Thursday, June 9, 2011

Strawberry Jell-O Salad

Have you ever heard of strawberry jell-o salad before? I hadn't until I started blogging, but man, people really like strawberry jell-o salad! It is raved about on blogs, it's crazy. Well, I thought since it was so popular there must be something great about it then, right? 


It is sooo good! And I'm not even a big jell-o fan. I really don't like jell-o. I like this salad though. The different textures and the salty-sweet combo are amazing. 

Does the pretzel crust sound weird to you? It sounded SO weird to me! It's not though. The sugar and butter caramelize the crust in the most deliciously salty-sweet way. Sooooo goooood!

Be careful when you assemble it though. You don't want to screw up and have to make it twice like me.... so! I will warn you against two things:

1. Make sure to spread the cream cheese filling all the way against the edge of the pan to safeguard against the jell-o getting to the pretzel crust and making it soggy.

2. Make sure that the jell-o is partially set and that you are not just going by the time reference the recipe gives you. You don't want the jell-o to be too liquidy. 

Strawberry Jell-O Salad
adapted from "Baked: Explorations" by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Print Recipe

Jell-O Layer
1 (6 oz) pkg strawberry jell-o 
2 cups fresh strawberries (14 oz), sliced

Pretzel Crust
8 oz salty pretzels (about 4 cups)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
2 Tb firmly packed dark brown sugar

Cream Cheese Layer
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream

Prepare the Jell-O according to the package instructions. Add the sliced strawberries and refrigerate until it is partially set (this takes about 1 hour or more 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. 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9x13" baking pan, or spray it with nonstick spray.

In a food processor, pulse the pretzels into coarse crumbs. Do not over process into a powder- if anything err on the side of having a few chunkier pretzel pieces. Alternatively, crush the pretzels with the bottom of a metal baking cup.

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 or the back of a large spoon to press the mixture into the bottom of the pan, but do not press it up the sides. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then set it aside to cool completely.

Put the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until well combined.

In a clean bowl, whip the cream, either by hand or using the standing mixer with the whip attachment, until soft peaks form. Use a rubber spatula to fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.

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 2 hours or more to set before serving. 

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

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