Oh, my God, you guys. Guess what I’m doing this weekend? Going away, with just the husband. Like, away from this house while Little C frolicks here with her visiting Gramma. During this weekend, I will be in a magical land called Napa wherein my towels, sheets and dishes will be washed by other people. I will also be eating only at restaurants (one extra fancy) and drinking lots of delicious alcohol in the name of “wine tasting”. I am so pumped. Please don’t hate me. I mean, I’d hate me, if it wasn’t…me.
Know what I did last weekend? I did laundry. And cleaned. And went to Fairyland. And made and cleaned up after about 100 meals. All well and good. But I’m thinking that even if there is a massive natural disaster, this Napa weekend will totally top last weekend. Except for the waffles I made on Sunday. They were ethereal, transcendent, these waffles. So even if you won’t be getting away for the weekend, whipping up a batch of these waffles will transport you, if only for breakfast time.
I give you Marion Cunningham’s storied Raised Waffles, people. And I mean the culinary goddess Marion Cunningham, not the mom from Happy Days. And someday I’ll tell you how many years I lived not realizing they were two separate people.
But ohhhh, these waffles. So light, so crisp, so not at all sweet as to perfect balance with a good dose of maple syrup. The yeast flavor is so unexpectedly delicious, like the best parts of waffles and brioche having a baby.
And the very best part is you start the batter the night before. All you have to do in the a.m. is whisk in some eggs and baking soda–super easy, even with just one with one eye open and one tiny person clinging to your PJ pants. Who will not be accompanying us this weekend as we eat lots of beautiful food and imbibe in one of the most gorgeous places in the planet. Okay, now I’m just sort of bragging.
Marion Cunningham’s Raised Waffles
Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible
There are a few blog posts out there that have less than raves about this recipe, but for me, I found my experience with them to be completely awesome and I’ll pass along what worked for me. First, follow the instructions to the letter. Don’t short the rise time on the counter–start these the night before or pick another waffle recipe if you can’t. The magic of these waffles is because of a long, overnight rise for crazy lightness and tons of flavor.
Know that these waffles do have a yeasty flavor and are not sweet at all, so don’t expect an Eggo. Also, I found a lot of people online complaining about how rich with butter these waffles were, so for fun, I cut the butter down to 5 tablespoons instead of a whole stick. They turned out beautifully. It also seems that those who have a Belgian-style waffle iron don’t have as much success–mine is a standard waffle iron, the kind with lots of little squares rather than a few larger wells. Make a full batch; the waffles freeze and reheat in the toaster beautifully.
Serves 6 to 8
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups warm milk ((I think anything but skim would be fine here)
1/2 cup melted butter (I cut this amount down to 5 tablespoons, no problem)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
In the biggest mixing bowl you own (the batter will rise to double its original volume) sprinkle in the yeast over the warm water. Let stand to dissolve for 10 minutes. Add the milk, butter, salt, sugar, and flour and stir to blend. Give it a blast with a handheld mixer on a low speed for just a moment to really smooth it out–you don’t want any lumps. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature.
The next morning, just before cooking the waffles, whisk in the eggs and the baking soda–the batter will be very thin. Depending on the size of your waffle iron, pour about 1/3 to 1/2 cup batter onto the hot iron (use a light hand at first and check your progress–this waffle batter expands rather impressively. Bake until golden and crisp. This batter will keep for several days in the refrigerator.
The time has come. Completely ridiculous words have begun to take over our household. And I’m not just talking about Little C’s streaming toddler babble (“Hi! Hello? Apple? Mamadadababy! Toes! No?”). I’m talking about the random words that her parents haphazardly stick into sentences in place of more, shall we say, inflammatory terms, in the hopes of avoiding crass truck driver-parroting by said toddler. Like the day I informed my husband that I’d “scrubbed the–pajamas outta the shower”. A new low of parental dorkery, friends.
The day is fast approaching when I won’t be able to say that I really hate something because it’s basically stupid, and instead I’ll say that I “don’t like it very much” and it’s “silly”. If I ever get to using the word “whoopee” in The Newlywed Game sense, someone please send me out to pasture. Unless, of course, we’re talking about these totally kick-ass Whoopie Pies, in which case no language will be barred, I don’t care what sweet, impressionable, jeans-clinging tiny person is in my midst.
