Saturday, September 23, 2023

Mixed Berry Muffins



Oh my goodness. Claire Saffitz has done it again: given me a recipe I will cherish forever. Her most recent video was of her and her mom baking blueberry muffins. I only had frozen mixed berries on hand, so that's what I used. These are the kind of muffins that really taste more like cake than muffin, but that's fine with me. I think I like the mixed berries more than I would just blueberries because the raspberries and black berries add just a touch of tartness. These ones are actually my second attempt in two days. 


Mixed Berry Muffins

Adapted from Claire Saffitz x Dessert Person YouTube


Ingredients:

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg (room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 cup + 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal; if using Morton's use 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup frozen berries (blueberries, raspberries, black berries, mixed...)
  • 1-2 tablespoons demerara sugar

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
  • Leave the berries in the freezer until they are called for in the recipe.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside. 
  • In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar until lighter in color. (You can also use a stand or hand mixer, but today I used a whisk.)
  • Whisk in the egg, and then whisk in the lemon zest.
  • Make a little divot in the sour cream/yogurt and pour in the vanilla.
  • Using a silicone spatula, stir a third of the dry ingredient mixture into the butter/sugar/egg mixture.
  • Then stir in half of the sour cream/yogurt/vanilla.
  • Stir in another third of the dry ingredients.
  • Stir in the remaining sour cream/yogurt/vanilla.
  • Then stir in the remaining dry ingredients.
  • Gently fold in the frozen berries. You'll notice the batter gets thicker because the berries are bringing the temperature down.
  • Evenly divide the batter into the 12 muffin cups (I used a large-ish cookie scoop).
  • Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with the demerara sugar.
  • Place pan in the preheated oven and bake at 375 degrees for 20-24 minutes, or until golden brown on top (mine baked a little too long today).
  • Remove pan from oven and then carefully remove the muffins from the pan to finish cooling on a wire rack. 

Makes 12 muffins



I used a whisk today instead of my stand mixer and it worked great.
This is just the butter and sugar at this point.

Make sure the berries are really frozen when you stir them into the batter.









Sunday, September 10, 2023

Levain Inspired Chocolate Chip Cookies

Levain Inspired Chocolate Chip Cookies

Being a big fan of cooking shows and YouTube in general, I'd seen the Levain cookies reviewed several times, and everyone seemed to conclude that they are the BEST chocolate chip cookie of New York, if not the world. 

Since I had no immediate plans to visit NY, I never really thought I'd get a chance to try the actual cookie. We did take a trip to Washington DC this past summer, though, and Georgetown had a Levain bakery. I told my husband that Levain was my number 2 tourist priority after the obvious touring of most of the Smithsonian and the National Mall.

I'll cut to the chase: the Levain Cookie, although large, gooey, and beautifully colored, didn't live up to my expectations. I mean, how could it? I probably broke into it too soon because it was fresh out of the oven (I had to wait a bit for my order to bake), but still, the one thing I noticed was a lack of flavor. Yeah. Flavor. My husband surreptitiously took a video of my comments, and I declared after tasting, "It needs salt." Actually I thought it needed vanilla too. I brought some cookies home for my foodie son to try, and his first comment upon tasting the chocolate chip walnut cookie was, "Needs salt." Maybe we just like salt around here.

This recipe here is adapted from Cupcake Jemma's version. I've added vanilla to the recipe and increased the salt and baking soda. I cut the size of the cookie in half because 1. I don't like uncooked dough in the center and 2. I'm not selling these at a bakery. As it is, the 60 gram cookie is like eating 2 normal sized chocolate chip cookies. 

I cut back the size even further in later iterations because I wanted to try it and because I'm taking them to an event.

So why do I like THESE cookies enough to keep making them and commit them to this blog? First of all, they taste great. Maybe not my favorite CCC recipe, but very tasty. They're soft, thick, and baked all the way through. They kind of crumble a little like an American buttermilk biscuit, so when I eat one I break off a bite at a time, and I usually heat it up in the microwave for about 11 seconds too. Second of all, unlike lots of other CCC recipes, these still taste great even 2-3 days after baking. I usually won't eat a CCC after day 2, but these are the exception. Overall, a crowd-pleasing cookie.

