I am a huge pretzel fan but I have to say that I have usually limited my intake to large soft pretzels while strolling through NYC streets or long crunchy rods that I like to dip in Hummus. Using pretzels as part of a dish is fairly new to me, although I did put them to good use in a Pretzel Crusted Chocolate Stout Pie with Jameson’s Cream. Here they are used in a crust to encase a sweet, pretty pink strawberry filling. Easy. Retro and fun. This recipe is from Pretzel Making at Home by Andrea Slonecker, which really opened my eyes to the world of homemade pretzel and pretzel containing dishes, including her Pennsylvania Dutch Hard Pretzels.
Excerpted from Pretzel Making at Home by Andrea Slonecker, Chronicle Books.
Text copyright 2013. Photographs copyright 2013 by Alex Farnum.
When I was growing up in Nebraska in the 1980s, my mom was the queen of what are now considered retro foods from that era. I have fond memories of her pretzel-crusted strawberry Jell-O and cream cheese “salad.” Of course, now that I’m a food snob—or food elitist, as my dad would say—I have to give it a slightly more sophisticated rendering. A springform pan is pinch-hitting for the glass Pyrex dish, transforming the salad into a tart. The sides of the pan are removed to reveal the pretty layers. It can be made in a 9-in/23-cm deep-dish pie pan instead, but then I guess it becomes just that, a pie. Salad, tart, pie—whatever you want to call it, this throwback is worth revisiting.
Retro Strawberries-and-Cream Pretzel Tart
Author: Andrea Slonecker
Makes: 10 to 12
4 cups/140 g store-bought tiny pretzel twists
½ cup plus 3 tbsp/155 g unsalted butter, melted
½ cup/50 g firmly packed light brown sugar
1 ½ cups/360 ml cold heavy (whipping) cream
½ cup plus 2 tbsp/125 g granulated sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
One 8-oz/225-g package cream cheese
¾ cup/180 ml water
One 3-oz/85-g package strawberry gelatin
About 2 quarts/910 g large fresh strawberries, tops trimmed
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/gas 4.
To make the Crust: Put the pretzels into a resealable plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin into pieces that are no larger than ¼ in/6 mm. (Or pulse the pretzels in a food processor, if you prefer.) Pour the crushed pretzels and their crumbs into a medium bowl and stir in the butter and brown sugar. Press the crust mixture into the bottom of a 9-in/23-cm springform pan, covering the bottom of the pan evenly. Bake the crust until it is lightly toasted, 10 to 12 minutes. It will be soft and puffy when you first remove it from the oven, but will harden as it cools. Set the crust aside to cool completely.
Put the bowl of a stand mixer and the whip attachment in the freezer for 10 minutes.
Attach the bowl and the whisk attachment to the mixer, and pour in the cream. Begin whipping the cream on medium speed. When it starts to thicken, pour in 2 tbsp of the granulated sugar and the vanilla. Whip the cream mixture on medium speed until soft peaks form. (When you dip a spoon into the whipped cream and pull it out, the cream should form a peak that curls back onto itself.) Set aside 1 ½ cups/360 ml of the whipped cream in a small bowl. Transfer the remaining whipped cream to a separate bowl, cover, and refrigerate; you will use it to top the tart later.
Put the remaining ½ cup/100 g of granulated sugar and the cream cheese in the bowl of the stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and cream cheese together on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and stir the reserved 1 ½ cups of whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until it is homogenous. Spread the cream cheese filling evenly over the cooled crust. Be sure to completely cover the crust, spreading the filling to the edges of the pan. Use a damp paper towel to wipe down any specks of filling clinging to the sides of the pan or the edges of the tart will appear messy when the springform is removed. Refrigerate until chilled and set, 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring ½ cup/120 ml of the water to a boil over high heat. Put the gelatin powder in a medium heat-proof bowl and pour in the boiling water. Stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Stir in the remaining ¼ cup/60 ml of cold water. Allow the gelatin to cool to room temperature.
While the gelatin cools, arrange the strawberries, cut-side down, over the cream cheese filling to cover the entire top of the tart. Start by lining the edge of the tart with a ring of strawberries and work your way to the center in a target pattern. The tips of the berries should be pointing straight up. Pour the gelatin over the strawberries and cream cheese layer, coating the tops of the strawberries in the gelatin as you pour. Refrigerate, covered, until the gelatin is completely set, at least 1 hour. (The tart can be refrigerated up to 1 day before serving.)
Remove the sides of the pan and transfer the tart (still on the springform base) to a serving platter. Gently re-whisk the reserved whipped cream for 10 to 15 seconds and pile it in the center of the tart, if you wish or pass at the table. Slice and serve immediately.
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