After meeting the greatness that is Rose Levy Beranbaum a couple weeks ago and getting a shiny new copy of her Heavenly Cakes book (just announced as IACP’s Cookbook of the Year, hooray!) signed and in my hot little hands, I started flipping and bookmarking that very night. And the recipes are, of course, at an insane level of creative genius. Most of them are, in a word, complex. So until Little C starts preschool, I’m probably going to stick to a few of the simpler recipes in this book, like these Whoopie Pies–rich, dense, deeply chocolatey cakey cookies sandwiching the most silky, perfect vanilla buttercream I’ve ever had. To die for, basically.
But because we’re friends, I’ll tell you that as far as Whoopie Pies go, the process to make them isn’t the simplest of all the recipes out there. This is RLB we’re talking about, after all. However, I will also say that they are totally, completely worth it, thank God. The cake part of the recipe actually comes together fairly quickly, and the double hit of dark chocolate makes for the kind of fudgy batter that you’ll want to spoon right from the bowl.
And the buttercream filling? Oh mah gah. This filling is one of Rose’s signature “mousseline” buttercreams, and it does not disappoint. And in her new book, she’s made the process a bit simpler for those of us who don’t have eight hands. Hooray!
Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Rose’s Heavenly Cakes
The original recipe stated that it would create 6 filled pies, but I easily got 8 out of my batches of batter and filling. The recipe also called for bringing the sugar syrup all the way to firm ball stage (248-250 degrees) before removing it from the heat, and the first time I followed this instruction, the syrup had cooled and mostly soldered itself to the measuring cup before I could get it into the meringue. I found that bringing it to a warm soft ball stage instead (238) worked much better and the end result was still great.
There are a lot of steps here, which I’ve condensed quite a bit from the original recipe. Read it carefully before you begin and try to choreograph the process in your head in the way that will work best for you before you begin.
If you don’t own smaller ice cream scoops, this recipe would be the perfect excuse to go buy a 2 tablespoon scoop–it makes portioning out the batter and filling evenly a breeze.
Makes 8 whoopie pies
For the cakes:
1 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (60-62% cacao–I used Ghiradelli bittersweet chips and it was fine)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cool room temperature
1 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour (sift first, then measure)
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
For the filling:
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 tablespoon water
1 large egg white, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoons cream of tartar
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at cool room temperature, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted confectioners’ sugar
Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees. Line two unrimmed baking sheets (or invert two rimmed half-sheet pans) with parchment paper or silicone baking mats, or spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water or in a microwave at 50% power, stirring every 30 seconds. Let cool until the chocolate is no longer warm to the touch, but still fluid.
While the chocolate is cooling, place the brown sugar, egg, oil and butter in the bowl of an eletrci mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat at medium speed for about 5 minutes–the mixture will become smooth and paler in color. Reduce the speed to low and stir in the melted chocolate.
Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture in three additions on low speed, alternating with the buttermilk, beating just until each addition begins to disappear into the batter, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. With a 1-ounce (2 tablespoons) ice cream scoop, portion the batter onto the sheets, 8 evenly spaced mounds per sheet.
Bake one sheet at a time, rotating halfway through baking, until the centers spring back when lightly touched, about 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on the sheet on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes before transferring the cakes to the rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container until ready to fill.
To make the filling, begin by making the sugar syrup. Combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a small saucepan. Over medium heat, cook until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is bubbling. Reduce the heat to low and move on to making the meringue (if you’re using an electric range, remove the pan from the heat completely).
In a mixing bowl with a handheld mixer, beat the egg white on high speed until foamy with tiny, relatively uniform bubbles. Add the cream of tartar and beat until stiff peaks form when the beaters are lifted.
Return to the sugar syrup and increase the heat to high. Boil until the syrup reaches 238-240 degrees. To make pouring easier, transfer the syrup to a heatproof measuring cup if you wish.
Beat the syrup into the meringue in a thin, steady stream, aiming away from the beaters so that the syrup doesn’t just spin onto the sides of the bowl. Beat until the outside of the bowl no longer feels hot, about 3 minutes. Beat in 1 tablespoon of the butter and the vanilla extract or paste. Refrigerate for 10 minutes while you make the finishing cream for the filling.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter and confectioners’ sugar. Beat on high for 2 minutes or until the mixture is very light in texture and color, almost white. Lower the speed to medium and beat in all the meringue until the buttercream is smooth, about 10 seconds or so.
To assemble, sandwich generous 2-tablespoon mounds of the filling between the cakes, and press down lightly so that the cream reaches the edges of the pies. Serve at room temperature and store any leftovers refrigerated in an airtight container, allowing them to come to room temperature again before serving.
