/Bask in Spring With This Strawberry Pretzel Pie
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Bask in Spring With This Strawberry Pretzel Pie

Slice of Strawberry Pretzel Pie on a Plate
Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

A childhood favorite—grown up.

We all have dishes from our childhood that we look back on fondly—sometimes to the bafflement of those around us. For me, that dish is a Jell-O salad. For the uninitiated, Jell-O salads are an American classic. Flavored gelatin is mixed with everything from canned fruit to frozen peas, whipped cream to cottage cheese, and toasted nuts to salty pretzels. The final mix is poured into elaborate molds or layered into bars and served at family gatherings, holiday parties, and summer picnics as a main, side, or of course, dessert. 

One Jell-O salad in particular lingers in my memory: strawberry pretzel salad. Layers of salty pretzels, tangy cream cheese, and sweet strawberry Jell-O are combined into sliceable bars, this is the dessert I sought out on all the potluck tables. 

For this pie, I wanted to maintain the spirit of the strawberry pretzel salad but swap out the artificial strawberry flavor with juicy spring strawberries. The final result is a buttery and salty pretzel crumb crust, filled with both cooked and fresh strawberries and topped with an airy whipped cream cheese topping. Strawberry pretzel salad: all grown up. 

Strawberry Pretzel Pie in Pie Dish with a Slice on a Plate
Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

A Celebration of Strawberries 

Strawberries are one of those fruits that I wait all year for. With a short growing window of late spring and early summer, I plan most of my spring baking around celebrating this favorite fruit.

Because fresh spring strawberries are incredibly flavorful and juicy on their own, I like to have as many fresh berries in my pie as possible. For the filling, a small amount of the berries get mashed and quickly cooked with a bit of cornstarch until just thickened into a jam that can hold everything together, before folding in heaps of sliced fresh berries.

I like to let the flavor of the fresh strawberries shine, so keep the seasonings simple: sugar, lemon, and a bit of orange zest. That being said, every batch of berries is a little different, so I recommend tasting and adjusting your jam as it cooks to balance out the sweetness of your specific berries.  

Whipped Cream Cheese Makes This Topping Special

Instead of layering sweetened cream cheese into my pie (as is done in the original salad inspiration), I prefer to add a light and tangy whipped cream cheese topping.

The topping is simple to make and has the bonus of being more stable than classic whipped cream. 

Strawberry Pretzel Pie in Pie Dish
Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

A few things to keep in mind when making your whipped topping: 

  • Use room temperature cream cheese: Much like butter, cream cheese aerates better when it’s softened at room temperature, resulting in a smoother and lighter topping.
  • Use chilled cream: Conversely, cream aerates more easily when it’s cold. Keep your heavy cream in the fridge until you’re ready to whip. 
  • Go slow: Once you’ve added the heavy cream, make sure you turn your mixer speed to slow and keep an eye on what’s going on. It’s easy to over whip when using an electric mixer. 

Know your peaks: We use the word “peaks” to describe how thick a mixture is when it’s being whipped. For this topping I like to whip to a stiff peak—meaning it completely holds its shape when I lift my whisk out of the bowl.

Storing Strawberry Pretzel Pie

This pie is best served immediately after assembling, though it will hold covered in the fridge for up to 1 day—after that the crust will get a bit soggy.

If making ahead, I recommend storing the whipped topping in a separate airtight container and adding it to the pie right before you serve. 

Strawberry Pretzel Pie in a Pie Dish with Slices Cut Out
Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

More Strawberry Desserts to Make this Spring

Preheat the oven to 350°F

Make the pretzel crust:

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the pretzel crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Use a spoon to mix until thoroughly combined—it should look like wet sand and clump when you squeeze it between your fingers.

Bowl of Pretzel Crumbs Mixed with a Spoon for Strawberry Pretzel Pie Recipe
Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

Press the crust into pie dish:

Pour the crumb mixture into a 9-inch pie dish and spread it into an even layer. Use a small measuring cup or flat-bottomed drinking glass to press the crumbs tightly into the bottom of the pan and up along the sides.

Pretzel Crumbs Pressed on Pie Dish with the Bottom of a Measuring Cup for Strawberry Pretzel Pie
Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

Bake and cool the crust:

Bake the crust for 18 to 20 minutes, until it has darkened slightly, and smells toasted. Transfer the pie dish to a cooling rack and let the crust cool completely.

Pretzel Crust Baked and on Cooling Rack for Strawberry Pie Recipe
Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

Make the strawberry filling:

In a medium saucepan, add 2 cups of the quartered strawberries and 4 tablespoons of sugar. Using a potato masher, mash the strawberries against the bottom of the pan to release their juices. Add the cornstarch, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, plus the water, salt, and orange zest.

Cook the mixture over medium heat, using a spoon to continue to break apart the strawberries against the side of the pan, until it comes to a boil. Taste and season with more sugar or lemon juice, if needed (careful, it will be hot). Continue to cook, stirring regularly, for 3 to 4 minutes until the liquid has thickened slightly. 

Remove from the heat and let the strawberry filling cool for 5 minutes, then carefully fold in the remaining sliced strawberries.

Strawberry Crushed in Pot with Sugar for Pretzel Pie
Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon
Strawberries Mixed in a Bowl for Strawberry Pie
Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

Assemble the pie: 

Pour the strawberry filling into the cooled pie crust and use a spatula to spread it in an even layer. 

Let the filling cool completely, then cover with plastic and chill in the fridge until set, about 2 hours.

Strawberry Pretzel Pie in Pie Dish without Whipped Cream
Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

Make the whipped cream cheese topping: 

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar. Whip on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. 

Turn the mixer speed to low and slowly stream in the heavy cream, followed by the vanilla and salt. Whip until the mixture thickens and forms stiff peaks (it stands on its own when you remove the whisk).

Whipped Cream in a Stand Mixer Bowl and Whisk Attachment for Strawberry Pretzel Pie
Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

Top the pie:

When ready to serve, spoon the whipped topping into the center of the pie. Use a spoon or small spatula to spread and swirl the topping evenly over the pie, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge (so you can see some of the strawberry filling). 

Sprinkle crushed pretzels over the whipped cream cheese topping.

Whipped Cream Added to Strawberry Pretzel Pie
Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

Serve:

Slice and serve immediately. 

This pie is best served immediately after assembling, though it will hold covered in the fridge for up to 1 day—after that the crust will get a bit soggy.

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Slice of Strawberry Pretzel Pie on a Plate
Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon