The English language is a funny thing. I never understood why some dishes that are sweet are called “salads”. It’s off-putting. It’s in the name. If you hear “strawberry pretzel salad”, what do you picture? I imagine a bowl of salad greens with strawberries and pretzels. No, thank you. Other examples of such salads are Jello salad, snickers salad, cookie salad and the list goes on and on.
But after reading numerous blogs all featuring the same recipe and all with glowing reviews of how they grew up with this particular dish and how it’s everyone’s favorite at their family gathering, I broke down and had to try it. And after trying it myself, I can see why people would like it, especially with fresh strawberries. The pretzel crust is salty and crunchy, the cheesecake layer is smooth and creamy and the strawberry jello layer is fruity and refreshing. You pretty much hit every flavor profile. The best part? It’s super easy and the ingredient list is very short. Oh! Also, you only have to bake the pretzel crust for 10 minutes so your kitchen doesn’t get too hot. It’s a serious win-win-win situation.
Strawberry Pretzel Squares (AKA Strawberry Pretzel Salad)
2 c. finely crushed pretzels
1 cup and 3 tbsp. sugar, divided
¾ c. salted butter, melted
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
8 oz. cool whip, defrosted
2 c. boiling water
1 – six ounce package strawberry jello
1 ½ c. cold water
4 c. hulled and sliced strawberries
- Preheat oven to 400˚F and prep a 9×13 inch baking dish by spraying the inside with nonstick spray.
- In a bowl, stir the pretzel crumbs and 3 tablespoons of sugar until well mixed.
- Pour the melted butter over the pretzel mixture and stir until evenly coated.
- Press the pretzel crumb mixture into the bottom of the baking dish, pressing it down with a spatula to form an even layer.
- Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown and cool completely.
- In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and 1 cup of sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Fold in the cool whip and spread evenly over the cooled pretzel crust. (Wipe off any cream cheese mix you get along the sides of the glass pan for a clean presentation later on.)
- Refrigerate crust while you prep the strawberry layer.
- In a large bowl, mix the strawberry jello mix with the boiling water. Stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Stir in cold water and refrigerate for about 1½ hours. (At this point, the mixture should have the consistency of egg whites.)
- Stir in fresh strawberries into the jello mixture and carefully pour over the prepared cream cheese layer and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or until the strawberry layer is set. If you wiped the sides clean as suggested in step 6, the strawberry layer should set to a glass-like finish.
Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker.
Every single time I go to the mall, I have an inner battle with myself. Do I get a soft pretzel or not? I try not to have one because frankly it’s just a chunk of carbs and I always feel a little guilty after I eat it. I suppose the real question is: is it worth feeling guilty about?
I would say that the chance of me caving in is about 50/50. I have a good idea of what it is that I want (plain salted pretzel with lots of golden mustard) until I get to the window and see a glistening pretzel hot dog. How do they get it so shiny and golden? Why do you wink at me so in the fluorescent mall light? Why am I personifying you?
I sit there frazzled until it’s my turn and at this point, I blank out and whatever word comes out of my mouth first is what I get. Sometimes it’s the hot dog, sometimes it’s the pretzel. All I know is that either way I have buttery, carb-y goodness in my mouth. I win.
Sometimes, you don’t want to go to the mall. Sometimes, the drive isn’t worth it and the battle of the parking spot is tiring and stressful. This is for those days, a little reward without the battle.
Pretzel Hot Dogs
4 ½ to 5 c. all-purpose flour
1 ½ c. 110°F-115°F water
½ c. milk
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted plus more for brushing
kosher sea salt/ pretzel salt/ Maldon salt
10 c. water
⅔ c. baking soda
16 Hot dogs
- In a microwave safe cup, warm 1½ c. water until 110°F-115°F or lukewarm. Stir in sugar until dissolved. Stir in dry yeast and let stand until foamy (about 5 minutes).
- While the yeast is proofing, mix 4½ c. flour, milk, salt, and the melted butter into a bowl of a stand mixer.
- Add the water mixture into the flour mixture and stir until a loose dough forms.
- Let stand for 8 minutes to hydrate flour.
- With the dough hook attachment, knead the dough on speed 2 for about 8 minutes. If you see that the dough is still loose and sticks to the bowl, add the remaining half cup of flour and knead until the dough does not stick to the bowl.
- Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until double its size.
- Once the dough has risen, preheat oven to 450˚F and line two sheet pans with either parchment paper or silicone mats.
- In a large pot, boil 10 c. of water and baking soda.
- Divide dough into 16 equal pieces, and form into a long rope. Carefully wrap each piece around a hot dog, pinch the ends together to seal the dough.
- Boil the pretzel hot dogs, one at a time about 15 seconds on each side. Remove from the water and drain thoroughly with a slotted spoon.
- Mix 1 egg with 1 tbsp. water to form an egg wash.
- Place onto the sheet pan and brush bread thoroughly with the egg wash and sprinkle with your choice of salt.
- Bake until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. Brush generously with melted butter.
- Let Cool. Eat with a lot of mustard.
Pretzel recipe adapted from Jo Cooks.