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Pretzel Dessert Strata

This sounds strange, but it is absolutely yummy. It is definitely best eaten the same day it's made, as keeping it too long makes the pretzels soggy.

  • 1 3-ounce package gelatin, any flavor
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 2 cups coarsely broken small pretzels
  • 8-ounce brick cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream, very cold

In a small mixing bowl, prepare the gelatin (Jell-O or other brand) according to package directions, first dissolving it in 1 cup of boiling water and then adding 1 cup of cold water. Chill in the icebox and set the timer for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and set an oven rack at the upper middle level. While the oven is heating, melt the butter completely, and stir 1/4 cup only of the sugar into it. Pour the butter mixture over the broken pretzels, and stir until pretzels are thoroughly coated.

Press the pretzel mixture into the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan. Bake on the upper middle oven rack at 400 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes, or until crust is lightly browned and bubbling a little.

Remove pan from oven and allow to cool about 15 minutes. While the crust cools, beat the cream cheese on highest speed until smooth.

In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream on highest speed until it is roughly tripled in volume. A little at a time while still beating, add the remaining sugar to the cream and beat until cream holds peaks. Add cream cheese to cream and beat again briefly at highest speed, until just incorporated.

Remove gelatin from fridge. It will be roughly the consistency of pudding by now. (If it is still runny, give it another 5 to 10 minutes in the fridge. Don't let it go much longer, though; after an hour or so, gelatin suddenly sets up very quickly and you want it to still be semi-pourable.)

Spoon cream mixture over cooled pretzel mixture, covering completely. Pour or spoon gelatin over top. Chill until completely set, 45 to 60 minutes more. Cut and serve.

Serves 6 to 8.

Catherine S. Vodrey

Sunday, September 01, 2002

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