The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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I've been reading a lot lately about Spelt flour. My interest was sparked by a seemingly Spelt flour interest-spike among TFLer's, and that I've never baked with Spelt. I've also been wanting to create a 40% Whole Wheat sandwich sourdough bread. We routinely bake a pan-shaped 40% whole wheat straight dough, we're very happy with; however, I wanted a similar, but free-form baked sourdough primarily for grilled sandwiches. I thought it would be fun to do a side-by-side comparison, substituting Spelt flour for the Bread Flour, leaving everything else unchanged, and keeping my dough techniques as nearly identical as possible.

Here's my formula:


11 g seed starter (refrigerated, feed every two weeks or more frequently) fed 1:1:1 three time over twenty-four hours yielding 300 g ripe levain. Whole wheat flour used for all builds (represents 16% of total dough flour); levain hydration 100%.

Final doughs:

140 g ripe levain (from above)       16% of total flour contributed

105 g Whole Wheat flour               24%

265 g Bread or Spelt flour             60%

305 g Water                                 70% (includes 70g from levain)

 9 g Salt                                        2%

11 g Olive oil (1 Tbs)                      2.5% 

Procedures: (for both doughs)

Hand-mixed all ingredients to bowl side-cleaning ball; 30 minute rest; French-fold until dough passed window-pane test; retarded bulk proof for five hours @ 55°F with one Stretch and Fold at 45 mins. (The retardation was done only to accomadate my schedule.) Removed from chiller, preshaped, and further bulk proofed at 76°F for two hours. Shaped two batards, and final proofed for one and one-half hours. Scored, and loaded into pre-steamed oven, at 500°F. Immediately lowered oven temperature to 450°F. Baked first ten minutes with steam, removed steam source and vented oven, finished baking: spelt flour loaf 15 more minutes, bread flour loaf 17 more minutes. Cooled completely.

Although these doughs are relatively high hydration, because of the high protein flours the doughs formed soft balls. From the beginning these doughs were different to the touch. Both exhibited comparitive extensibility, but the Bread flour's gluten developed noticeably stronger than the Spelt flour's.  The Bread flour dough shaped more tightly than the spelt flour, proofed more firmly, and exhibited more oven spring.

Obviously, the Bread flour loaf is in the foreground.

The crumb. The bread flour loaf's crumb, while closed (as desired) is lighter, and softer than the spelt flour crumb which borders on the edge of 'dense".

My wife and I taste-tested both breads. The bread flour loaf exhibited the familiar whole-wheat flavor we both like, and the crumb was soft, again as we like in a sandwich bread. The spelt flour loaf had an agreeable flavor--I presume "it" is the flavor of spelt flour--but the whole wheat flour flavor seemed entirely masked.  We shared a second slice of each, but our impressions didn't change. We like them both, but the bread flour formula will stay in our repetoire; spelt flour will have to wait for another formula, another day.

David G

Following the advice of a couple of you, today I baked a 40% whole spelt flour version. Its dough was considerably more slack than the 40% whole wheat flour, everything being the same except for the spelt flour. Consequently, I wasn't able to shape it as tightly, and it spread more during final proofing. Nonetheless, it had comparable oven spring--the crumb appears more open than the whole wheat version.

We like the flavor; it's more subtle than the whole-wheat presence in the alternative loaf. I think for now, we'll keep this formula in our book, and look for a local source for white spelt flour.

The loaf:

and the crumb.

Thank you all for sharing your expertise and advice.

David G.


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We usually consume our breads before they stale, but after our recent "open house" party, we had, collectively, about a loaf and a half of two different sourdoughs, and a 40% rye loaf; far too much for just the two of us to eat before staling. I cubed the leftovers, and spread them on a baking sheet, uncovered, for twenty-four hours. Then I put them into the food-processor, and turned it on until I had about six cups, or so of bread crumbs. Not having anything immediate for them, I froze them.

A couple of nights later Yvonne asked me to make baked cod fillets. I usually use panko crumbs in my recipe for baked cod, but when I looked the cupboard was bare, and I wasn't going to make the sixty-mile round trip to the Asian food market just for a bag of of panko crumbs. Out came the sourdough crumbs.

