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NWTK: Pretzel Cheesecake Jello Dessert

Well, it’s been awhile since the last New West Test Kitchen post. I ended up going to an editing retreat and then on vacation to Vegas, and then November just got away from me. Plus, my counterpart was moving into her brand new house, so we decided to take a small hiatus.

But now I’m back. We’ll resume the regularly scheduled programming, but I wanted to do a special Christmas Jello Pretzel dessert edition because I did some experimenting this week, and I think I’ve come up with a winner. Big winner.

You all remember that strawberry Jello dessert, right? That salty-sweet, creamy, decadent dessert was always a staple on our holiday table. Well, I decided I wanted to make that for the holidays this year, only I wanted to make it my way. So here’s the recipe

CRUST
2 cups chopped pretzel sticks (should be chunky, not crumb-y)
8 T. butter
1/4 c. sugar

Melt the butter and stir into sugar/pretzel combo. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. (You can use a 9×13 cake pan, but I like to make individual versions, so I put them in ramekins and then put all the ramekins on a cookie sheet and bake them individually. Really makes this dessert special.) Watch your oven temp, because a hot-running oven will burn this. But anytime after 10 minutes, you can take it out. Longer baking makes for a crispier crust. Cool completely.

LAYER 2
16 oz. cream cheese (room temperature)
2/3 c. sugar
2 T. cream
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. anise extract (trust me on this one)
1/4 t. salt
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1/2 t. vanilla
2 T. powdered sugar

First step is to whip the cream. You can use a mixer, but whip the cream fresh. A lot of these recipes tell you to use thawed whipped topping. Not worth it. You can taste the difference when the cream is whipped fresh and you get to make it to taste. I don’t like super-sweet whipped cream, so I only use 2 T. of powdered sugar. But you can use more if you want.

Once you whip the cream, then in another bowl, mix together the cream cheese, sugar, cream, vanilla and anise extract, and salt. Whip those together until they’ll easily incorporate the whipped cream, then fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Spread this mixture over the crust layer, making sure that you seal this layer all the way to the edge of the pan. (This will prevent the Jello layer from seeping into the crust layer and/or getting soggy.) Cool completely.

LAYER 3
2 small packets of cherry jello
2 cups hot water
2 cups cold water
1 package of frozen cherries
2 T. powdered sugar

First, drain the cherries and sprinkle the sugar on top. Mix them together and let them sit in the sugar, being drained. You want them to be mostly dry, but they’ll be too tart on their own for the jello if you don’t sweeten them just a touch. Then, boil 2 cups of water and stir in the cherry jello mixture. Stir in the 2 cups cold water and let that mixture sit in the fridge for about an hour. Once it’s thickened a bit, remove the bowl, stir in the drained cherries, and pour the jello over the top of the 2nd layer.

Refrigerate the individual ramekins (or the cake pan) for at least two hours before serving to allow the jello time to become firm. Enjoy one of my favorite holiday desserts!

What about you? Do you make this version with strawberries? Another kind of fruit? Do you have this at the holidays? Or another time?

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