Strawberries and Pretzels, Hold the Jell-O: Strawberry Pretzel Dessert Tart

Our friends Jim and Colleen invited us over to their house for a Fourth of July cookout, and I decided that I wanted to bring some sort of strawberry-pretzel dessert. Six years ago I made a retro stawberry-pretzel tart that Jim couldn't stop raving about, and I feel like anything with bright red strawberries is perfect for the Fourth of July. The only problem is that Jim's family has eschewed artificial food colors in recent years, and that means I couldn't make anything that included strawberry Jell-O. So I spent a little time Googling and decided to try a Strawberry Pretzel Dessert Tart from Butternut Bakery that has a cream cheese filling in a pretzel crust, topped with strawberries -- no Jell-O or artificial food colors required!

You make the crust in the food processor, by grinding pretzels into crumbs; mixing the crumbs with flour, sugar, and salt; and pulsing in butter, shortening, and an egg, until a dough forms. I chilled the dough before rolling it out and fitting it into a fluted tart pan. I froze the shaped crust briefly before blind baking it, after lining the crust with parchment paper and filling it with pie weights. When I removed the parchment and weights partway through baking, the crust looked perfect. But after I finished baking it uncovered, it had shrunk quite a bit and even developed a few small holes in the bottom.
After the crust is completely cooled, you fill it with a mixture of cream cheese, sugar, heavy whipping cream, and vanilla. You top the filling with drained macerated strawberries and brush them with thinned strawberry jam. You need to chill the tart for a few hours before serving, and the recipe includes a pretzel crunch (a mixture of crushed pretzels, butter, brown sugar, sugar, and a little flour that you bake briefly) that you can sprinkle on at the last minute.
I used thin pretzel sticks to make the garnish and didn't do a great job crushing them, so as you can see in the photo above, my pretzel crunch was pretty clunky. But it was delicious! As was the entire tart. The crust was nice and crisp, and the filling was creamy, light, and not too sweet; it tasted like a lighter and silkier version of cheesecake. I do wish that the filling had set a little firmer. This tart was in the fridge right up until the moment it was cut and served, but you can see that it didn't hold its shape cleanly after slicing, and the fruit was sinking into it. 

There's a reason that strawberry pretzel salad is such a classic -- it fires on all cylinders with its combination of salty, crunchy pretzels; creamy, slightly tangy filling; and juicy, vibrant fruit. And this tart delivers all of that, in a very elegant and attractive package!
Recipe: "Strawberry Pretzel Tart" from Butternut Bakery.

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Louise said…
I looked at the recipe and from the photos the pie crust clearly shrinks, but the cream cheese filling holds together. I wonder why?
Well you make the filling by beating everything together until it's light and fluffy (not by folding whipped cream into a base mixture), so I imagine the end consistency could vary quite a bit depending on how long you whip it.
Kate said…
If your husband likes this, he might also like the flavors in this riff on a gooey butter cake:
Thanks, Kate -- that recipe looks delicious!