The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


hanseata's picture

Fall is the time of the year when Alsatians and wine loving Germans think: "Zwiebelkuchen"! For this mellow sweet onion pastry is the perfect companion to new wine.

If you travel in fall through the wine growing areas left and right of the Rhine, you will find inns, restaurants and many vinyards offering sparkling new wine (Federweisser). They often serve it together with freshly baked Zwiebelkuchen (Onion Tarte) or, an equally tasty variation, Porreekuchen (Leek Tarte).

But beware - Onion Tarte is an aider and abetter of that seemingly feathery light youngster, helping it go down so smoothly, that you are tempted to drink it like lemonade! When you wake up the next morning you realize why Federweisser is also called: "Sauser" (Buzzer) - there's something buzzing in your stomach and your head is spinning...

You find the recipe for Zwiebelkuchen or Leek Tarte here:

  Leek Tarte

OldWoodenSpoon's picture

Okay, after all the compliments and enthusiasm over my new WFO, it is time to tell the dirty details of something I only just touched on in my earlier blog post:  the little matter of too much fire too soon, and the problems with the doorway arch.

Saturday morning I got over enthusiastic throwing wood into my "small drying fire".  My wife admonished with "Isn't that a little big?", to which I replied in my best know-it-all tone "No honey, you should see a big fire!".   Then we noticed the cracks, and the top bricks of the arch sagging from thieir proper position.  After much running around for steel buckets, fireplace tools, water and my heavy elbow-length gauntlets (it was really hot in there) I shoveled the live fire out of the oven as fast as I could and doused it with water in the bucket.  It was too late though, and the damage was done:

The crack is not all that bad, but the brick problem is another story.  A couple of days earlier we had noticed these bricks had come loose.  When I investigated, the mortar and the bricks had all separated from each other and the mortar was just loose slabs between the bricks.  This next shot makes it easier to see both the loose mortar and the keystone brick dropping through the top of the arch as well as a head-on view of the crack.



I hoped the insulation layer would secure things together, but the heat expansion in the dome proved I was just wishful thinking.  Something had gone wrong somewhere and my arch was coming apart as I stood there.  You can see the tops of two bricks I wedged into the arch to hold things up while the oven cooled off and I figured out a plan.


Here you can see my solution, if you look carefully.  I hope we can get a better shot of this tomorrow when the light is better, and I will edit that shot in here if we are successful.  However, if you can see it, my solution was to break another rule about ovens:  I installed a metal arch support in the form of a hoop shaped to fit inside my arch.  I made the hoop loose fitting, and then loosely packed a wood stove door gasket made of a fireproof, non-volatile glass fiber between the hoop and the brick to take up the slack and provide compressible space between the hoop and the masonry.  These materials expand at different rates and to different extents, and I have no idea if this will work or not.  Since my alternative if it fails is to rebuild the arch, and my alternative if I don't try this is to rebuild the arch, this is a free chance to get lucky.  As you can see in this shot above, I pulled all the old loose mortar out of all the arch joints.  That's all it took too:  I just grabbed it bare-fingered and pulled each wedge out in one piece.

While working on all this and running around I noticed something I now call "probable cause".  Earlier, I blamed this whole incident on too much fire in a green oven, too soon.  The next shot proves I could be wrong about that.  It certainly was contributory, but I'm not sure it was the cause at all.  I think I made a bigger strategic error earlier in the building process, in how I joined the arch and the dome.  If you look carefully at this next shot, especially at the very top brick, you will see it is tilted up to the right.  This brick was dead-level when I built the arch.

Here's what I did and what I think happened:

- When I mortared the arch originally I only mortared the front 75% or so of the wedge-shaped gaps.  I left the rear 25% empty so I could tie in the oven dome itself.  This was, I believe, the fatal flaw.

- As planned, I built the dome and filled in the rear-most 25% of these mortar wedges in the same pass as building up the dome, effectively making those parts of the arch an integral part of the new dome.  I also added a layer of oven mud over the top of the back 25% of the arch as well, thoroughly integrating the arch and the dome.

- I sat back and watched it all slow-cure as I kept the dome and the dome-arch joint draped with moist towels for three or four days, and then under cover of dry towels for two or three more days, all to slow down the surface drying and let the inner clay keep up better.  During this time the new dome showed some stress cracks from drying, which I worked over with the back of a spoon as much as I could to try to iron them out.  Honestly, it did not help much, and my overzealous drying fire on Saturday morning brought them all back.

