Editor's Note: You may know Alexandra Penfold as Brownie from the popular blog Blondie and Brownie. She'll be stopping by weekly, digging up long-lost classic desserts and regional favorites.
Despite my mother's best efforts, nary a vegetable passed my brother's lips during childhood, unless you count French fries (and I don't think she did). On more than one birthday I can recall her pleading that all she truly wanted was for him to try some salad. I suspect if she was serving up Strawberry Pretzel Salad, she may have met with far less resistance.
When I first heard about this dish from a Southern friend, I had visions of spinach topped with sliced strawberries and maybe a little feta cheese and tossed with pretzel crumbles. But this dish is more akin to a Jell-O No Bake Cheesecake than a Caesar. The combination of a salty crushed pretzel crust, rich whipped cream, and strawberry gelatin intrigued me.
Though Strawberry Pretzel Salad is traditionally made with margarine and "whipped topping," I subbed in butter and homemade whipped cream to lavishly rich results. After the initial "it's not really a salad" explanation, it took some coaxing to get co-workers and friends to give this a try, but the feedback was uniformly positive, ranging from "shockingly delicious and refreshing" to "Whoa! So good!" Batch number two made a trip to SE World headquarters where Kenji aptly pronounced it "Strawberry Pocky in pie form."
Sweet and salty, jiggly and smooth, creamy and addictive, there's good reason why this dish is a favorite at church picnics and barbecues down South. You might find yourself dipping into the leftovers for breakfast.