My baked cod recipe is super simple. I season plain crumbs with salt and pepper; add a Tblsp. of sweet, smoked paprika; and a sprinkle of chipotle chilie powder: just enough that makes my guests ask,"Is there chili powder in this?". I mix in about two Tblsp. of melted butter to one cup of crumbs.  I then take the frozen fillets, brush them quickly with hot, melted butter and roll them in the crumbs, patting them into the solidifying butter as I go. Then twenty-five minutes in a 375°F oven, or until the fish flakes easily.

This time, with the dark sourdough crumbs and a hint of rye flavor, I thought the paprika and chipotle wouldn't work, so I mixed up some Herbs Provence: dried thyme, fennel, and rosemary. Added them to the crumbs, with salt and pepper, to taste. And proceeded as usual.

We've got a new favorite, but won't abandon the old one. I thought we'd miss the super crunch panko supplies, but were pleasantly surprised when we found the sourdough crumbs--somewhat soft to the touch when thawed--crisped in the oven to near panko-like texture. I also made some herbed rice (fresh thyme and tarragon) to side the fish.

I think sourdough bread crumbs have become a staple in our home.

David G

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I've been trying a couple of things: increasing sourness (based on what I've learned from Debra Wink, and other online references, varying hydration; and feeding portions of my favorite starter different flours, and developing it at different temperatures (part of the sourness investigation.). I've been doing these things one step at a time, so the results don't get clouded.

For the sourness experiments, along with Ms. Wink's super TFL postings, my other main source of information is:

"Modeling of Growth of Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis and Candida milleri in Response to Process Parameters of Sourdough Fermantation"; Michael G. Ganzle, et al; Applied and Environmental Microbiology, July 1998


an answer provided by the above author to the question, "What is the relationship between temperature and activity?" in a Q and A blog relating to sourdough.

Sourness: flour and temperature

First, an apology, and a plea. Although I am educated as an engineer and scientist, microbiology is far distant from my underwater acoustics speciality. I've struggled, mostly with the  subject-specific techincal language, in my effort to understand what I've read. Nonetheless, I think I've acquired the background of  knowledge that a home baker, obsessed with sourdough, can use in his or her non-laboratory kitchen to effect the flavor profile of their sourdough breads. Please, if you find my efforts have been based on faulty premises, wrong information, or misdirected experimentation point out the errors, and, more importantly the correct assumptions; accurate, alternative references; or suggest appropriate action--including, "Stop your silly mucking around!"

Debra Wink, in one of her postings, commented that that a flour's ash content contributed to the degree of sourness one might achieve in a starter, but didn't explan how. The first of the above references shows that the activity (reproduction) of Lactobacillus is strongly linked to the the starter's pH ( a measure of acidity). As the acidity increases. or decreases, above or below a most  activity-advantageous value (approximately a pH of 4.2) L. Bacillus reproduction decreases. Assuming, for the moment, the temperature of the starter remains steady, and the activity-advantageous pH can be preserved, the amounts of acetic and lactic acid produced is proportional to the concentration of L. sanfranciscensis. However, in any solution the more acid the lower the pH. Some molecular components of the starter's mix may neutralize a portion of the acidity, while maintaning its sourness contribution. In flour and water mixtures that neutralizing (buffering) quality is supplied by the flour's ash content. Simplistically, I thought, the higher the ash content in the feed, the greater the buffering quality of the flour, and, therefore, the more acids produced before the bacteria activity slows down.

With that in mind, I fed a portion of my favorite starter, at room temperature, for three days a steady, every-twelve-hours diet of first clear flour, known to have high ash content. This became my seed starter for three formula-ready levains. In general, this starter, aledged by the vendor to be authentic San Francisco sourdough starter, doesn't produce much discernable sourness, if any at all. On a few occasions, we (my wife and I) have detected some sourness, which has allowed me to conclude there's some L. bacillus in there, maybe.

