Sigh. I never thought I’d be posting anything Jell-O related on this blog. It kind of pains me to do so. I don’t mean to hate on Jell-O, but I just haven’t had it or prepared it since I was aboutttt ten years old. Now, it only encapsulates memories and nostalgia. Not edible-ness.
So when I was confronted with the task of making something for the last class of my Food Theory course, for our “Morality Meal” (this is a Gastronomy Program, after all), at first I wanted to make something gluttonously fattening and decadently dessert-like. Two of my classmates ended up making a log made entirely of bacon and sausage. But when I started to look through my cookbooks, this stood out more than any butter-laden delicacy. And I made it happen.
Can I say it was really good? Like really really good? Not only because it has a layer of pretzels (love them!) covered in brown sugar and butter, or whipped cream cheese that can only be compared to supple delicious clouds, or fresh strawberries…. but the Jell-O…. it’s delicious! Somehow, each sweet and salty later compliments each other in a way I never thought possible. Make this. Surprise people. Also note this is not a salad. It’s cut into yummy layered bars.
Jell-O, after a long hiatus, you’ve won me over again.
Strawberry Jell-O Salad
Adapted from, once again, Baked Explorations
Note: feel free to switch up the Jell-O flavor and whatever fruit you’re in the mood for. I imagine orange would be great with fresh orange slices, or even banana with banana slices, how about lime with kiwis? Mango with mango…ok, you get it. Use your imagination. It might also be fun to use an instant chocolate or pistachio pudding in place of the Jell-O entirely. Run wild!
For the Jell-O Layer
1 (6-ounce) package Strawberry Jell-O
2 cups fresh strawberry slices, about 14 ounces
For the Pretzel Crust
8 ounces salted pretzels (about 4 cups)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
For the Cream Cheese Layer
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
Make Jell-O Layer
Make Jell-O according to package directions (Mix Jell-O powder with 1 cup boiling water until dissolved, then add 1 cup cold water). Add the strawberry slices and refrigerate while you make the other layers.
Make the Pretzel Crust
Heat oven to 350° F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish.
Pulse the pretzels in a food processor to coarse crumbs, but not to a powder. Leave some small pretzel chunks. You could also crush them with your hands or put them in a ziploc bag and press something heavy on them.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan or the microwave and quickly whisk in the brown sugar. Add the mixture to the pretzel pieces and stir until completely combined. Press into the bottom (not sides) of the prepared pan.
Bake this for ten minutes, then set it aside to cool.
For the Cream Cheese Layer
Beat the cream cheese and sugar in a standing mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed until well combined.
In a clean bowl, whip the cream (by hand or with the whisk attachment in your mixer) until soft peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.
Spread the cream cheese over the cooled crust. Chill for 10 minutes in the refrigerator. Pour the Jell-O over. Refrigerate for 2 hours or more until set. Cut into bars or scoop into bowls.
Will keep tightly covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.