One of my favorite strawberry recipes comes from an old community cookbook published by the town of Bridgewater, Virginia, in 1985 for their sesquicentennial (150 years) celebration. I find that some of the best recipes come from cookbooks where members submit their favorite recipes. This one is listed under salads, perhaps because it includes jello and fruit. I was intrigued with the use of pretzels in the crust. With local strawberries in season now, it is time to get out the recipe again; I updated it a bit. The pretzels in the crust give this recipe a unique twist. The saltiness of the pretzels balance the sweetness and tartness of the strawberries. Whenever I prepare this recipe, It always gets rave reviews. Although the recipe has several instruction steps, it really uses just a few ingredients and is easy to make.
The recipe book has interesting stories about the town of Bridgewater in the Shenandoah Valley. The town dates back to colonial times and saw Civil War action. Some of the recipes are family recipes dating to many years past, too. Recipe Updates
I updated the recipe this time with several modifications. The original recipe uses strawberry jello and frozen strawberries for the top layer. It tastes fine. However, inevitably the jello runs down the sides of the pan or casserole dish making the crust soggy. And fresh strawberries are the star of this recipe; they make it very, berry delicious. There is no need to use frozen strawberries.
I tried several variations of making a sauce to replace the jello using thickeners of cornstarch and tapioca. I like the clarity of the cornstarch. For this variation, I added sugar, cornstarch and a dash of salt in a saucepan, then added cold water and a little lemon juice, stirring to dissolve the cornstarch. Cook and stir on stove until bubbly, remove from heat and cool, then pour over the sliced strawberries.
For the tapioca version, I mashed 2 cups of strawberries and cooked this with the tapioca and sugar, making a strawberry sauce. After cooling, I added this to the remaining strawberries.
Many recipes in these older cookbooks use generous amounts of butter and sugar as ingredients. It is possible to reduce the butter in the crust quite a bit and I substituted soft margarine. I also used less sugar in the cream cheese filling and strawberry sauce. This way the taste is the strawberries, not the sugar.
For the filling, I tried versions of Neufchatel cream cheese and plain yogurt filling and of cream cheese and Cool Whip filling. While both taste fine; the Cool Whip version holds the shape better. I found an old old Pyrex 9 x 9 inch baking dish for the recipe. A variation is to used a nine-inch spring-form cake pan. Removing the sides of the cake pan shows the layers and makes a pretty presentation and makes cutting easier. It worked well to place the pretzels in a ziplock bag to crush them to about the size of nut pieces. Bake and cook the crust for 10 minutes, so it holds together. Here’s my version of the recipe:
Strawberry Pretzel Delight Recipe
- 6 oz curly pretzels – to make 2 cups crushed pretzels
- 1/3 cup soft tub margarine (I used “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter”)
- 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
- 8 oz Nuefchatel cream cheese (1/3 less fat than cream cheese), preferably at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup thawed Cool Whip or non-dairy whip topping; or 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1 1/2 lb of fresh, whole strawberries (this is about 5 cups)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- dash salt
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees for glass or Pyrex baking dish; 350 degrees for metal baking dish or spring-form pan.
- Crush pretzels to size of small nut pieces using a rolling pin and placing pretzels in zip-lock bag, save back a few pretzels for garnish. Crush enough pretzels to make 2 cups.
- In medium glass bowl, melt margarine in microwave for 30 sec to 1 minute. Or place margarine in medium sauce pan and melt on stove.
- Stir crushed pretzels and powdered sugar into melted margarine.
- Press into bottom of Pyrex 9 x 9 inch baking dish. Bake in oven for 8 – 10 minutes; do not let edges of crust burn.
- Remove from oven and cool. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, in medium mixing bowl of mixer, beat Neutchatel cream cheese until soft. This works better if the cream cheese has come to room temperature.
- Beat in 1/2 cup sugar.
- Carefully fold in the Cool Whip or the plain yogurt.
- Pour over cooled pretzel crust, spreading with a spatula to the edges; carefully to avoid pulling up the crust.
- Cool in refrigerator while making strawberry topping.
- Wash and hull the strawberries, saving several back for garnish. Slice the strawberries; enough to make 3 cups sliced strawberries. Place in medium bowl and set aside.
- Mix the 1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch and dash salt in medium saucepan.
- Slowly add 1/2 cup cold water, stirring to dissolve the cornstarch. Add the lemon juice.
- On medium stove, heat the cornstarch sauce to boiling and bubbly, stirring constantly. The cornstarch sauce will be cloudy.
- Remove from stove and cool to warm, it will become clear in color.
- Pour over the strawberries and carefully blend. Pour this over the pretzel crust and cream cheese layers.
- Chill in refrigerator.
- When ready to serve, cut in 9 pieces, garnish with remaining strawberries and pretzels.
For a tapioca version, increase the strawberries to 4 cups sliced (2 lb purchased strawberries). Mash 2 cups strawberries; and make a sauce of 2 cups mashed strawberries, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 Tbsp instant tapioca, 1 tsp lemon juice and dash salt. Cook on stove until bubbly and thick. Remove, cool and add remaining 2 cups sliced strawberries.
Makes 9 generous servings. Could serve 12 using a spring-form pan.