Now, look again at the tilt up-to-the-right of that top brick in the shot above.  I believe the oven dome shrank significantly in drying, and because the doorway arch was so throughly integrated into the dome, the dome squeezed the arch in on the sides and down on the top at the back edges of the arch bricks, popping all the mortar loose and opening up bigger gaps between bricks than were there when I built the arch originally.  When the arch alone was complete, the inner surface was continuous, with the inner edges of each brick neatly and firmly in contact with the edges of it's neighbors.  Now it looks like carved jack-o-lantern teeth.

The fact that I built too hot and too large a fire on Saturday only brought all this to the fore sooner.  I now believe I doomed this arch when I tied it so tightly to the dome of the oven.  Nothing I read told me I should do this, and it also did not tell me I should not.  I learned that part myself.

I installed the new metal arch support today, and also re-mortared the arch.  Now I will give the fresh mortar in the arch a couple days to dry out and go back to small (yes, really small!) drying fires to slowly cure the oven dome and all, and see how it goes.  When I am finally able to really heat things up I will find out if my metal arch is going to be a help or the final straw that destroys the doorway arch.  Then I will know what the next chapter will be.

Thanks for listening, and stop by again.  I'll continue to post my progress, positive and negative, right here.



dmsnyder's picture

In my continuing search for whole wheat breads to add to my list of favorites, today I baked the “Sourdough Whole Wheat Bread” from Michel Suas' “Advanced Bread and Pastry.” I had previously baked the Honey Whole Wheat from AB&P, but still prefer Peter Reinhart's 100% Whole Wheat from BBA to it.

Most of my bread baking is with sourdoughs, and I want to have a sourdough whole wheat bread that I really enjoy in my repertoire. The one I have made - I can't remember where I got the formula - was not to my taste. I just didn't like the combination of sourdough tang and whole wheat flavor. On the other hand, I have enjoyed other sourdough breads with a high percentage of whole grains, so the AB&P formula seemed worth trying.






Baker's %

Wt (oz)

Bread flour (KAF)


2 3/8 oz

Medium rye flour (KAF)


1/8 oz



2 oz

Starter (stiff)


2 oz



5 7/8 oz


Final dough




Baker's %


Bread flour


5 7/8 oz

Whole wheat flour


8 ¾ oz



11 1/8 oz

Yeast (instant)


1/8 tsp



3/8 oz



5 7/8 oz



2 lb

Yes. I know it's not “pure” sourdough, and it's not close to purely whole wheat, but if Chef Suas wants to call it “Sourdough Whole Wheat,” who am I to quibble?


  1. Mix levain ingredients and ferment at room temperature for 12 hours.

  2. Mix all ingredients to medium gluten development. The dough should be quite tacky.

  3. Bulk ferment for 2 hours.

  4. Divide into 2 equal pieces and preshape for boules or bâtards.

  5. Let the pieces rest, covered, for 20-30 minutes.

  6. Shape as desired.

  7. Proof en couche or in bannetons for 60 to 90 minutes.

  8. Bake at 450ºF for 35 minutes with steam for the first 12-15 minutes.

  9. Cool completely before slicing.

I mixed the dough in a KitchenAid stand mixer for 3 minutes on Speed 1 and about 7 minutes on Speed 2. After bulk fermentation, the dough was still tacky but very extensible. I rested the loaves seam side down after pre-shaping. This was a mistake. There was enough flour on the seam side to interfere slightly with final shaping. (See my boule tutorial.) I recommend proofing seam side up.

I think I slightly over-proofed (90 minutes) and got less oven spring than I thought I should get with this bread.

The crumb was quite chewy. The flavor was rather simple – A very slight sourdough tang and a straight ahead whole wheat flavor with no grassiness or bitterness. I look forward to tasting the bread as toast in the morning and as a sandwich for lunch tomorrow.



GSnyde's picture

Having carefully considered various names for this bread (, I have freely decided that it deserves to be called "San Joaquin Sourdough".  I used David's SJSD Version 10.23.09 with a 60% hydration all-AP starter (  Though there are many steps, including a lengthy cold bulk ferment, and two 3-or-so hour periods when one has to be continually close to the kitchen (one for mixing, autolysing, and stretching-folding, and the other for dividing, pre-shaping, shaping and baking), the process fit nicely into a weekend, starting with mixing the starter Friday night.  A person with a 9-to-5 job could do it in a Friday and Saturday or a Saturday and Sunday, by mixing the starter on the first morning, mixing dough and getting to the cold bulk ferment the first evening, and shaping and baking the second afternoon or evening.

