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This decadent pie starts with a crust that melts in your mouth and ends with a whipped topping flavored with a hint of Irish cream. Photo by Sue Doeden

Don't ditch dessert: Try this Irish Cream Brownie Pie

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Oprah would be so upset if she knew about my distracted driving. I wasn't distracted by my phone, though. I heed her advice to make my car a "No Phone Zone." And I wasn't eating. It was a cookbook that made me drive right off the road last week.

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As I was pulling out of my driveway to make a quick trip to the grocery store in town, I stopped to get the mail. I was excited to see a package hanging from the mailbox in a plastic bag. I was in a hurry and decided I could open the package as I drove. And I did. I just hadn't planned on driving into the ditch. Since I live outside of town in the woods, there's not much traffic. I tried getting out of the ditch myself, but only made matters worse. So while I gave some thought about how to proceed, I had time to page through the new cookbook that I had just ripped from its package.

It wasn't long before one of my kind neighbors came along on his way to the dump. He shoveled and maneuvered and drove my car right out of the ditch.

The incident put me a little behind with my schedule that day, but the time I spent paging through "Simple Fresh Southern" cookbook by Matt Lee and Ted Lee (the famous Lee Brothers) while sitting in the ditch gave me just the inspiration I needed to develop Irish Cream Brownie Pie. It was their recipe for a beverage made with chocolate ice cream and some alcohol that did it. My head filled with ideas for a couple of the popular alcoholic drinks of March - Irish Cream in coffee and Irish Whiskey.

Thus the birth of Irish Cream Brownie Pie - a little bit of Irish cream, a splash of Irish whiskey and a whole lot of chocolate.

It all starts with a crust that fills the house with baking-brownie fragrance. This is not your typical brownie, though. Once your teeth crack through the tissue-thin layer of crunch, they sink into smooth, thick, rich fudge. It melts in your mouth. The crust can be filled with ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce for a quick and easy dessert. Or you can make Irish Cream Filling.

If you've never made pudding from scratch, this is a good recipe to start with. It takes just minutes to make, and if you follow the directions, you will have smooth and creamy Irish cream-spiked chocolate pudding. The pudding can be served in individual cups or glasses and topped with a fluffy cloud of Whipped Topping. It's delicious spooned over Brownie Crust.

Whipped Topping, flavored with a hint of Irish cream, can be served in so many ways. Spoon it onto slices of Irish Cream Brownie Pie to create a dessert that will make Irish folks think they've found their pot of gold. Or use it to top individual servings of Irish Cream Filling. If you like whipped cream, just eat it straight up.

It must be the luck of the Irish: Time in the ditch with a cookbook leads to one recipe with the possibility of so many desserts. I guess I'm not quite ready to make my car a "No Cookbook Zone." But, I promise I'll never again open a package while driving.

Irish Cream Brownie Pie

Brownie Crust:

4 tablespoons butter

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine

2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped fine

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 large eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons brewed coffee or Irish whiskey

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

Irish Cream Filling:

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 1/3 cups milk

1/2 cup whipping cream

1 egg yolk

1/3 cup Irish cream liqueur

3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Whipped Topping:

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1 to 2 teaspoons Irish Cream liqueur

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and lightly flour a 9-inch glass baking dish or a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.

Prepare Brownie Crust by placing butter, unsweetened chocolate and semisweet chocolate into a 4-cup glass measure. Microwave at 50 percent to 60 percent power. Stir after each minute until mixture is melted and smooth. This will take just a couple of minutes. Stir in sugar, cocoa powder, eggs, coffee or whiskey and vanilla extract and mix well. Add flour and salt and mix just until thoroughly blended. Pour batter into prepared dish or pan.

Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until edges become golden and center is slightly firm to the touch. Remove from oven and set on wire rack to cool.

Prepare Irish Cream Filling: Whisk sugar and cornstarch together in a medium-sized heavy saucepan. Pour in milk and whisk until cornstarch is dissolved. Whisk whipping cream with egg yolk and add to mixture in saucepan. Whisk to blend.

Place saucepan over medium heat and whisk constantly until mixture bubbles and becomes thick. This will take about 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in liqueur and whisk to blend. Add chopped chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

Spread the filling over the brownie crust that is still warm or at room temperature.

Press plastic wrap directly on the filling. Place the pie in the refrigerator to chill for at least a few hours or overnight.

At serving time, make Whipped Topping by placing all ingredients in a large bowl and beat with mixer until stiff peaks form. Spoon over each slice of pie. Store covered in the refrigerator. Makes 12 servings.

Tips from the cook

--Remove the dessert from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. As it warms to room temperature, it becomes much easier to slice.

--Whenever I'm baking something chocolate, I use a mixture of cocoa powder and flour to coat the baking pan. In this case, about 1 1/2 teaspoons of each.

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