Best Ever Strawberry Pretzel Salad

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Strawberries, Strawberries oh how I love them!  There is just something so special about fresh picked strawberries.  Biting into a fresh picked strawberry right off the vine with its juicy ripe center that runs down your face and hands. Oh so good and it just makes my day so complete!

I know that summer is right around the corner when I round the corner at Ten-Ten Road and see strawberries on the vines at Porter’s Strawberry Farm.  From the minute the white blooms pop out on the vines, me and the grandbabies start counting down the days until the strawberry patch opens so we can get to picking.  This year was no exception.  The strawberry patch had been opened about a week when I made a date with the grandbabies to pick strawberries.  It was a Friday afternoon when things were slowing down a little that we jumped in the car (all five of them) (well six grandbabies now but one is only 6 weeks old so we made plans with her to go next year) and we headed to the strawberry patch.

Once we pulled into the parking lot and purchased our buckets the competition began.  What is it about boys that everything turns into a competition?  And so, it began – who could find the biggest strawberry.  I tried to remind them several times that the biggest strawberries are not always the best tasting to no avail.  The boys were jumping over rows and digging between the plants to find the biggest berries while my granddaughter, Mia, and I were taking our time to find that perfect berry.  

I mean let’s be honest, picking berries comes second to consuming them.  The boys immediately began shoving berries into their mouths while running up and down the rows.  I told them that we should have weighed their bodies before they started because I am sure they consumed their body weight in strawberries. I know – we did not wash them first.  I know they probably had a little dirt on them but you have to remember I grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s when we made mud pies and tasted them for good measure.  

After an hour or so of picking and after having five really full buckets, we set off to pay for our berries and to purchase strawberry ice cream cones to celebrate all the beautiful strawberries.  On our way home, my granddaughter, Mia, mentioned we had to make “that strawberry pretzel” dessert.  Which resulted in a unanimous vote among them all that Strawberry Pretzel Salad was their favorite dessert.  Strawberry Pretzel Salad is a yummy dessert which has a sweet and salty pretzel crust, cream cheese middle, and a strawberry layer on top (either glaze or Jell-O). And to my family it is Perfection!

Once we were home (and the berries were washed finally), we set off to make our strawberry pretzel salad.  First, let me tell you there is no salad in this dessert.  It is really like a strawberry cheesecake with pretzel crust.  Oh, so yummy and one of my daughters, Holly and Amanda, favorite desserts.  As soon as we pick the berries, the requests start coming in for this dessert.  

The traditional strawberry pretzel salad recipe calls for Jell-O  Unfortunately, I do not like Jell-O.  This would be because when I was a child my brother, Chris, would put Jell-O in his mouth and shot it out between his two front teeth totally grossing me out. This resulted in my disdain for Jell-O (sorry Jell-0 lovers).  For my version of this recipe, I make a strawberry glaze for the top layer of this dessert.  But out of respect for all the Jell-O lovers among us, I am including both options, the Jell-O option and the glaze option.  

After a crazy couple of hours of trying to make the dessert with three of my grandchildren and three of the neighbor kids and the dog in the mix, we were finally able to sit down and enjoy our pretzel salad.  I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does.  Also, I hope you can get out and pick your own strawberries, eat them right off the vine, let the juices flow down your arms and think about all the beautiful memories you are making with your family and friends.  

Best Ever Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Recipe by Cooking with Aunt PamCourse: Dessert, PiesCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Easy
Servings

12

servings
Prep time

30

minutes
Cooking time

10

minutes

Need to bring a dish this weekend to your potluck or cookout? This make-ahead strawberry pretzel salad will disappear so quickly at your next cookout, you may want to double the recipe.

Ingredients

  • Pretzel Crust (Bottom Layer)
  • 2 1/2 cups salted pretzels (measured before crushing)

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • Cream Cheese Cheesecake (Middle Layer)
  • 8 ounce cream cheese (softened)

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 8 ounce cool whip thawed in the fridge (I use extra creamy)

  • Strawberry Topping (Jell-O Option)
  • 1 pound fresh strawberries hulled and sliced

  • 1 6 ounce box of strawberry Jell-O

  • 2 cups boiling water

  • Strawberry Topping (Strawberry Glaze Option)
  • 1 pound frozen strawberries (I try to freeze fresh in the summer)

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 2 tablespoons water

  • 1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1 pound of fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced

Directions

  • Pretzel Crust
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Crush 2 1/2 cups pretzels in a sturdy Ziploc bag, using a rolling pin.
  • In a medium sauce pan melt 8 tablespoons butter then add 1/4 cup of sugar and stir. Mix in crushed pretzels. Transfer to a 13×9 glass casserole dish. Press the pretzel mix evenly over the bottom of the dish. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.
  • Cream Cheese Mixture
  • Use an electric mixer to beat 8 ounce cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar on medium high speed until fluffy and white. Fold in 8 ounces of cream cheese until no streaks of cream cheese remain. Spread mixture over cooled pretzel crust. Make sure to spread the edges of the dish to create a seal. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Jell-O Topping Option
  • Combine strawberry Jell-O with 2 cups of water. Stir until completely dissolved. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  • Hull and slice 1 pound of strawberries then stir into the room temperature Jell-O. Pour and spread strawberry Jell-O mixture evenly over cooled cream cheese layer. Refrigerate until Jell-O is set (3 to 4 hours). Enjoy!
  • Strawberry Glaze Option
  • Cook 1 pound of frozen strawberries in a large pan over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently until thick and jam like, about 20 minutes.
  • Combine lemon juice, water and gelatin in a small bowl. Let stand until gelatin is softened and mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir gelatin mixture and sugar into cooked berry mixture and return to simmer, for about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl and cool to room temperature.
  • Stir 1 pound of fresh hulled and sliced strawberries into room temperature glaze.
  • Pour and spread strawberry glaze mixture evenly over cooled cream cheese layer. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Strawberry pretzel salad is best when made at least half a day in advance (making it a great dessert or potluck dish). It needs a minimum of four hours to set up, or preferably longer.
  • You can use frozen strawberries if you can’t find fresh (defrost and drain first).

 

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