Monday, November 29, 2010

Chocolate Dipped Peppermint Marshmallow Pops

I love this time of year. The scents are amazing. The treats that have been hiding all year long have finally come out to play!

I think just everyone loves marshmallows and chocolate. I mean, who doesn't love a s'more? But this time of year it's time for a little twist- a peppermint twist! These creamy marshmallows are dipped in dark chocolate, then topped in crunchy peppermint. They are crazy good on their own, but when you dunk them in a hot cup of coffee, amazing things happen... They are so easy, you gotta give them a try!

Chocolate Dipped Peppermint Marshmallow Pops

6 marshmallows
1 c dark chocolate candy melts
1/2 c crushed peppermints or candy canes
6 candy sticks (wood or paper)
6 red gummy candies for garnish
Foam platform, to hold pops

Place peppermint candies in a small bag. Crush with a rolling pin or a mallet until pieces are small. Set aside.

Melt candy melts in microwave. Place sticks into marshmallows, and one at a time, dip into chocolate coating evenly. Lightly tap stick on edge of bowl to remove excess chocolate. This may take a few seconds- you do not want the chocolate to drip down sides while cooling. Once excess is removed, place the sticks standing up in the foam board. You can then place in the fridge or the freezer to set quicker.

After chocolate is set, dip just the top end and edges once again into the melted chocolate, and then immediately into the crushed peppermints. Place onto the foam board once again. On the very top center of the marshmallow/ peppermint, place a small dot of chocolate. Then place a gummy candy on top.

No need to refrigerate... Just enjoy!

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Creamy Appletini

Ahhh, the holidays are upon us... just a few short days and all of your favorite people will be at your door, dishes in hand, ready to share in the abundance that will grace your table. Your house is immaculate, all of the Autumn decor perfectly appointed; praises, love, and adoration of your culinary abilities is on it's way...

Bull. Don't lie. Aunt Gertrude has already pissed you off, insulting your turkey brining technique. Your brother can't seem to make an executive decision about whether he's coming or not. Your uncle wants to bring 10 of his buddies that can't even boil water, and the batteries just went out on your smoke detectors. All 8 of them. 12 feet up. Your ladder is only 4 feet tall.

It's time for your trusty one fingered wave to the world. It's time for a Creamy Appletini.

Creamy Appletini

1/4 oz chopped Hersheys cinnamon chips
1/4 oz graham cracker crumbs
1 Tbs Karo syrup, for rimming glass
1 oz spiced rum
1/4 oz whiskey
4 oz Martinelli's sparkling cider
2 oz heavy cream
crushed ice

Combine chopped cinnamon chips and graham cracker crumbs. Dip rim of a 4 oz glass into Karo syrup, coating completely. Set aside.

In an 8 oz glass, combine the rum, whiskey, sparkling cider, and heavy cream. Add some crushed ice. Stir until blended and frothy. Pour into your prepared glass. Makes 2, 4oz servings.

Ignore everybody.


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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Roasted Pumpkin Whole Wheat Pizza

I adore pizza. Not just your run of the mill, "Five for $5" deals, but rather, "real" pizza. Fresh, quality ingredients, that adorn a fabulous crust, are a must. Oh, and not the crust that you can find in the cardboard tubes at the market... I'm talking fresh, flavorful, crispy rounds of goodness that can only be had by using a tried and true recipe.

The best recipe I've ever found comes from my friend Peter, who writes the Greek Food Blog, Kalofagas. I've been a fan of Peter's blog for a few years now, and consider him the authority on all things Greek. I look no further. Every recipe I've ever tried from his repertoire has been stellar. People who know me well know that I always adapt recipes from the get go. Well, not with Peters. I know they are tried. They are true. I respect his dishes and know that no changes are necessary.

When I got the hankering for a pizza last week, and went to prepare Peters recipe for pizza dough, I found myself completely out of all purpose flour. Shock. I know... Me without flour is unheard of. It's wrong. It just doesn't happen. Hot diggity lizards though, it did! All of my recipe components already prepped, with 2 little ones I was babysitting and my own Kidlet underfoot, I was unable to jet to the store and went into a pizza panic!

It was then that I remembered my frozen stash of King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour. While it is quite pricey, I refuse to use any other brand, knowing it produces consistent, quality results every time (no, I was not paid to say that).

For the first time, I was going to adapt a recipe of Peters... Shhhhh... don't say anything...

So, with additional ingredients inspired by my own runaway imagination, and a desperate craving for a unique, taste of Fall inspired pizza, I created this whole wheat pizza, uncertain of the end result.

