pan and press it into an even layer. Use the back of dry measuring cup to press the dough into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool while making the filling.
  4. Combine the chocolate and peanut butter in a microwave safe vessel (I use a large glass measuring cup). Microwave for 4 minutes at 40% power, stirring after each minute. Continue microwaving at low power until the mixture is smooth and the peanut butter is fully integrated.
  5. Pour chocolate mixture over the crust and spread to the edges. Top with the chopped pretzel bits, pressing them into the chocolate to ensure adhesion.
  6. Transfer to the freezer for 45-60 minutes to set the topping. Use the parchment to remove the bars from the pan. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into 20 pieces.

Notes:
To make the ground pretzels I placed 6 oz. of stick pretzels in the bowl of the food processor and let it spin for about 2 minutes. I then sifted the ground pretzels to remove the larger pieces that remained.