After 72 hours I built 500g of formula-ready levain,at 100% hydration, using first clear flour; it contributed 28% of the total flour weight. The balance of the dough's flour consisted of 10% rye flour, 31% all purpose flour, and 31% bread flour. The final dough contained 2% salt, at 70% hydration. This formula was used three times; each bake consisted of two loaves, formed into approximately 750 g batards. Every loaf was processed as indentically as possible in a home kitchen: two and one-quarter hour bulk proof with two S&F at 45 minute intervals, followed by an additional 45 minutes. Subsequently, the dough was divided, preshaped. rested for 10 minutes, shaped, final proofed for two hours, slashed and baked at 450*F, with steam for the first 15 minutes. The remaining seed starter was stored in the refrigerator at 37°F.

The only intentional variable was in the levain constructions.

First levain: 20g seed starter, three 1:1:1 feedings of first clear flour, initially and at eight hour intervals. Harvested 500g of levain after 24 hours. The developing levain remained at room temperature (68°F to 72°F) for the entire duration.

Second levain: 20g seed starter, three 1:1:1 feedings of all purpose flour, initially and at eight hour intervals. Harvested 500g of levain after 24 hours. The developing levain remained at room temperature (68°F to 72°F) for the entire duration.

Third levain: 20g seed starter, three 1:1:1 feedings of first clear flour, initially and at eight hour intervals. Harvested 500g of levain after 24 hours. This levain was held at room temperature for the first eight hours, approximately 82°F for three hours, and 89°F for the remaining 13 hours. These temperature choices reflect the findings reported in the first reference: optimum yeast activity occurs at approximately 82°F; optimum bacteria activity occurs at approximately 89°F. Additionally, yeast and bacteria activity are approximately the same at room temperatures, yeast activity falls dramatically at 89°F.

Subjective Results:

First of all, these were not meant to be controlled, scientific experiments. To the contrary, what i wanted to explore was, "Can a home baker influence the flavor profile of his or her doughs, guided by scientific results, with only those tools common to a baker's home kitchen?".  In my case, a small, lidded plastic box,for the developing levain; placed inside a larger, lidded plastic box (my dough proofing box) to minimize the effects of drafts; all placed inside an oven with a manually controlled oven light, to vary the oven's temperature); and a thermometer, aledged by the manufacturer to be accurate to +/- 1°F).

Furthermore, the only way I could test a finished bread's sourness was by tasting it. (in the laboratory they measured the amount of lactic and acetic acid produced.). My taste would be suspect: I was hoping for discernable sourness with the first and third levains; I would taste discernable sournesss with the first and third levains. So, I asked my wife to taste the finished breads. She had no knowledge of the differences in the levain, nor what my expectations were.

The results are a bit anticlimactic:

We both found breads made with the first and third levains had discernable "tang"; in part because we didn't taste them side-by-side, niether she nor I could state with any certainty one was "tangier" than the other.

The bread made with the second levain, fed with all purpose flour, didn't have any "tang". Good bread, but no sourness.

Next steps:

I'm building a proofing box, wherein I can control temperature better than with the oven light. When its finished, I'm going to push a levain to favor only bactieria growth, and add commercial yeast to the dough for gas production.

Here's a picture of the most recent (third levain) bread.


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We've been baking and cooking for the past week for our annual open house. We started doing this four years ago to share our homemade wines and brews with our friends and neighbors. With my new-found interest in improving my baking skills, my wife dubbed this year's efforts "Breads and Spreads". We served two sourdoughs, baguettes, vollkornblot, and light rye. We also offered a potpourri of rye sourdoughs: one with walnuts, one with walnuts and blue cheese, and the last with chestnuts and feta cheese. Our forty-five guests ate them straight or topped with capacollo, tappenade, sun-dried tomato and basil pesto, butters (plain, roast garlic, herbed, or whipped with honey).  We made three hummus (traditional, roasted red pepper, and sundried-tomato with roasted garlic), and baked lavash to scoop them up.

We also made three biscotti--tart cherry and walnuts, citron and hazlenuts, and a savory choice: parmesan and black pepper--to pair with the wines.

The wines: sauvignon blanc, viognier, pinot noir, a super tuscan, bergamais, and cabernet franc ice wine. We also made a pilsner, nicknamed "Better than Bud", and our three year old Barley Wine (technically a beer) tastes like fine sherry, with a hint of hops.