All I can say is, I'm glad I ran out of all purpose flour! I loved the flavor and chew that the whole wheat gave to this crust. It married perfectly with the pumpkin, and complimented the taste and aroma of the fresh sage. When drizzled generously just before serving with the best olive oil you can find, and served with a smoky glass of Chardonnay, you'll have a distinctive pizza perfect for a meal, or wonderful as an appetizer.

Roasted Pumpkin Whole Wheat Pizza
with adapted Pizza dough recipe from Peter of Kalofagas

1 recipe Pizza Dough- Use this recipe & substitute King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour
1 small Sugar Pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and sliced
2 cups Ricotta Cheese
1 whole head of Garlic, roasted
2 fresh Sage Leaves, minced, and additional for topping
1/4 tsp fresh ground Nutmeg
Salt & fresh ground Pepper, to taste
12 slices of Smoked Provolone Cheese
Olive Oil, for brushing and drizzling

Preheat oven to 450F. Sprinkle pizza stone with cornmeal and place in oven.

Combine ricotta cheese, roasted garlic, minced sage, fresh nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Divide whole wheat pizza dough in half. Spread out each half, and carefully transfer to a pizza peel that has been sprinkled with cornmeal. Brush dough well with olive oil. Spread 1/2 ricotta mixture onto dough. Cover with 6 slices of smoked provolone. Top with as many slices of pumpkin as you like. Lightly drizzle again with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper. If desired, sprinkle with a chiffonade of fresh sage leaves. Transfer pizza from the pizza peel to your well heated pizza stone, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on your oven.

Just before serving, drizzle again with olive oil. Makes 2 medium size pizza's.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pumpkin Biscotti with Toasted Pine Nuts and Cinnamon Chips

Of course y'all know I bake. A lot. An obscene amount of cakes, really. Last week I had both my sons birthday cake and a Crack Pie sitting on my counter. Well, make that 2 crack pies- but I was a good girl and gave one away.

Because I have so much sweet stuff lying around here all the time, my cravings have a tendency to lean towards the not so sweet variety. Just something with a touch of sweetness, to compliment a nice, hot, cup of coffee.

I was doing a little hanging out over at My Baking Addiction last week, and came across Jaime's post for Pumpkin Pie Biscotti. I absolutely adore biscotti. There is not a more perfect pairing with coffee than to dunk in a perfectly crisp biscotti, in my opinion.

Taking note of the changes Jaime felt she would make the next time she made this recipe, I heeded her advice, as well as adapting the recipe to ingredients I had on hand. I used a mixture of dark brown and vanilla sugar's, then added toasted pine nuts and cinnamon chips. I also baked the biscotti a bit longer to achieve the crunch and "dunkability" I absolutely love. These are fabulous to make and give away for the holidays... if you don't eat them all yourself ;-)

Pumpkin Biscotti with Toasted Pine Nuts and Cinnamon Chips
adapted from My Baking Addiction (via Cooking in an Apron)

3-1/2 c flour
3/4 c dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 c vanilla sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 c pumpkin puree
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tsp Bourbon Vanilla
2 Tbs unsalted butter
3/4 c pine nuts
1/2 c cinnamon chips
1 egg
1 Tbs water
Sugar Glitter Crystals (if desired, for garnish)
Melted white chocolate (if desired, for garnish)

Pre heat oven to 350F.

Combine flour, sugars, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice in a large bowl. In a small bowl combine pumpkin puree, 2 eggs, and vanilla. Add the wet pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients. The mixture will be a little hard to combine at first, but will gradually come together to form a thick dough.

Toast the pine nuts in a small pan with the butter until lightly golden- just a few minutes. Cool, then gently add the pine nuts and cinnamon chips to the biscotti dough. Place dough on a floured surface and divide into 4 equal portions. Shape each portion into a log shape, about 8" long, and place on a parchment lined baking sheet, 3" apart. Very slightly flatten the logs.

In a small bowl beat the remaining egg with water and lightly brush the surface of each with the egg wash. At this time you can sprinkle with decorative sugar, if you desire. I used Gold Glitter Crystals.

Bake for 27 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 300F.

On a cutting board, carefully cut each log on the diagonal into 1/2" slices with a very sharp bread knife.

Return the cut biscotti to a parchment lined baking sheet, with the cut sides facing down. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and turn over each biscotti. Return to oven and bake for an additional 8 to 10 minutes, until nice and golden. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.

Once cool, drizzle with melted white chocolate, if desired. Approximately 32-40 biscotti.

Note: Oven types and temperatures may vary. Some cooking times may take less or longer than others.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cakes, and more cakes...

