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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Ever since I was a child, my mother clipped interesting recipes from newspapers and magazines and pasted them into a scrapbook.

Finally, her scrapbook deteriorated and fell apart. Mother threw it away instead of restoring it. When I found out, I was devastated. I told her I had been hoping that one day the scrapbook would have been passed down to me. Thank goodness, several years ago, when I left my mother's nest, I photocopied certain recipes from her scrapbook. One of them was a handwritten recipe for cheesecake.

For years, I thought it was her famous cheesecake recipe. Just this week, I discovered that the handwritten recipe I copied is not Mom's famous cheesecake recipe, but yours, clipped from the newspaper decades ago.

This is my entire family's favorite dessert and Mother was always asked to bake it for special occasions. My parents divorced and my mother rarely bakes now. My father's family always reminisces when dessert time comes around about my mother's delicious cheesecake.

My brother was married last February. He bragged to his future family about what a great baker my mother was and how everyone raved about her cheesecake. He then "volunteered" our mother to bring "her" famous cheesecake to the wedding shower.

Well, since Mom had thrown away her scrapbook with the recipe in it, she asked me for mine. I then realized that I had loaned mine out and never got it back, so Mom tried a different one.

The results were disastrous. The crust was a watery mess. This was not discovered until the morning of the bridal shower. Mom was in a state of panic. She had to rush out and buy a cake. The shower guests had expected my mother's famous cheesecake and she was embarrassed having to explain her predicament to everyone.

So, Abby, please grant me one wish. Print your famous cheesecake recipe again. It will guarantee that the tradition of having it at our family gatherings continues for generations. -- EAGERLY AWAITING IN WOODLAND HILLS, CALIF.

DEAR EAGERLY AWAITING: I'm happy to oblige. That recipe is included in my cookbooklet, "Dear Abby's Favorite Recipes," and it's a cinch to make.

CRUST: 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, 1/2 cup butter (1 cube), melted, and 1/3 cup powdered sugar.

CHEESECAKE: 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened; 4 eggs; 1 cup sugar; 1 teaspoon vanilla; 1 pint dairy sour cream (room temperature), and a 21-ounce can prepared cherry, blueberry or strawberry pie filling.

METHOD: Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar and butter. Press into bottom of an 8-inch springform pan.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, eggs, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Pour mixture over prepared crust.

Bake at 350 for 50 minutes (until center is set). Remove from oven and spread sour cream on top of cake. Return to oven and bake an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Spread desired topping on cheesecake. Chill overnight. Before serving, carefully remove sides from pan.

Serves: 16.

Tip: To minimize cracking, place a shallow pan half full of hot water on lower rack of oven during baking. Be sure the sour cream is room temperature when you spread it on.

For Abby's favorite family recipes, send a long, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet No. 1, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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