Sunday, May 6, 2012

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

I have been overrun by strawberries this weekend.  I bought two gallons of local berries from a fundraiser at the school where I teach, and my in-laws gave us two more gallons from a farm near their house.  I froze two gallons for fruit leather, desserts, and other uses throughout the year.  I put the rest in the fridge, and we have enjoyed them over the weekend by themselves and in this simple dessert.  I know, it is called "salad" and I'm not sure why except that it resembles congealed salads from previous eras.  It is wonderful, though, as it is the perfect combination of salty and sweet. 

It is a basic layered dessert starting with a crust made of crushed, salted pretzels mixed with butter and a little brown sugar.  The crust is baked, and then a mixture of cream cheese, sugar, and whipped topping is spread evenly over the pretzels.  The top layer is made of fresh sliced strawberries and strawberry jello.  Sweet, creamy, salty, and tart all in one dessert.  You can't go wrong.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad-  makes one 9 x 13 pan

2 1/2 cups crushed salted pretzels
1 cup butter, melted
3 tbsp brown sugar
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tub (8 oz) whipped topping, thawed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lb sliced strawberries
6 oz box strawberry jello (made with 3 cups water rather than 4)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix the first three ingredients in a bowl until the pretzels are moistened.  Spread the pretzel mixture into a 9 x 13 pan.  Bake the crust 15 minutes until lightly toasted and set.  Set aside to cool while making the remaining layers.  

Boil 2 cups water.  Mix the boiling water with the jello powder for 2 minutes. Add one cup cold water and mix.  Chill for 1-2 hours until the jello is partially set.  

In the meantime, mix the cream cheese, granulated sugar, and vanilla until smooth.  Fold in the whipped topping until incorporated completely.  Spread the cream cheese layer on top of the cooled pretzel crust and chill until the jello layer is ready.  

Once the jello is partially set, layer the sliced strawberries on top of the cream cheese layer.  Spoon and spread the jello over the strawberries in an even layer.  Chill at least 1 additional hour (more if time permits) to allow the jello to set completely.  

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