The process gave me a good chance (as a novice baker) to observe by sight and feel how a lean sourdough behaves at various stages.  Here's the bulkly fermented dough at my "bread station", just adjacent to the all-important espresso station.


And here is the glorious dough ball just before it is cloven.


The pre-proofing after pre-shaping is the perfect time for an espresso.


Here are the ill-formed batards, once again looking like my typical batardettes, proofing.


After a 24 minute bake, the finished product looks pretty good, though not much grigne in my first attempt at scoring with my new lame.



I'm very happy with the crumb structure.



Except for my still-pitiful batard-shaping and the wimpy oven spring, this was a successful experiment.  And from the still-pitiful batard-shaping and wimpy oven spring, I learned some lessons that will improve my skills next time.  I should not shape the batard from such a stretched out starting point--a semi-flat football shaped oblong would be better.  And I need to score the loaves slightly more deeply and consistently.

The taste and texture are marvelous.  Slightly sour, very complex flavors.  Very moist, chewy but tender crumb and crispy crust.

The bread came out of the oven at 3, and some friends came over for an early dinner of all sorts of things that go with sourdough bread--smoky ham, Toscana salami, Jarlsberg cheese, egg salad, tomatos.  The SJSD and the re-heated Onion-Curry-Cheese Bread from Friday were both big hits.

This bread is a favorite.  

And making it is pretty fun!

Thanks, David, for the recipe and all the guidance.


ananda's picture


The lecturing schedule kicks off in earnest tomorrow, following Induction sessions this past 2 weeks to enable our students to find their way and settle in at the College.

I noted the freezer stock of bread at home, piled high before we went to Crete, was virtually empty, so set up to do some baking over this weekend.

I borrowed "Advanced Bread and Pastry" by Michel Suas from the College Library as essential reading for the Summer, in order to plan to run a Level 3 ["A" Level] course this year.   It seems to be a ready-made textbook, especially given that Cengage [publishers] offer excellent online support for both instructor and student.

The breads I made just before our holiday utilised the Mountain Bread recipe, moreorless straight from the book.   I really enjoy making a couronne shape; these were lovely, with a formula very similar to the Pain de Siègle recipe I use in class with students, but omitting the fresh yeast in the final dough.



I also made some of the "Wonderful White", which I posted on at the back end of last year, when I first happened upon TFL.   You can read about that here:

Yesterday [Saturday] I mixed 2kg of paste to make Horst Bandel's Black Pumpernickel in a Pullman Pan.   These are the links to the formulae: and

Except that I used strong white flour in the final paste this time, so the formula is as Hamelman recommends, with the additional controls on water I added as constant.   This was then baked very slowly overnight in my regular electric [fan] oven, at 100°C, with a small tray of water for a steady steam supply.   I did share this earlier with Nico to ascertain a bake profile.   I still like to steam these loaves, and intend to revert to this method in the ovens at College [Pumpernickel now on the student syllabus!].   The end result was very acceptable, with Alison asking for more at lunchtime, when I really should have been insisting on waiting a couple more days before slicing.   We just love rye in this house!   Photos:





And I made 3 x 1200+g loaves of Pain de Campagne.   The leaven had one feed from stock beforehand as refreshment and to re-invigorate activity.

New journey for me this time round: overnight retarding!   I've done this before commercially and whilst running bread courses, but not at home.   It worked well, I did 3 variations, and think the last loaf gave the best results.   Loaf 1 had only 1½ hours final proof [too tight in the baking]; loaf 2, radically, I did not re-mould [good, but a bit flat and rustic] and loaf 3 instructions given below, with photographs attached.

Great finished bread taste and texture too!

This is the formula:


Formula [% of flour]

Recipe [grams]

  • 1. Leaven




Flour: 12.4. Water: 7.5. TOTAL 19.9

Flour: 280. Water: 168. TOTAL 448

Strong White Flour












  • 2. Rye Sour [from stock]



Dark Rye Flour












  • 3. Final Dough



Leaven [from above]



Rye Sour [from above]



Strong White Flour



Dark Rye Flour












Total Pre-fermented flour



Total Hydration



Bake Profile: Steam, pre-heated oven [250°C], baking on hot bricks, drop heat to 200°C after 20 minutes.   Total Bake Time of 40 - 45 minutes


  • Autolyse flours, water and rye sour for 1 hour.
  • Add leaven to form a dough and mix by hand for 5 minutes.
  • Add salt and mix a further 5 minutes. Rest briefly
  • Complete mixing cycle, using "slapping" techniques.
  • Bulk ferment for 2½ hours; S&F every 45 minutes.
  • Scale and divide into 3 equal pieces, and mould each round.
  • Line plastic bowls with a little olive oil and use these to store dough pieces overnight, covered, in the fridge [mine was running <4°C].
  • Take each dough piece out as required and re-mould.
  • Drop upside down into a prepared banneton and set to prove for 2 hours, covered with heavy plastic
  • Turn out the dough piece onto a pre-heated metal sheet, cut as desired and bake to the profile shown above.






