In the grand tradition of our favorite midwestern “salads,” Strawberry Pretzel Salad contains no lettuce. This one doesn’t even have vegetables.
Instead, a layer of vanilla-flecked cream is nestled between a thick slab of strawberry-studded gelatain and buttery, salty pretzels. Not too sweet, and not too salty, it has been served at every picnic in rural Illinois since the dawn of time. Unfortunately, the classic ingredient list is predictably dated. Whipped topping and neon-pink, artificially flavored gelatin “product” among them.
While we’d never fuck with perfection, we did think it was time to rethink this classic. We kept what worked (pretzel crusts forever), but swapped the hydrogenated whatevers for more pronounceable ingredients. The end result was a bit cloudier than what we were used to but so damn good, we can’t imagine going back to the old recipe.
- 2 cups Pretzels, crushed
- ¾ cup Butter, melted
- 2 tbsp Sugar– whatever’s on hand
- Preheat your oven to 375°. In a 8 x10 casserole dish, toss together the Pretzels, Butter, and Sugar. Press it into a flat, even layer across the bottom. Bake for 10 minutes to set the crust, and set aside to cool completely.
- 6 oz Mascarpone Cheese, room temperature
- 8 oz Cream Cheese, room temperature
- 4 tbsp Heavy Cream or Half and Half
- 1 Vanilla Bean, guts only – or 1 tbsp Vanilla Extract
- ¼ cup Powdered Sugar
- While the crust cools, whisk together the Mascarpone and Cream Cheese until thoroughly combined and a little fluffy. You can use an electric mixer, if that’s your thing. Fold in the Cream, Vanilla, and Powdered Sugar. Pour into the totally cooled crust and place in the freezer while you make the Strawberry Topping. Pouring the filling into a hot crust won’t, like, ruin Christmas– but it will make the crust get soggy quicker and make the middle, fluffy layer kind of flat and bleh.
- 2 pints Strawberries
- ½-¾ cup Sugar– you’ll want more if your berries are less sweet, more if they’re riper and juicier
- 2 tbsp Lemon Juice
- ¼ cup Water
- ½ oz Powdered, Plain Gelatin – Vegetarians, you can use 3 oz Carrageenan, but bring the mixture to a hard boil for 10 minutes (instead of just a wimpy simmer)
- 1⅓ cup Ice Cubes (or about 1 cup of ice cold water)
- Wash, hull, and slice all of your Strawberries.
- Place about half of the Strawberries (one pint) in a large saucepan, add the Sugar and Lemon Juice, and heat over a medium-high flame until the berries start to break down. Pour into your blender (or use a stick blender) to make a smooth puree, and return to the saucepan.
- Pour ¼ cup room-temperature water into a small dish. Sprinkle the Gelatin on top and let it hang out for about 2 minutes or until the Gelatin goes from looking powdery to like translucent cauliflower– kind of lumpy and bumpy but smooth and waxy, at the same time.
- Add the Gelatin to the Strawberry mixture and heat over a low flame until it almost boiling. Add the Ice and stir until melted. Immediately pour over the rest of the “salad” and quickly top with your remaining sliced Strawberries.