I am so thankful that I have had more opportunities of late to create custom cakes. If you hadn't noticed, my "regular posting" has been a bit scarce these days. Oh, I'm still cooking and baking up a storm, but with kids under foot and cake orders to fulfill, sometimes the step by step photo's have to go by the wayside and the family is lucky to get a fork, let alone a fab little garnish of parsley, to grace their plates. Decorating cakes, though, is what I love to do most. Sure, it can be quite stressful, and I've had my share of mishaps, but I try and learn from those, and move on.

I made this John Deere themed cake last week, complete with farm animals, to grace the little carrot cake cuppies. The tractor was made from Rice Krispy treats covered in fondant. The animals, corn and carrots were all fondant.

This was a red velvet bridal shower cake with an Italian meringue buttercream, complete with fondant bow and real red roses.

My little one turned 4 this summer and all she can think of day and night is Tinkerbell. So naturally, kidlet got what she wanted...

For a surprise birthday party I created a 2 foot long carved Miller Lite bottle out of chocolate cake, covered in buttercream and fondant. I hand painted the logo onto the fondant with food coloring.

A sweet little girl turned 2 and her very favorite little guy in the world is Elmo. This was also red velvet.

I made some little Elmo's to go with the cake, as well as her name out of fondant to top cupcakes that surrounded the cake.

Another wanted a bustier cake for his wife's surprise birthday party. This, too, was about 2 ft long. Covered in buttercream and the bustier fashioned out of fondant.

How I loved to make this vanilla bean cake with Italian meringue buttercream for a Marine Boot Camp graduate! All the stars and rope are fondant painted in an edible gold glaze.

There are many, many more. I don't always have time to snap a good photo, but I at least try to get something before it leaves my kitchen!

Thanks everyone, for following my too few posts... I appreciate all of you! I have some wonderful recipes coming up, so stay tuned!

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Poached Pears- Eat Your Heart Out This Halloween!

Call me sick, call me weird, you can even call me gross, but don't call me heartless... I have a heart, really, I do. It just happens to be on my plate right now. Yes, another disgusting dish for the #GreatHallowTweet , the fabulous Halloween Bloghop originated and hosted by my friend Renee of Flamingo Musings.

I've always wanted to try poached pears. It seemed like a fabulous way to create inexpensive elegance for guests, with minimal effort. When thinking of ideas for the #GreatHallowTweet, this recipe came to mind when I noticed that ones of the pairs I had resembled a heart shape. I adjusted the recipe to the ingredients I had on hand, resulting in a bloody delicious treat I must say!

Poached "Heart" Pears
adapted from joy of cooking

1 c Merlot wine
1/2 c Grenadine
1 c sugar
2 peeled long strips of fresh lemon peel
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs red food coloring
1 cinnamon stick
6 cloves, whole
3 medium pears

Combine the first 8 ingredients in a 2 qt saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover, simmering for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the stems of the pears and peel, slightly slicing off both the top and bottom of pears. I rounded the top a bit, giving it more of a "heart" shape look.

Add the pears to the saucepan and simmer for about 20 minutes. Keep turning the pears in the pan to distribute the flavor and color evenly, until they have reached a rich, deep, red. Remove pears gently from saucepan and let cool.

Remove the remaining cloves, lemon peel, and cinnamon stick. Let the remaining sauce simmer in saucepan until reduced by about 1/3rd (5-10 minutes), watching carefully so as not to burn.

Arrange cooled pears on a serving plate and "splatter" with "bloody" sauce. Serves 3.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Cobweb Meringues and the #GreatHallowTweet Halloween BlogHop

I need a maid. Try as I might, I can't seem to keep up. Everywhere I look in this house, cobwebs seem to be invading every little nook and cranny.

It seems like, just when you get the whole house all spiffed up for the fall festivities, the invasion begins. Subtle at first- a wispy flurry or two- a phenomenon of epic proportions that flocks to my home in herds...

Heee heeee.... herds of edible Cobweb Meringues that is. My fabulous friend Renee over at Flamingo Musings is the creator and Ghostess with the Mostest in charge of the #GreatHallowTweet Bloghop. Just click on any of the links in my right sidebar area that says Halloween Bloghop, and you will be able to hop on over to all of the ghoulishly delicious 18 participating blogs (link visible only if viewing my direct blog link here)!

My little cobwebs are a fabulous treat to make with your little goblins. They don't require much- just 3 egg whites beaten (in a grease free metal bowl) with 1/2 a cup of granulated sugar until stiff.