Best wishes to you all


SylviaH's picture

Seeing all the latest posts on seeded levain breads and there looking very tasty with fall approaching I thought I would give this fairly new recipe an attempt,  from  it is posted on Teresa's blog and called 'Northwest Mill Grain @100'.  

This is my version using KAFlours handy and lovely fresh all natural highfiber blend of, whole oat berries, millet, rye flakes, wheat flakes, flax, poppy seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds, I also added more whole wheat flour and upped the hyration slightly.  I halfed the recipe and made one loaf. Perfect for fall, a hearty, delicious loaf,  with a nice crust and just the right amount of chew. 





                                                                                      Packed full of tender fresh seeds









jkandell's picture

There's been a lot of discussion here about Hamelman's seeded levains (5 Grain Sourdough and Seeded Levain).  Here is an alternative recipe which I find more to my taste-buds and I encourage fans of seeded bread to give it a try.

Although Della Fattoria uses a stiff 49% levain rather than Hamelman's 125%, I think the flavor differences lies more in the mix of ingredients than the method. The flour is half whole wheat (about four times more than Hamelman), with  the remaining flour  "reduced bran" (98% of the germ and 20% of the bran). In other words, this is mostly a wholemeal bread, rather than a white bread augmented with a touch of whole grain.

The following recipe is adapted from Rose Levi Beranbaum's "Sourdough Wheat Bread with Seeds" from her Bread Bible, which she got from Eve Weber of Della Fattoria.  Although you can purchase reduced bran flour from Guisto's, I followed Beranbaum in "recreating" it by adding 2.8% germ and 1.4% bran to 95.8% all purpose flour.  Be careful your whole wheat flour is fresh--not bitter to the taste, and smells fruity when mixed with water. And freeze your germ and bran so they don't go rancid.  With this much whole grain any bitterness will ruin the loaf.

The levain is 49% hydration; the final dough excluding the levain is 79% hydration, with overall hydration of about 76%.  The final dough is tacky.


One Loaf:


bread flour       40  
whole wheat       10
stiff chef
whole wheat

bread flour
germ (half T)


bran (2.5 t)

water       284  
salt       11
honey       14
seeds       73  
stiff levain       100  
SEEDS            grams  
sunflower seeds (toasted)       13  
pumpkin seeds (toasted)       13  
sesame seeds (toasted)       14  
flax seeds
polenta or cornmeal
TOTAL       73  



Starting with about 25g of storage chef, create a mature stiff levain of 100g. (About 12 hours.)

Toast the sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds, and cool.  Mix with the flax and cornmeal to add later.

Day of baking:

Add all ingredients except salt to bread machine bowl.  Run on dough cycle enough to mix.  Autolease 20 minutes.  Add salt, and run on dough cycle about 7 minutes.  (Because of the bran and seeds, you want to mix a tad less than usual, and do some extra folds to develop the gluten to compensate.)

Bulk Ferment: 3-4 hours @75-80F.  4 stretch and folds half way through, at about 1 1/2 hours.

Loosely Shape. Relax for 20m.  Shape into batard.

Proof 1- 2 1/2 hours.  It is a moist dough and will spread a bit.

Three diagonal slashes.  Bake at 450F for 10 minutes (with steam at 0 and 5 minutes), then reduce heat to 400F for 20 minutes, then finish at 350F for another 10 or 15 minutes until crust is dark orange.  Or bake it Hamelman style hotter and shorter.

foodslut's picture

Living in the nordic climate of northern Ontario, I was pleasantly surprised a few years ago when a local flour mill started operation.  Brule Creek Farms takes locally-grown grain and stone grinding it.  I've enjoyed using the whole wheat, partially sifted and other BCF products, but I was VERY happy to see rye flour join the range of products being sold.  I like making rye, so I thought I'd try out an "all local flour" rye recipe.

My general approach:  60-40 split of regular (in this case, partially sifted instead of all-purpose) to dark rye flour, starting with a poolish to get some pre-ferment flavour, and long, slow proofing in the fridge (to allow me to bake in the evening during the work week).   Here's the final formula for a 750g/24 oz. loaf (PDF).