I've written much more than I intended here, so without further ado, here's the recipe:


Levain Inspired Chocolate Chip Cookies (NOT a copycat recipe)

Adapted from Cupcake Jemma's Recipe on Youtube

Ingredients:
  • 230 g unsalted butter, cold, cut into tablespoon size chunks
  • 160 g granulated sugar
  • 160 g brown sugar
  • 450 g chocolate chips (I used Nestle semi-sweet morsels)
  • 200 g walnut pieces (optional)
  • 230 g self-rising flour*
  • 200 g all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Instructions:
  • (Scroll to the photos at the end to see what this unconventional process looks like.)
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the cold butter and mix on low for about a minute, just to break up the butter--do not cream the butter.
  • Add the granulated and brown sugar to the butter and mix again on low/medium low until little nuggets of butter & sugar form--again, do not cream this mixture.
  • Add the chocolate chips and walnuts (if desired), and mix again just to incorporate the chocolate chips and nuts.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir with a whisk until completely mixed. 
  • Add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/chocolate/nuts mixture in the mixing bowl and mix on low until combined, about 30-45 seconds. It will still be dry and sandy looking.
  • Add the vanilla to the egg mixture and then add that to the mixture. Mix on low/medium low until dough starts to come together, but do not mix long enough to create a completely cohesive dough.
  • Using a large cookie scoop or a large spoon, make 60 gram gently formed balls of dough -- it's best if you don't pack the dough into a tight ball. Then flatten each ball into a disk that's about an inch thick.
  • Cover and freeze dough disks at least 90 minutes before baking.Preheat oven to 360 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place in the oven to get hot while the oven preheats.
  • When pan and oven are heated, remove the pan from the oven, place frozen dough disks on pan allowing a couple of inches between them.
  • Bake at 360 degrees for about 14-15 minutes, until puffed and starting to crack. Take care to not over-bake. Underbaked is better than over-baked.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool on cookie sheet at least five minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely. Alternately, if you have a rimless baking sheet, you can slide the parchment with the baked cookie sheets onto a cooling rack to cool until ready to eat, about 5-10 minutes. This is what I try to do so the cookies will not continue to bake on the hot baking sheet.
  • Place unbaked dough disks in a zip top freezer bag and store in the freezer until you want more cookies. 
  • Store baked and cooled cookies in an airtight container.
  • Heat cooled cookies in the microwave on high for 10 seconds if you want to melt the chocolate and make the insides gooey again.
Makes about 30 cookies

*You can mix your own self-rising flour by combining 2 cups all purpose flour with 3 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Then use just 230 grams of that for this recipe. Save or toss what's leftover.

Make sure the butter is COLD.

Just break up the butter -- don't cream it.


You'll still have chunks of butter after mixing in the sugars.

Yeah, the chips go in before the flour, and the egg goes in at the end.



Everything but the egg and vanilla here.


The dough is never a cohesive mass.

I actually do use a kitchen scale for this.




Frozen dough balls going into the oven now.

Baked.

These ones have nuts. The dough mixed above didn't have them.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Pecan Pie Pop Tarts

Pecan Pie Pop Tarts
Frosted and sprinkled with pecans

Pecan Pie Pop Tarts

The Filling

Ingredients:
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 large egg, beaten lightly
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter flavor/extract
Instructions:
  • Make the filling at least 3 hours before planning to make the pop tarts because you want it to be as viscus as possible.
  • In a medium size saucepan over medium-low heat, place the butter, sugar, corn syrup, and egg. Stir ingredients to incorporate and continue stirring while it cooks.
  • Cook until the mixture comes to a gentle boil/simmer and thickens slightly. 
  • Once it boils, remove from the heat and add the pecans along with the vanilla and butter flavor/extract. Stir completely.
  • Transfer mixture to a heat-proof container (like a clean mason jar), allow to cool, and then refrigerate until needed.

The Crust

Ingredients:
  • 200 grams all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 32 grams cornstarch
  • 30 grams powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 56 grams cold butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 90 milliliters cream
Instructions:
  • In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, cornstarch, powdered sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Pulse a few times to blend the dry ingredients.
  • Add the butter and pulse a few more times until you get a sandy-looking mixture with possibly a few small chunks of butter left.
  • Pour in the cream and pulse a few times to disperse the cream. Then process for 30 to 60 seconds until the dough comes together and starts forming a ball, or at least cohesive chunks.
  • Get a square piece of plastic wrap and set aside (you'll need two pieces of plastic wrap total).
  • Weigh the dough and then divide into two equal portions.
  • Working with one half of the dough at a time on the plastic wrap, pat into a ball, and then flatten the sides of the ball to sort of form a dough cube.
  • Flatten the cube while trying to maintain the square shape as much as possible. 
  • Once it's about 1/2 inch thick, place onto the plastic wrap and try to neatly fold the dough into the plastic wrap so you get squared off corners with the plastic wrap.
  • Gently use a rolling pin to roll the dough in the plastic wrap so the dough squishes into the corners. It probably won't create a perfect square, but the more square you can get it now, the easier the rolling will be later.
  • Repeat with the other half of the dough.
  • Place dough in the refrigerator for about an hour, or up to 2 days.