The steamed up plastic cover in the center contains just-toasted baguette slices for the bruschetta to the right of it.

The label photos are mostly of critters and crawlers in our pastures, or a nearby state park.

David G

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This morning I baked a variation of Anis Bouabsa baguettes. The changes are minor: 72% hydration vs. 75%; I bulk fermented the dough at 55°F vs. 41°F for the prescribed 21 hours; and I added distatic malt powder. Otherwise, my formula and applied techniques were essentially the same as those in the Anis Bouabsa's Baguettes thread. The changes were made for the following reasons. I don't trust my skills yet with a 75% hydration dough. I'm sneaking up on it. Over the weekend I made a 70% hydration sourdough (or pain au levain), and today's baguettes. Furthermore, my refrigerator maintains a 37°F temperature on the only shelf that will hold my bulk proofing container, and I was concerned that temperature would severely change the yeast's reproduction rate. (That's not a guess, I've got an erudite paper written by a couple of microbiologists on the subject of yeast reproduction rate vs. temperature as a reference.). I have the convenience of a wine closet--its too small to call it a wine cellar--that maintains a steady 55°F. Lastly, I added the diastatic malt powder to give the yeast all the edge available.

However, messing with the hydrations of these doughs got me thinking. If I changed the shape I could pass this bread off as a ciabatta, or a foccacia, or a pain rustique, and no one would challenge me: perhaps criticise, but not challenge what I called it. On the other hand, if I offered the pain au levain, to a reasonably knowledgeable eater, as a slice of boule, or batard they'd raise an eyebrow at least.

So what classifies a dough? Content (Ingredients)? Preferments? Shape? Weight? All of the above? All of the above, but not necessarily everytime?

My curiosity grew when I checked three published baguette formulae (DiMuzio, Hamelman, and Hines), and two for pain au levain (DiMuzio, Hamelman).  Their doughs' hydrations are within 2% percent of each other, as well as similar ingredients, percentages, and techniques. "Is there a "secret" crib sheet these guys aren't sharing with us?" I wondered. Yet I was baking a baguette dough that was essentially a straight dough, with hydration 9% pecentage points higher than prescribed by "common practice", using atypical techniques. Is Anis Bouabsa a rogue baker?

My interest in things that ferment isn't limited to bread baking. I also brew beer, and make wine. Among brewers there is a crib-sheet. It contains approximately two-dozen beers, and describes each of them by the same attributes which are defined both in scientific precision, e.g., specific gravity, International Bittering Units (IBU's); Lovibond (color) rating; and in subjective terms of taste, smell, and appearance. If there are specialty additives or techniques they are also described, e.g., lambics (a beer made sour by lactobacteria). Wines, of course, are mostly defined by their primary varietal (or mixtures of varietals) ocassionally by craft processes, e.g., malolacticfermentation, ice wines; and a subjective vocabulary codified by a Univerity of California at Davis, professor.

Does anyone know if bread types have been classified, or catergorized and written down, and where is it written? How are bread-baking competitions judged? What are the competitive rules, i.e., do they contain de facto categorical or classifying ingredients, technniques, etc.?

David G

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In the past three days we've been baking: a first try at Vollkornbrot, three loaves of sourdough, and 38 dozens of cookies including Welsh Cakes, Date-Nut Pinwheels, Tart Cherry and Pecan Biscotti, and Tangerine Spritz. Except for the spritz, I creamed all the butter and sugar by hand, before adding the rest of the liquid ingredients. Result: wielding the wooden spoon I got a blister on my little finger! Geez! do I have to wear work gloves to mix dough too?

These are left for us, and the neighhood cookie exchange. Seven packages left home yesterday posted to family.

The vollkornbrot

This is Hamelman's formula in Bread. I don't have a local nor online source for rye chops, so I ran rye berries through my homebrewing grain mill that cracks the seed coating on whole barley grains. I think the result was essentially the same as commercial rye chops. I'm happy with the flavor, and density but not elated. I tested it after resting it for forty-eight hours. I'm going to let it rest for three or four more days before I freeze it to see if the flavor develops further. The tea towel was a gift from an English friend of mine, and was the only tea towel I own big enough to wrap a Pullman loaf.