Fill a medium size pastry bag with the finished meringue, and then snip off the very tip of the bag. Pipe a small circle, followed by a sloppy scalloped circular pattern, and then another larger, scalloped circular pattern, trying to match up the points on each. Then, from the inner circle to just beyond the outer point, make a line. No need to be perfect... remember, our little goblins are never perfect, just ridiculously cute ;) Bake at 250F on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 40 minutes until dry and delicate. Remember, these are freakishly diet friendly, too!

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bread of the Dead

Here in the Southwest, the spooky spirit of Halloween lingers around for a spell as the macabre Mexican celebration of Dia de los Muertos is observed from October 31st through November 2nd. It is believed that during this time, the spirit of the dead return to visit their families who consider it a joyous time. They choose to hide their fears of death and beyond with a mocking, yet respectful, celebration that includes the building of altars and thoughtful preparation of special breads known as Pan de Muerto, or "Bread of the Dead".

I had saved this particular Bread of the Dead recipe from an article I had read in Sunset Magazine about 13 years ago (post without recipe is available in link). While some variations call for anise seed, this one is delicately spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon, of which I always keep fresh and grate myself, with the mellow flavor of my own homemade bourbon vanilla. The result is a mildly sweet, subtly spiced, warm, fluffy, loaf of bread that is lovely with a cup of warm cocoa.

Bread of the Dead
adapted from Sunset Magazine

1 pkg yeast
1/4 c warm water
1/3 c milk
1/3 c butter
1/2 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs, beaten, with 1 Tbs reserved for wash
1 Tbs Bourbon vanilla
3-3/4 c flour
1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1 tsp fresh ground cinnamon
2 Tbs sesame seed

In large bowl add warm water and yeast. Set aside. Cut butter into small cubes and place in small saucepan with milk until just barely melted, but yet you are able to touch without burning. Set aside.

Beat eggs well and add vanilla, milk mixture, sugar and salt. Then add that mixture to the large bowl with yeast mixture. Mix well.

Using 2-1/2 c of the flour, add the nutmeg and cinnamon and combine well. Add the dry flour mixture to the wet yeast mixture and stir well. Add another cup of flour and mix until dough starts to pull away from bowl a bit. Take the remaining flour and sprinkle on a flat surface. Scrape dough onto surface and knead with remaining flour until smooth and no longer sticky. NOTE: The amount of flour you need to add may depend on your method of measurement, and the preciseness of your measuring utensils.

Place dough in an oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm area to rise until doubled, up to 1-1/2 h ours. At that time, uncover bowl and lightly push down dough, letting rest 5 minutes. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough to remove any air bubbles that may have formed. Form dough into a circle approximately 8" and place on a well buttered sheet pan. Cover loosely with plastic and let rise again about 30 minutes.

Uncover dough and brush with reserved 1 Tbs of beaten egg. Sprinkle loaf with sesame seeds. Then with a very sharp knife that has been dipped in flour, make a cut into the middle of the dough from one side to the other, about 1/2" deep.

Bake in a 350F oven until crust is caramel in color, about 30-35 minutes, depending on your oven.

The bread is fabulous served warm on its own, or with a touch of whipped cinnamon butter. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Espresso Coffee Cake, and A Way to Help Erika of The Ivory Hut

About 15 years ago my sister gave me a recipe for a coffee cake that was like no other I had ever tasted. It had been given to her by a client that had never written her name on the recipe card. Over time, clients come and go and her name was long forgotten. A unique coffee cake; it tastes exactly like that- coffee. Not the sugary, crumbly type that many of us have become accustomed to. It is a dense, moist, mildly sweet cake, that will make you appreciate the time you took to make it. It's also an opportunity to pull out the Espresso Machine and savor life, while around the table with friends.

Just yesterday I had the opportunity to be spotlighted by Elle on her newsletter Elle's New England Kitchen. Elle is a fabulous food blogger with insanely good food and a fabulous life I envy in New England- Check out her site. It's worth every peek you may sneak!

One of the questions posed to me by Elle was, "What do I find most enjoyable about blogging?" I responded, in part, with, "I've found that food bloggers, especially, have tender, giving hearts and will go to "grass-fire" lengths to help their fellow bloggers in need." Friends, that couldn't be more true than today, when our fellow food and photography blogger, Erika, of The Ivory Hut (also known as @ivoryhut on Twitter), lost her home in it's entirety last night due to fire. The food blogging community and Twitter friends have rallied together in the last 12 hours to put together a website with a paypal link to help Erika and her family in her time of need. While her family was not hurt, her family has lost everything, including her husbands prosthetic leg.

So I ask of you today, friends, family, follower's and first time visitors, to please take a moment to head over to this link to donate anything you can to help Erika and her family. Even if it is only $5, times that by the power of the internet, and you can help soften the blow that this devastating event has caused.