The Pop Tarts

Ingredients:
  • 1 batch (in 2 pieces) pop tart dough (see above)
  • 1 cup (approximately) pecan pie filling
  • 90 grams powdered sugar
  • 3-4 teaspoons water, plus more for sealing pop tarts
  • 2 tablespoons crushed toasted pecans and or 2 tablespoons crushed toffee bits
Equipment:
  • baking sheet
  • parchment paper 
  • rolling pin
  • stiff ruler, plastic or metal
  • pizza cutter
  • fork
  • knife or offset spatula
  • small pastry brush
  • whisk

Instructions:
  • Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature 5-10 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Lightly dust your rolling surface with flour, and turn out one of your dough pieces. Flour your rolling pin and gently swat the dough to soften it up--tap a few times in each direction side to side, top to bottom, and diagonally both ways. Turn the dough over and swat it on that side too.
  • Start rolling the dough out into a rectangle and about 1/8" or 2 mm thickness, keeping the corners as square as possible. If the dough is cracking a lot, let it sit a few more minutes to soften before continuing to roll.
  • Using the ruler and the pizza cutter, cut the edges of the dough to make a clean-looking rectangle, preserving as much area as possible. You can bake off the scraps later or throw them away.
  • Measure the height and width of the sheet of dough and divide by 3. Then cut into 9 rectangles that are as equally sized as possible. Move the rectangles to the parchment-lined baking sheet and set aside.
  • Repeat the swatting and rolling with the second piece of dough, going just a little bit thinner to make a slightly larger rectangle. Repeat the measuring and cutting as well.
  • Using a floured fork, carefully poke holes into each piece of top crust.
  • Get your pecan pie filing, and using a spoon or offset spatula, spread about 2 to 3 teaspoons of filling onto the pieces of dough on the pan. Leave at least a quarter inch around the edge clear of filling. Repeat with remaining bottom crusts.
  • Using the pastry brush and water, lightly moisten the edges of dough around the filling. 
  • Place a top crust onto each of the bottom ones, gently pressing the edges together. Once you've done this with all of the pop tarts, dip a fork in flour and crimp all of the edges of each pop tart.
  • (If you're using crushed toffee for the topping, lightly brush the top crusts with water and sprinkle evenly with crushed toffee.)
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 15-17 minutes, or until edges are starting to brown.
  • Move pop tarts to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Once pop tarts are completely cool, whisk the 90 grams powdered sugar with 3 teaspoons water. Add the last teaspoon of water if the mixture is too thick and/or dry. This mixture should not be runny. 
  • Using an offset spatula or a knife, spread about a teaspoon of frosting onto each pop tart and then immediately sprinkle with crushed pecans, if desired. 
  • Allow frosting to set before enjoying.
  • Eat or freeze within 3 days.
  • Only toast the pop tarts if you do not frost them. This frosting will burn in a toaster.


Here's a video of how I made cherry pop tarts. Same basic process applies with the Pecan Pie Pop Tarts. 


The filling




Topped with crushed toffee bits



Monday, July 24, 2023

Corn Salad





My good friend Amy made this for us one summer evening, and my husband who doesn't really go out of his way for veggies LOVED it. (I know corn is more of a grain than a vegetable, but we grew up in the 70s and our moms counted it as a vegetable.)
It's a light, refreshing, and flavorful salad. I still need to perfect it, but since I keep going back to my texts to get the recipe, I'm finally committing it to the blog. I'll try to remember to make changes here as I adjust the recipe. What Amy sent me was not an exact recipe, so the way I quantified it here is me ballparking it.