I didn't photograph the sourdough loaves, because one was immediately eaten, one immediately given away, and the third one immediately frozen. They looked like all my other posted sourdough boules'. However internally they're a bit different. I've named these Halcyon Acres Sourdough, after our modest five acres of horse pastures we call home. I concocted the formula, and my wife likes it more than any other sourdoughs I've baked to date.

I recently started feeding my sourdough starters with first clear flour, instead of bread flour. Additionally, when I want to increase dough sourness, I feed a small portion of starter for three days at room temperature, 72°F to 76°F, every eight to twelve hours. (I discard much of it each feeding--1:1:1 ratio--so thing don't get out of hand.) I'm indebted to Debra Wink for debunking the folklore that lactobacteria reproduce better in stiff cultures, at low temperature. The myth flew in the face of my understanding of physics and thermodynamics, but I'm not a microbiologist, so I wasn't entirely certain the myth was nonsense. I've started feeding with first clear flour because of its relatively high ash producing content, which provides necessary minerals and trace nutrients to the bacteria.

Here's the fromula for three 1.5 lb loaves of Halcyon Acres Sourdough

Ripe Sourdough Starter     450g

Starter Hydration              125%

Whole Rye Flour                225g

All Purpose Flour               450g

Bread Flour                       450g

Water                               650g

Salt                                  27g (2%)

Final Dough Weight           2252g

Hydration                         68%

I built my formula-ready starter using a culture previously rejuvanated with first clear flour, at room temperature, for 72 hours. The culture had subsequently been refrigerated for two weeks. I use a 24 hour, three build, method to create the needed formula-ready ripe starter. My three build method is described elsewhere in this blog, in detail. I used first clear flour for each build for this starter.

Procedures: Hand mixed flour, water, and starter to shaggy consistency; 30 minute autolyse; added salt; hand mixed to smooth, homogeneous consistency. Bulk proofed for 3 hours with 3 stretch-and-fold at 45 minute intervals; turned out; divided into three equal portions; preshaped boules; rested 10 minutes;final shaped. Final proof 1-1/2 hours in bannetons; scored loaves. Pre-steamed oven (I use water-soaked towel on a baking sheet) five minutes before loading. Baking: Initial oven temperature 480°F; reduced oven temperature to 450°F at loading. Removed steam source after 15 minutes; finished baking (approximately 10 minutes.)

Happy Holiday baking; watch out for blisters ;-)

David G

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Well, I tried it: two different starters, each handled to emphasize yeast activity in one, flavor production (sourness) in the second. I have three starters, all from commercial sources. Two were purchased online, the third came from a well-known bakery, with even more well-known bakers. I chose one of the online-sourced starters; it's been consistently more active (measured by proofing times, and oven-spring) than the other two, and I chose the bakery-one for its good, but not overwhelming, sourness. I maintain the first starter at 100% hydration, I keep the second one at 67% hydration. I built both formula-ready starters (450 g each) over a period of twenty-four hours tripling the seed-sarter mass 3 times, the beginning, and the end of the next two 8 hour periods, finishing with a formula-ready starter with a mass 27 time the original seed starter. I also adjust the hydration by 1/3 the difference between the seed-starters' hydration, and the target fornula-ready starters' hydrations at each build: 125%, and 60% respectively.

Bread Formula scaled to make 3, 1.5 lb. loaves.

Total starter weight: 900 g (450 each)

Total dough weight: 2250 g

Hydration: 67%

Flour:                              Baker's percentage:

AP flour in starters: 481g      36%

Whole Rye Flour: 225g          17%

All-purpose Flour 312g          23.5%

Bread Flour 312g                  23.5%

Salt: 27g                               2%

Water in starters: 419g

Water added        475g

All three loaves were baked, one at a time, under an aluminum foil cover, on a baking stone at 480°F, 10 minutes with steam. 15 additional minutes uncovered, without steam at 450°F. Reading from the top of the pile counterclockwise #1, #2 and #3; #2 was retarded for approximately 3-1/2 hour, and # 3 5 hours.