Since I told you about my favorite pie crust the other day, I thought, hey, why not throw out a little recipe that is as easy as all get out, illustrating the glory of said crust? Now, I know you might be looking at the photo above and seeing bits of green and what appears to be a savory quiche, and you may be a bit puzzled by the whole thing. Where’s the sugar, man?! And to throw you off a little more, look! Pictures of vegetables! Wheeee!
About now, perhaps you’re checking the URL and making sure you’ve landed on the right blog. Or wondering if I’ve really, finally gone off the deep end. Which, honestly, I nearly do, about three times per week at least. But make no mistake—you’re in the right place, my darlings. I’m all thinking outside the box and seeing the forest for the trees or whatever and throwing savory at you. And I feel fantastic about it. This Spring Vegetable Quiche will make your weekend brunch, I can promise you that.
There’s really no better time to whip up a dish like this, guys. It’s insanely simple to throw together and it’s bursting with fresh, bright, green spring bounty. Fabulous crust aside, it’s a tangle of melting leeks and tender-crisp bits of asparagus, all nestled in a delicate, creamy bed of golden egg custard. With a little pile of lightly dressed greens and a chilly glass of Sauv Blanc on the side, you might just spaz out from gastronomical pleasure and maniacal happiness. It may make you do something crazy, like post the recipe on your granulated sugar-fueled baking blog. I can’t be held responsible.
Spring Vegetable Quiche
Adapted from Martha Stewart
As long as you keep the general amounts the same, you can swap out all sorts of vegetables here. I think adding some little sweet spring peas to the mix would be excellent. Scattering the cheese across the bottom of the crust rather than mixing it into the custard will help keep the crust from being soggy. To make this recipe even easier, you can forgo the scratch crust for a store-bought one. I won’t tell anyone.
1 pie crust, placed in a 9-inch glass pie plate, crimped and well-chilled
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large leek, white and light green parts only, well-washed, halved and sliced thin
1 pound green asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (keep the tips intact)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups half-and-half
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
Position a rack to the lowest level of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees.
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the leeks and asparagus and season generously with salt and pepper. Saute just until the colors brighten and the vegetable just begin to soften, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and nutmeg.
Place the chilled pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet. Scatter the cheese over the bottom of the pie shell. Place the vegetables in an even layer over the cheese. Pour the custard over all. Bake until the center of the quiche is just set, about 50-60 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through baking. Let stand at least 15 minutes before serving. To store leftovers, let the quiche cool completely before covering tightly and refrigerating for up to 1 day. Reheat at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.
Oh, friends. How have we come this far and I haven’t shared my favorite pie crust recipe with you? This is vital information and I’m sorry I’ve held out on you. It’s not okay. Because this pie crust is really something.
Now, I know practically everyone has a favorite pie crust recipe, each one with a little secret, a tweak on the basics that is supposed to guarantee a perfect pie crust experience. In fact, I love hearing about people’s pie crust recipes and their little tricks, and have been known to ask such probing questions as party conversation. Pretend you didn’t just hear that.
And in the food blogosphere, well, there seems to be as many reinventions of the pie crust wheel as there are metatarsal-stabbing wooden puzzle pieces on my living room carpet right now, which is to say a temple massage-inducing number. Many are awesome and reliable in their own ways–Deb has one, Joy has one that you don’t even have to roll out, and the great Lebovitz has one that’s all Frenched out. And now I’m adding to the madness with one more variation for you, the pie crust recipe that has my heart forever and ever.
My favorite pie crust is a formula that I’ve tinkered with over time. It’s an irresistibly golden, crisp, flaky, all-butter, melt-in-your-mouth crust with a genius hit of baking powder that really makes it foolproof. It comes together in minutes in the food processor. It’s a crust that you don’t have to be so precious with; even if you give a few too many pulses with the processor or handle it a wee bit too much (cardinal sins of pie crust making), that tiny bit of baking powder will give enough lift to correct all that. Pastry insurance, if you will. It’s a beautiful thing.
So do tell, darling readers…what’s your favorite pie crust recipe?
This recipes makes two crusts, enough for a 9-inch double-crust pie. If you need just one pie shell, halve the amounts. I make this in a food processor, but you could also do it by hand with a pastry cutter or in a stand mixer. I tend to ignore the “process until the butter is the size of peas” instruction in most pie crust recipes and instead go for larger pieces of butter–let’s say lima bean-sized–to avoid overworking the dough while adding the water and getting the dough to come together.