Corn Salad

Ingredients:
  • 4 large corn cobs, grilled & cooled/refrigerated 
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1/3 cup finely diced red onion
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh finely diced jalapeƱo pepper
  • 1/4 cup (or so) cilantro, chopped
  • juice of one small lemon
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
Instructions:
  • (Watch this video if you want to see how one person grills corn.)
  • Carefully cut the corn kernels from the cob and place in a large bowl. (Watch this video for corn cutting tips.)
  • Add the rest of the ingredients, starting with only 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix thoroughly.
  • Taste to see if you want to add more salt (or any other ingredient). 
  • Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes about 6-8 cups of corn salad.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Homemade Pop Tarts

Homemade Sour Cherry Pop Tarts




I think my quest to make homemade pop tarts began when my [imaginary] friendship with Claire Saffitz began. This was when I discovered Claire's videos on the Bon Appetit YouTube channel, and she made an episode on making gourmet Pop Tarts.
The strawberry pop tarts I made using that recipe actually turned out strange and greasy. I must have done something wrong because Claire's didn't look like that. They looked precise, flaky, and perfect. Mine, not so much. 
Then a month ago I went to breakfast with some friends and had the restaurant's homemade key lime pop tart, and that was also quite greasy, and frankly, not tasty.
Since I had so much sour cherry jam on my hands because of my front yard cherry tree's excessive production this year, I thought I'd try making pop tarts again, but with a more "traditional" pop tart crust, like the ones we get in the blue box. 
In Jennie's Kitchen had just what I was looking for: kind of a dry, tender crust. The original recipe calls for twice the amount of powdered sugar you see below, but I'm more of a savory person, so I did what you see. If you like more sweetness, go for the full 60 grams of powdered sugar.
This recipe calls for a food processor, but I'm sure it would work by hand using a pastry blender and some elbow grease. 
What I have ended up with are fantastic pop tarts that are getting rave reviews from friends and colleagues. Hopefully I'll be posting more variations soon, along with a TikTok. I actually recorded videos for the TikTok but broke the process up too much and realized I need to not do that. 
At any rate, if you're hankering to make your own pop tarts, try this recipe out. I think you'll be pleased.
Note: I've included my TikTok video showing my Pop Tart making process at the end of the recipe below.

Pop Tarts

     --Adapted from InJenniesKitchen.com

The Crust

Ingredients:
  • 200 grams all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 32 grams cornstarch
  • 30 grams powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 56 grams cold butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 90 milliliters cream
Instructions:
  • In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, cornstarch, powdered sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Pulse a few times to blend the dry ingredients.
  • Add the butter and pulse a few more times until you get a sandy-looking mixture with possibly a few small chunks of butter left.
  • Pour in the cream and pulse a few times to disperse the cream. Then process for 30 to 60 seconds until the dough comes together and starts forming a ball, or at least cohesive chunks.
  • Get a square piece of plastic wrap and set aside (you'll need two pieces of plastic wrap total).
  • Weigh the dough and then divide into two equal portions.
  • Working with one half of the dough at a time on the plastic wrap, pat into a ball, and then flatten the sides of the ball to sort of form a dough cube.
  • Flatten the cube while trying to maintain the square shape as much as possible. 
  • Once it's about 1/2 inch thick, place onto the plastic wrap and try to neatly fold the dough into the plastic wrap so you get squared off corners with the plastic wrap.
  • Gently use a rolling pin to roll the dough in the plastic wrap so the dough squishes into the corners. It probably won't create a perfect square, but the more square you can get it now, the easier the rolling will be later.
  • Repeat with the other half of the dough.
  • Place dough in the refrigerator for about an hour, or up to 2 days.

The Pop Tarts

Ingredients:
  • 1 batch (in 2 pieces) pop tart dough (see above)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup fruit jam
  • 90 grams powdered sugar
  • 3-4 teaspoons water, plus more for sealing pop tarts
  • food color (optional)
  • sprinkles (optional)
Equipment:
  • baking sheet
  • parchment paper 
  • rolling pin
  • stiff ruler, plastic or metal
  • pizza cutter
  • fork
  • knife or offset spatula
  • small pastry brush
  • whisk