The bread has a taste more pronounced than previous sourdoughs I've made with one or the other starters, but that could be the extra rye flour. I made a mistake; I used 10% of the dough weight, rather than ten percent of the total flour weight to caculate the desired rye content. Despite the mistake, we love the flavor. I also experienced slightly less oven spring than usual, using only starter #1.

David G

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David Snyder (dmsnyder) has convinced me pre-steaming is beneficial, but I've still been uncertain I'm generating enough steam, considering my oven door is not an airtight fit, and the convection fan blows some of the steam out around the door. So, today, I tried a new way to generate steam. I saw it recommended in Hamelman's Bread, but I ignored it happy as I was, at the time, generating steam with pre-heated lava rocks. It was only when David wrote of his experience pre-steaming his oven that I started reexamining the details of my steaming practice.

My wife's dog/horse treat baking (see blog gave me a clue. Here pet snack recipe is packed with fresh shredded carrots, resulting in a very wet "dough". Watching her open the oven door while baking three half-sheet pans full I saw a large amount of steam (water vapor, really) pour out of the oven.

Today I fitted a half-baking sheet with a terrycloth shop towel that covered its bottom. Five minutes before I put in the first loaf I poured a cup of hot tap water onto the towel. It was enough to soak it thuroughly, but there was no free standing water. I placed the pan on the lowest shelf.  As usual, I also covered the oven's top vent with a folded towel. Before five minutes were up I saw water vapor escaping at the bottom of the door where its sealing gasket's ends meet. I've never seen that before, although I was previously convinced steam was escaping.

When I placed the loaf, the oven was visably full of water vapor; nevertheless, I added another 1/2 cup of water to the towel. At ten minutes I reduced the oven temperature, and removed the sheetpan, and uncovered the oven vent.; for safety reasons I'd never attempt to remove the lava rocks. Whatever water vapor remained in the oven I'm certain disappated quickly. After the sheetpan and towel cooled I felt the towel. Its center was still damp, but the edges were dry, justifying the additonal 1/2 cup of water added.

Here's the visual results. I bake this sourdough (Vermont sourdough with a stiff levain) once every week. This loaf's oven spring is as good or better than any before now.

I'm going to adapt this method, at least for the near future. I think it's safer than splashing water into a pan of lava rock, all indications show it produces more steam, and it can be simply and safely removed to immediately stop the source of steam.

David G


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As most, if not all, of you know Italians traditionally dip biscotti into their coffee or wine, i suspect, in part, to soften it a bit before chewing. October, November and December of year, along with holiday baking, we're putting the finishing touches to plans for our annual January open house wherein we serve only our homemade wines, homebrewed beer, and a cornucopia of food, all made from scratch.

This year's theme is Wine and Bread.

Technically, biscotti is not a bread, but it fits so well, we've added it to our list that includes sourdoughs (wheat and ryes), pain de mie, ciabatta, lavash, fougasse, and of course baguettes. I'm also going to try Hamelman's Vollkornbrot; if successful it too will join the list. It should pair well with a pilsner finishing its fermenting as I write.

Today I experimented with a parmesan-black pepper biscotti thinking it will pair well with white wine, especially the sauvignon blanc we're offering this year. My wife and I shared the small corner pieces, and froze the rest. We opened a bottle of sauvignon blanc. It pairs wonderfully.

We're also planning a dried-cherries and pecans biscotti to pair with a Cabernet Franc ice wine (sweet)--a first; always dry wines prior--and a craisins and pastachio biscotti that should pair well with both reds and whites.

David G

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We are having homemade soup tonight for dinner. Since we've been eating a lot of sourdough lately I decided to make Hamelman's Pain Rustique. A unique bread, attributed to the legendary French baker. educator and author, Raymond Calvel, its poolish preferment comprises more than half of the entire dough weight.

Two pounds of poolish, for three-and-a-half pounds of dough!

One gets an interesting shape when the a loaf hangs off the edge of one's too-small-for-three-loaves baking stone.

The crumb: open, firm chewiness.

David G


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