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For the February doldrums, just try these desserts

Deep Dish Cherry Cobbler and Custard Rice Pudding are the most populardessert recipes ever to appear in this column, elbowing aside my recipes for the World's Second-Best Brownies and Solitary Death by Chocolate by substantial margins.

Within a month of publication three years ago, single cooks were writing to applaud, or to beg for copies of both cobbler and rice pudding recipes, which they had tried and relished, then misplaced.

Wrote one reader, "Help! You featured some desserts to combat dreary February doldrums which included a recipe for rice pudding to serve three. I tried it and loved it but can't find it. Encore, please."

Said another, "Last night I tried my hand at that Cherry Cobbler.

It was so delicious I surprised the heck out of myself."

So for all of you who loved and lost those recipes, and for you who missed or foolishly skipped past Deep Dish Cherry Cobbler and Custard Rice Pudding the first time, here are seconds, retested and further streamlined.

Around Washington's birthday, we used to make the cherry cobbler 24 servings at a time in my dear departed restaurant, where we menaced our customers by serving it warm, pooled with heavy yellow cream from contented Guernsey cows from a nearby Mennonite dairy.

Custard Rice Pudding is, to my way of thinking, the "best-I-ever-ate" rice pudding. The recipe here is scaled down considerably from its prototype, a quantity recipe for 50 servings and multiples thereof from old original Stouffer's. Back in the '40s and '50s, the company was a restaurant chain with a predisposition for hiring red-haired, thick-brogued Irish girls as waitresses, and for serving two or three hot breads, freshly baked daily, with whipped butter in crocks on each and every table.

Oh, well. Let's all be grateful for progress and low-fat frozen dinners in microwavable disposable no-need-to-wash pressed cardboard trays. Meanwhile, take comfort in these homey desserts that have been stripped of most of the fat, are high in old-fashioned good taste and so simple to make you'll surprise yourself at just how good a cook you can be.

Deep Dish Cherry Cobbler 1 can (16 ounces) water packed red tart pitted cherries 1/3 cup sugar 2 teaspoons cornstarch OR 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional) 2/3 cup Bisquick biscuit mix 1/4 cup (1 percent fat) milk

Pre-heat oven to 400F. Drain cherries, reserving juice and adding water if necessary to make 1 cup liquid.

In 1-quart saucepan, mix sugar with cornstarch until lump-free.

Stir in juice, bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat, stir in almond extract and cherries. Pour into a an 8-by-8-inch baking pan or shallow 3-cup casserole; set aside while you make drop biscuits.

In small mixing bowl, stir biscuit mix with milk just to blend.

Divide into 3 biscuits, drop evenly over cherries.

Bake 20 minutes, or until biscuits are browned and cherries are bubbling. Serve warm or cold, with cream or vanilla ice cream if desired.

Makes 3 servings, each 292 calories. Hands on time: 10 minutes;

baking time: 20 minutes.

Custard Rice Pudding 2 cups (1 percent fat) milk 3 tablespoons uncooked rice 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon Dash salt (optional) 1 egg, lightly beaten 1/4 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 2 tablespoons raisins (optional)

In 1-quart saucepan, combine milk with rice, cinnamon and salt.

Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook, covered, 30 minutes, or until rice is tender, stirring occasionally.

In small bowl, beat egg until foamy, then beat in sugar and vanilla. Beat a little of the boiling rice mixture into egg mixture, pour back into saucepan with remaining rice mixture, stirring constantly. Do not cook pudding after adding egg.

Stir in raisins, cool 10 minutes, pour into serving dishes. Chill several hours or overnight, covered with plastic wrap. Serve chilled.

Makes 3 servings, each 222 calories. Hands on time: 10 minutes;

cooking time: 30 minutes.