Instructions:
  • Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature 5-10 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Lightly dust your rolling surface with flour, and turn out one of your dough pieces. Flour your rolling pin and gently swat the dough to soften it up--tap a few times in each direction side to side, top to bottom, and diagonally both ways. Turn the dough over and swat it on that side too.
  • Start rolling the dough out into a rectangle and about 1/8" or 2 mm thickness, keeping the corners as square as possible. If the dough is cracking a lot, let it sit a few more minutes to soften before continuing to roll.
  • Using the ruler and the pizza cutter, cut the edges of the dough to make a clean-looking rectangle, preserving as much area as possible. You can bake off the scraps later or throw them away.
  • Measure the height and width of the sheet of dough and divide by 3. Then cut into 9 rectangles that are as equally sized as possible. Move the rectangles to the parchment-lined baking sheet and set aside.
  • Repeat the swatting and rolling with the second piece of dough, going just a little bit thinner to make a slightly larger rectangle. Repeat the measuring and cutting as well.
  • Using a floured fork, carefully poke holes into each piece of top crust.
  • Get your fruit jam, and using a spoon or offset spatula, spread about 2 to 3 teaspoons of jam onto the pieces of dough on the pan. Leave at least a quarter inch around the edge clear of jam. Repeat with remaining bottom crusts.
  • Using the pastry brush and water, lightly moisten the edges of dough around the jam. 
  • Place a top crust onto each of the bottom ones, gently pressing the edges together, taking care not to squeeze out any jam. Once you've done this with all of the pop tarts, dip a fork in flour and crimp all of the edges of each pop tart.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 15-17 minutes, or until edges are starting to brown.
  • Move pop tarts to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Once pop tarts are completely cool, whisk the 90 grams powdered sugar with 3 teaspoons water. Add the last teaspoon of water if the mixture is too thick and/or dry. This mixture should not be runny. Whisk in food coloring, if desired.
  • Using an offset spatula or a knife, spread about a teaspoon of frosting onto each pop tart and then immediately apply sprinkles, if desired. 
  • Allow frosting to set before enjoying.
  • Eat or freeze within 3 days.
  • Only toast the pop tarts if you do not frost them. This frosting will burn in a toaster.

Makes 9 pop tarts















Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Shortbread


Classic Shortbread

If you've ever watched Apple TV+'s Ted Lasso, you're familiar with Ted's shortbread in the little pink boxes. Now that the series is over, I'm finally getting around to making the recipe I found on Instagram that supposedly comes from Apple TV+ via Emmy Magazine. Although I was unable to locate the recipe at the Emmy Magazine website, I found it in several other places.

I've made this recipe twice so far. The first time I followed the recipe almost exactly, but the shortbread was underbaked, in my opinion. The edge pieces turned out nice, but the center ones were too soft. Not terrible, but soft. 

The second time around that you see pictured here, I baked the shortbread sticks a second time after I had removed them from the pan and separated them from each other. This ensured all pieces were crisp with a nice browned butter flavor. Mmmm. I've already eaten too many of these.

I also decided to sprinkle the tops with a little bit of granulated sugar because I thought it would look nice and add just a tad more sweetness. I think it was a good call.

Also, many recipes I've seen for shortbread call for vanilla, but I think that distracts from the butter flavor, so if you're thinking of adding vanilla I recommend at least trying these without vanilla first, and then see if you think they need that extra flavor for your taste. Do what you have to, and enjoy.

Shortbread 

      --Adapted from the Today Show and Delish.com (Actually, it's all over the internet.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter (somewhat softened, but still cool)
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar

Instructions:

  • Line a square 8"x8" pan with parchment paper.
  • Add the butter to a medium-large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat the butter for 3-5 minutes until light. Stop the mixer once or twice to scrape down sides of bowl.
  • Gradually add the powdered sugar into the sugar with the mixer on low. Once powdered sugar is incorporated, beat on high until pale and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl once or twice.
  • In a separate bowl, mix the flour and kosher salt with a whisk, and then add to the butter/sugar mixture. Mix on low, and then on medium, just until it comes together. You do not want to over beat the dough and develop gluten. 
  • Move the dough to the prepared pan. Using your finger tips, press the dough evenly into the pan, making the edges as neat as possible.
  • Place the pan in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 310 degrees F. 
  • Remove pan from the refrigerator, and using a sharp knife, cut dough into 7 or 8 long strips. Then cut two lines perpendicular to the others to create three even columns, each containing 7 or 8 rectangles. (Be careful to not cut into the parchment paper,)
  • Use a toothpick or wooden skewer to poke about 8 holes into each rectangle.
  • Put pan in oven and bake for 50 minutes at 310 degrees F. 
  • After 50 minutes, remove the pan from the oven. Re-cut the lines, being careful to not cut all the way through the parchment paper, and then sprinkle the granulated sugar all over the top of the cut shortbread.
  • Lift the shortbread out by lifting the parchment paper, and place it on a baking sheet. Using the knife, gently separate the shortbread into its individual pieces, leaving about a quarter inch between pieces. 
  • Return the shortbread to the oven (on the baking sheet this time) and bake at 310 degrees F for another 10-15 minutes, or until shortbread looks a little dryer and slightly more browned than before.
  • Allow shortbread to cool completely before enjoying.

Makes 21 to 24 servings






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