Despite the negativity that some say about the "online world", I'm so thankful, grateful, and blessed, to be a part of an international family of friends that social media has brought me. It's more than food. We're family, through thick and thin.

Espresso Coffee Cake

3 sticks UN-salted butter
1 c sugar
1 Tbs vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 c sour cream
2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbs instant espresso (or instant coffee)
1 Tbs hot water
2 Tbs cocoa powder
1 Tbs sour cream

Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. You will see the batter go from a dark yellow to a light, lemony color (a well creamed butter and sugar are critical to a tender cake). Then add vanilla, eggs (one at a time, mixing well after each), and sour cream until well combined and fluffy.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In thirds, gradually add to butter mixture until well combined.

In a small cup combine the instant espresso (or instant coffee) with hot water.

Divide the batter into 3 separate bowls. In one bowl add the espresso mixture. In another bowl add the cocoa powder and 1 Tbs sour cream.

In a well sprayed non-stick bundt pan place the cocoa mixture evenly at the bottom. Follow with an even layer of the espresso mixture. Lastly, the layer of plain batter.

Bake at 350F for approximately 1 hour (depending on your oven) or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool in pan 10 to 15 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool. Dust lightly with powdered sugar before serving.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Fresh Fruit Tart with Dark Chocolate and Pastry Cream

I have been known, a time or two, to give into a severe craving and make a beeline to the closest bakery available. It's usually late at night when, as much as I love to bake, can't quite convince myself that an hour of creating and a sink full of dishes is going to satisfy, and reward, my efforts.

One market I frequent always seems to have desserts on the higher end- you know, not just cream pies and spray painted confections. Quite honestly, here in the Arizona summers, a creme pie sounds less than appealing. If anything, nauseating.

One of the items I have tried and liked at that market was a fruit tart made with a pastry crust brushed in chocolate, a vanilla cream, and fresh fruit. While it was refreshing, some off the things I didn't care for was the heavy dose of sugar on the pastry- a huge crunch in every bite- and the glaze of unknown origin on the fruit itself. Oh, and the the $16.99 price tag was just a tad on the "don't you dare tell hubby you spent this much" side... Who, me..?

Thank goodness last week when the craving for this fruit tart hit, it was early enough in the day for me to think of how to recreate it more to my liking. While the recipe was inspired by my local Safeway bakery, the recipe I created on my own. A flaky puff pastry, spread with a premium dark chocolate, a thin layer of decadent pastry cream, with the best of the seasons fruit crowning the top.

Fresh Fruit Tart with Dark Chocolate and Pastry Cream

1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed in refrigerator
1 recipe Pastry cream (recipe to follow main recipe)
3 oz dark (bittersweet) chocolate, melted- I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao
2 c strawberries, hulled and sliced
3 whole kiwi's, peeled, sliced down center and sliced into 1/2 circles
1/2 c blackberries
1/2 c blueberries
1/2 cup seedless blackberry preserves, heated in microwave for 15-20 seconds with 1 tsp of water

Place a 9" tart pan with a removable bottom onto a baking sheet. Carefully drape puff pastry into pan, cutting off excess at top. Dock the bottom of pastry. Bake for approximately 15 minutes at 400F, until pastry has risen slightly and is flaky. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

With an offset spatula, spread melted dark chocolate to within an inch of edge of pastry. Let cool.

Again with offset spatula, cover cooled chocolate with cooled pastry cream (recipe below).

In a decorative pattern, place sliced fruit on top of pastry. Brush fruit with blackberry preserves. Chill completely in refrigerator before serving. Serves 6 to 8.

Pastry Cream

1 c whole milk
1/4 c sugar
1/2 of a vanilla bean, split down center
3 egg yolks
2 Tbs flour
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1/8 tsp salt

In a small bowl combine the egg yolks and half of the sugar and whisk until the mixture turns a light yellow. Then add the flour and salt, mixing well. Set aside.

In a 2 qt saucepan place other half of the sugar, milk and vanilla bean on medium heat. When mixture begins to simmer well, take off of heat and carefully remove vanilla bean (dry and save for another use, such as vanilla sugar).

Very carefully and slowly add a small amount, about a cup, of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture, constantly stirring, to temper the eggs making sure not to scramble. Once combined, add egg and milk mixture back to the pan over medium heat. Whisk the mixture constantly, making sure nothing sticks to bottom of pan. Bring mixture to the boil for about one minute, until mixture thickens. Turn off heat and add butter.

Place into a shallow pan to cool and cover with saran wrap so that a skin does not form.

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