Elevated Raspberry Jello Pretzel Salad

Fancy jello pretzel dessert

My sister and I were recently at a memorial service potluck in our hometown, and we marveled at the “church cookbook” recipes that are brought to every event. There were no fewer than five variations of a Jello Pretzel dessert, which is one of our favorites. The discussion moved on to the culinary trend of “elevated” versions of comfort food, and what would that look like for this dessert?

The ensuing project had me deliberately going pretentious AF to make as many elements as possible from scratch. I baked pretzels. I cultured cream overnight and churned it into butter. I made cream cheese from scratch. I picked raspberries from my front yard. I eschewed packaged Jello and made my own with peach nectar and Knox gelatin. The pretzel crust was made with the melted cultured butter and local artisan @thebarreledbee honey. I whipped the whip cream to blend with the cream cheese and topped it off with the freshly picked berries.

It turned out quite delightful. It’s not as cloyingly sweet as the original, and it is much richer. 2 1/2 pints of heavy whipping cream tend to have that effect on any dessert 😂 Filing this under, “Hey, remember that time I re-interpreted a childhood favorite?” and knowing I’ll probably go the easy route the next time I’m craving this dessert.

What I Learned Along the Way

Pretzels & Crust

I wasn’t sure if my yeast was active enough, so I added a second envelope just in case. End result? The dough went super crazy, making it tricky to roll out the dough thin enough for skinny pretzels. I was in a hurry, so I ran with it, My pretzels were too thick, and wound up almost like breadsticks. Very tasty breadsticks, but too thick to have them be crispy enough. Par-boiling the dough before baking was fun. When I made the crust, I should have baked it longer so it would be more crunchy.

Butter

I used mesophiliic culture for the cream, left it overnight, and it was a lovely sour flavor the next morning. I tried my new blender to churn the butter, and the new blender is not great at this. I switched to the countertop mixer partway, and wished I had started with it from the get-go. This component turned out really well.

Cream Cheese

I found a nifty mom-blog article for a quick and easy pressure cooker version of the cream cheese using a mixture of whole milk, heavy cream and vinegar, which I wanted to try because I don’t have a way to keep the dairy at the right temperature for the 12 to 14 hours it needs to incubate. I realized after the fact that her recipe was a glorified ricotta recipe, and on top of that, it didn’t work. The rice cooker did not get the curds/whey separation right and the vinegar didn’t work, so I added rennet and cooked it stovetop. It strained out okay, but it was way too little cream cheese for what I would like to use it for, so I supplemented it with pre-made.

Gelatin

The peach nectar & unflavored gelatin were brilliant together. I put too little in it the first time, and it wasn’t setting, so I added another envelope then stuck it in the freezer. I checked it 10 minutes later and it was nearly set. I panicked, added the raspberries, and stirred. The consistency was more like jello through a blender than what I was hoping for, so I need to be more patient with the setting process next time. Tasted really goof!

Making It

As is the case with most of my recipes, these are guidelines, and not always exact measurements.

Ingredients

2 cups crushed pretzels (Alton Brown has a great recipe for these!)

3/4 cultured butter, melted (Culture your own?)

1 package softened cream cheese (You know you want to try making your own at least once)

1/4 cup fanciest honey you can get your hands on, divided

1 cup fresh whipped cream

2 1/2 cups fresh raspberries (reserve half a cup for garnish)

3 envelopes Knox gelatin

3 cups peach nectar

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

1 teaspoon vanilla (the real stuff, please)

Directions

  1. Mix crushed pretzels, melted butter, and half of the honey, them press it into a baking dish or springform pan. Bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes or a lovely toasty color. Immediately chill.

  2. Prepare gelatin according to box directions, using peach nectar as your only liquid. Leave it in the fridge until partially solid. Freeze 2 cups of the raspberries for about 10 to 15 minutes then leave in fridge until gelatin is mostly set. Once it is mostly set, mix the lightly frozen berries in with it. Spoon gelatin mixture into the chilled crust pan, and return to the fridge until fully set.

  3. Whip softened cream cheese with vanilla and honey, then gently blend in the whipped cream.

  4. Spread the mixture on the top of the set gelatin. Garnish with raspberries.

Watch the Adventure

I spent 15 or so hours on this project, and you can watch the one-minute recap.