Cold ingredients are the key to all great pie crusts–put your flour in the freezer for 30 minutes, keep the butter in the fridge until right before you use it and use ice water.
For a savory crust, I include the smaller amount of sugar as listed here–it’s great for flavor and browning. For sweet pies, you can add more as you like, up to 2 tablespoons.
Makes enough dough for 1 double-crusted pie or 2 single, 10-inch crusts
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons sugar (see note)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/4 teaspoon table salt)
1 cup (2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Pulse a few times to blend. Sprinkle the butter pieces over the dry ingredients. Pulse until the butter is the size of lima beans, no smaller.
Add 6 tablespoons of the water and pulse until the dough just begins to form a ball (you may need to add up to 2 tablespoons more of the ice water). Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather it into a ball. Divide the dough in half, and gently pat each half into a disc. Wrap each disc tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling.
After you roll out the crust and place it in the desired pan, let it chill for 15-30 minutes in the refrigerator before filling and baking to prevent shrinking.
To pre-bake or blind bake this crust, freeze the shaped crust in the pan for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the pie shell with parchment or aluminum foil and fill with pie weights. Bake for 25-30 minutes covered, then remove the pie weights and liner and bake until lightly golden, about 10 to 15 minutes more. Cool completely on a wire rack before filling.
Wow. Wow, wow, wow! What a day. Guys, if you weren’t exactly local enough to make it to the San Francisco location of the National Food Bloggers’ Bake Sale on Saturday, then I really hope that you were able to stop by one in your area. For us here in San Francisco, it was just an amazing day all the way around. We had the most beautiful weather and a sea of enthusiastic customers who went crazy over the the impressive array of goodies that our team turned out of our kitchens for the event. It was, in a word, awesome.
At 11:00 a.m., a bunch of crazy food bloggers descended upon a busy intersection in Noe Valley near Omnivore Books on Food and started setting up our delicious wares. As people started showing up with their goodies, it was hard to not start maniacally shoving things in my face, like, immediately. I couldn’t believe the display of talent and phenomenal taste of my fellow food bloggers. The air was electric–full of butter, sugar and insane amounts of positive energy. Truly inspiring.
Things got seriously promising when we made our first sales before we even got our wits about us and got everything priced–woo-hoo! Even Anita, our illustrious leader, was pleasantly surprised.
But really, with a selection like ours, who could resist? We had everything from the bake sale standybys like brownies and cookies to modern favorites like adorable cake pops and crack-like caramel corn to the super chic–macarons, people! Ooh, la la.
And see those cute little pies next to the macarons up there? Those are called iPies and they are made by a gem of a lady named Patricia Kline who I sort of want to be when I grow up. Those iPies? To die for. And if I am making requests as to who I might like to grow up to be, then I would also like a smattering of Ms. Penni Wisner, please.
I can’t even tell you how terrific it was to not only meet so many bloggers and put faces to URLs, but to sell treats to so many lovely San Franciscans (Old! Young! Babies! Dogs!) who were genuinely into supporting the cause and learning more about Share Our Strength. Chills all over and a little misty, more than once, not gonna lie. And then. And THEN!
The pastry goddess that is Rose Levy Beranbaum came by Omnivore to drop some serious knowledge and sign books. There really is nothing like a room full of excited baking geeks. I felt like I was on a high school choir trip all over again. Pretend you didn’t hear that. To distract you, look at this adorable picture of Dame Rose and the wonderful Celia, proprietor of Omnivore and gracious host of of our bake sale. Try to ignore the huge shoulder that I couldn’t shoot around because the place was packed. And I dare you not to covet the massive display of cookbooks–I could inhale this shop, I swear.
Many, many thanks to Anita for doing such a wonderful job with the heavy lifting of organizing the sale, the warm staff at Omnivore Books for hosting all us wacky food bloggers and getting the word out on a grand scale, and of course the good people of San Francisco who came from all over the city to put delicious baked goods in their faces in the name of an incredible charity. Especially one particularly demanding, wee San Franciscan who refused to leave until she mowed half a package of Kerrie‘s Meyer Lemon Madeleines. I was so proud.
You guys know me by now. Other than loving on crazy, sweet kids like my Little C, my main interests involve baking, blogging and hoarding cookbooks. So you can imagine my excitement at being part of an awesome, huge national bake sale put on by food bloggers to benefit an organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America. Plus, the San Francisco sale will be held at one of my happy places, the amazing cookbook shop Omnivore Books. I think this is what’s called being in one’s element, no? I hope you will come by, say hi and buy some goodies this weekend!
