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A sure sign of spring: Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream Pie

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A sure sign of spring: Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream Pie
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

It was a bright, sunny morning in March. I was sweating from my workout. As I stepped out of the gym into the sunshine I saw my first sign of spring. A long semi truck was backed up to the door of the Dairy Queen right across the street. I knew it wouldn't be long until the sign that read "Closed for the Season" all winter long would be changed to "Open" and lines of DQ-lovers would be waiting for their first outdoor lick of the season.

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That sight was a spark that ignited images of creamy ice cream, hot fudge, nuts and whipped cream. I knew what I had to do. It didn't matter how flushed and sweaty I was. I made a stop at the store on my way home for a quart of premium vanilla ice cream.

In my head, I was concocting all kinds of ways I could team the ice cream with some of my favorite go-alongs to create a dreamy dessert.

I had recently found a newspaper recipe that I thought had been lost forever. It had been several years since I had made thick, heavy and rich Peanut Butter Delights. I finally concluded that I must have thrown the recipe away when I was on one of my health kicks. I was thrilled when, just a few weeks ago, I came across the recipe for the addictive bars in a file folder full of food formulas clipped years ago from newspapers and magazines. It was the memory of the flavor and texture of those bars that made me decide to pair them with ice cream.

By the time I was pulling my car into the garage, an ice cream pie had developed in my head. I went right to work. I baked a shortbread crust, topped it with filling used in Peanut Butter Delights, gave it a thick layer of ice cream and crowned it with fudge sauce. After several hours in the freezer, I couldn't wait to cut a wedge from the pie. I didn't realize I'd need a pick-axe for the job. The buttery shortbread crust and peanut butter filling froze so hard it was impossible to cut.

Back to the kitchen for another try.

Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream Pie is hand-packed with all things good. A moist brownie crust with a mix-in of peanut butter cradles layers of vanilla ice cream with swirls of soft peanut butter bolstered with chopped peanuts and finally, a topping of fudge. If only it didn't require the freezing time between craving and savoring.

Add a dollop of whipped cream and maybe a little piece of peanut butter cup and you'll have a dessert that no one can resist.

While the pie is a natural for warm-weather months, you'll be getting requests for it all year long.

And now, my friends, I'm heading to the gym.

Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream Pie

4 cups vanilla ice cream, softened slightly

2/3 cup chopped cocktail peanuts

Brownie Crust:

6 tablespoons butter

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

2 large eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup flour

Peanut Butter Swirl:

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

Fudge Topping:

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter

3/4 cup evaporated milk

1 cup powdered sugar

1/3 cup semisweet chocolate morsels

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch glass pie dish.

To make the Brownie Crust, chop chocolate and cut butter into small chunks. Melt butter and chocolate in a heavy 2-quart saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and whisk in peanut butter, eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla. Add flour and mix just until incorporated. Spread into prepared pie dish. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the middle of the brownie crust should come out with moist crumbs attached. It is better to underbake than overbake this crust. Set crust aside to cool.

Make the Peanut Butter Swirl by stirring corn syrup and peanut butter together in a small bowl.

Spoon 2 cups of ice cream over the cooled crust, spreading evenly. Drizzle with half of the Peanut Butter Swirl mixture. Sprinkle with half of the chopped peanuts. Cover and freeze for an hour.

Repeat ice cream, Peanut Butter Swirl layers. Cover and return to freezer while preparing Fudge Topping.

In small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup butter, evaporated milk and powdered sugar. Stir over medium heat. Bring mixture to a boil and continue to stir and boil for 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Add chocolate chips and stir until they are completely melted. Stir in vanilla. Allow to cool to lukewarm. Spread the fudge topping over the ice cream pie. Sprinkle with remaining chopped peanuts. Freeze for at least three hours before serving. Makes 8 servings.

Tips from the cook

--Semisweet chocolate can replace the bittersweet chocolate. Remember, though, the higher the percentage of cocoa content listed on a wrapper, the more antioxidants inside. But, I guess if we're eating this pie, who's thinking about health? Moderation.

--Allowing the pie to soften at room temperature for about 10 minutes before cutting makes serving it a snap.

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