Who: Your favorite San Francisco-area food bloggers
What: An awesome bake sale benefitting Share Our Strength
When: Saturday, April 17th, 2010. From 12-3 p.m.
Where: Omnivore Books, 3885 Cesar Chavez, San Francisco, CA 94131 . Click here to find the NFB bake sale nearest you.
Why: So you can put lots of delicious baked goods in your face and not feel guilty, because, hey, it’s for charity!
Also, in what would be defined as kismet, Omnivore opened their space to us for the bake sale on the very same day that pastry goddess Rose Levy Berenbaum will be there to speak and sign books, starting at 3:00. It’s an insane celebration of baking! I can’t wait.
Hope to see you there!
Attention: This Salted Peanut Cookie Brittle is straight up crack. It will call you from the counter top all day long, and when you go out, you’ll think about it on your way home, and feel the need to cram a hunk in your face before you even remove your coat. This is that sort of thing. You have been warned.
If you’ve been following along at home, you might remember a Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle recipe I shared a while back. That was also extremely crack-like and dangerous to have all up in my area. This recipe is basically the same thing, except without the chocolate chips, which some of you may balk at. But trust me when I say that even chocolate chips become a moot point when replaced with a ton of crunchy, salty peanuts that populate the most crisp, buttery cookie dough you’ve ever had. The whole thing tastes like sweet, salty, caramely peanut brittle in cookie form. And if you can think of anything that sounds instantly more addictive than that, well, please report to me, because I want some of what you’ve got.
Thought the amounts of the ingredients are the same, the other thing that’s a little different from my other cookie brittle recipe is that the butter and sugar are creamed together in this recipe, rather then just melting the butter and stirring everything together. This makes the brittle even crisper and airier than the chocolate chip one, and I’m thinking of editing that one accordingly because it’s such a fabulous texture. But it’s all still so easy, I dare you to not make this stuff three times in the first week that you try it. There’s no faster way to the most delicious cookie-type thing you’ve ever had. Actually, I almost wish it wasn’t quite so easy to throw together–it would be far less dangerous that way.
This recipe comes from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies (and how, Ms. Maida), with just a few changes, namely the addition of a good dose of salt. Now, I need to tell you that Maida is one of my heroes. Love her, love her books, love everything about her. Also, you will be seeing quite a few Maida recipes in the coming months around here, because I could not stop myself from bookmarking when I settled in with this classic cookbook that is a year older than me. I am officially now in my Maida period. I just thought you should know.
I also think you should know that I would love to share some of my Salted Peanut Cookie Brittle with you (along with the chocolate chip version and hunks of this stupid delicious cake), at the San Francisco location of the National Food Bloggers’ Bake Sale! The bake sale will be taking place Saturday April 17th from 12-3 p.m. at my happy place, Omnivore Books, 3885 Cesar Chavez in San Francisco. If you live in the area, I hope you will stop by, say hi and buy a few goodies to help support a great cause!
Makes about 3 dozen pieces
You can either cut the cookies neatly into bars while they are still warm, or if you’re feeling rebellious, you can just wait for the cookie slab to cool completely and then just break it into charmingly irregular pieces. If you don’t have a smaller rimmed sheet pan exactly the size of the 15 1/2 by 10 1/2-inch one called for here (I don’t), then fold aluminum foil into wide, sturdy strips and use them as a damn of sorts to approximate an area of that size on the sheet, give or take a couple inches. Don’t worry about perfection here with smoothing and spreading the dough just so–the more sort of rustic the brittle looks, the better. This stuff tastes best the day after baking and beyond.
1/ 2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into the cup and leveled
4 ounces (1 cup) roasted, salted peanuts, roughly chopped
Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl and beat in the salt and vanilla, about 30 seconds more. Reduce the speed to low and gradually stir in the flour, stopping to scrape the bowl as necessary. Stir in half the peanuts.
Turn the dough out onto a rimmed sheet pan, about 15 1/2 by 10 1/2 inches. Lightly flour your hands and pat the dough in a thin layer (don’t worry about making it perfectly even). Sprinkle the rest of the peanuts evenly over the dough. Cover the dough with a sheet of waxed or parchment paper and using a rolling pin or a tall, smooth glass, roll over the paper to smooth the dough and press the peanuts firmly into the dough.
Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, until golden brown, rotating the sheet halfway through baking time. Cool in the pan for five minutes before cutting the warm slab into bars, or wait for it too cool completely and break into pieces like brittle candy. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.
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