I prepared the poolish and let it grow for 12 hours at room temperature, then slowed down in the fridge for another 8.  Next, I mixed the poolish with the other ingredients, autolysed for ~25 minutes, then kneaded and let the dough ferment in the fridge for 12 hours.  Finally, shaped the loaves and let them proof for about 90 minutes before baking them in a 425F oven for 45 minutes (internal temperature to 200F).  I do the longer bake in a medium oven because I like my rye with a softer crust and a somewhat finer crumb.

The results (yeah, I blew it by proofing the loaves too close to each other):

Here's the "crumb shots":

Softish rye, with a very hearty taste.  Loved it!

I'm working on a liquid levain using the dark rye, so maybe the next version will be a TOTALLY local (including the yeasts) rye.

breadsong's picture


I've seen so many beautiful loaves here on TFL, with beautiful open crumb. When making dough by hand I know I'm adding too much flour to overcome stickiness when kneading. Guess what? No holes. I have shied away from the really wet doughs not really knowing how to handle them.

I recently saw a video by Richard Bertinet where he demonstrates his method for working sticky dough:

I found this video very encouraging, and now want to give a wet Ciabatta dough another try.  I read through various formulae and methods, to see how they meet the following criteria (what produces big holes in the crumb, as written by Rose Levy Beranbaum in The Bread Bible):

a) acid dough (use of a dough starter and a long cool rising)
b) underdeveloped gluten (from less mixing time)
c) high water percentage, to create a very wet dough
d) a slow rise
e) gentle shaping
f) an overnight rise of the shaped dough in the refrigerator (not applicable to Ciabatta?)

I decided to try Eric Kastel's Ciabatta formula as I've liked some of his others, and because there are similarities to Hamelman's formula, which gives me comfort (any Hamelman formula I've tried, so far, has produced really good results for me).
Kastel also writes about a double-hydration mixing technique that sounded interesting (discussed below).
Instead of 100% bread flour as Mr. Kastel's recipe indicates, I substituted 50% bread flour and 50% Type 00 Italian flour, to mimic 'ciabatta' flour, as shown in Mr. Bertinet's Ciabatta formula.

I saw different methods in different books, and tried to take bits and pieces from a few, to try to address the conditions needed to create big holes in the crumb:

a) Kastel's Ciabatta uses a poolish that ferments for 12-14 hours prior to mixing the dough.

b), c) Kastel's Ciabatta uses a double-hydration mixing method, using only 80% of the final dough's water for the initial mix (in the bowl, by hand for 4 minutes), then adding the remaining 20% of the water in thirds, continuing to mix by hand until each addition of water is absorbed before adding the next. Kastel writes the purpose of this is to allow some gluten to develop, while the dough is firmer and before the dough is completely hydrated. (Water is ultimately 81% of flour weight in Kastel's formula). 
Kastel advises that Ciabatta is a delicate dough and shouldn't be worked too much; Bertinet instructs to work the dough until it is supple and elastic; Hamelman says after mixing there should be some 'muscle' to the dough. I decide to go with Bertinet's more vigorous working method, partly because I want to see if it works, partly because I'm using some lower-protein flour, and not 100% bread flour, and because I trust Hamelman and his mixing recommendation. I turned the very wet, soupy dough onto the counter from the bowl and tried to do as Mr. Bertinet instructs. I mucked around (literally) for 10 minutes or so and got the dough to a stage where, while still very soft and sticky, had a bit of spring to it and would leave the counter in a cohesive mass when I picked it up. I am hoping that stretch and fold will make up for any deficiencies in my mixing or working of the dough.

d) Hamelman's bulk fermentation, at 3 hours, is longer than Kastel's instruction. I decide to wait it out for the 3 hours. When preparing for mixing, I made some formula adjustments as I was planning to let the dough bulk ferment for longer -  I wanted to slow down the rising - so used 1/3 less yeast (why 1/3? Only a guess). I also adjusted the salt to be equivalent to the percentage used by Hamelman as I really like how Hamelman's breads taste (I think they're nicely salted, and Kastel's recipe had a higher salt percentage).

Both Hamelman and Kastel indicate 2 stretch and folds during bulk fermentation. Peter Reinhart's stretch and fold video on Amazon instructs 4 stretch and folds for Ciabatta:
I will split the difference and go with 3 stretch and folds, at 45-minute intervals.  For the stretch and fold, Kastel says to flour the counter, Reinhart says to oil it. I'm going with Reinhart on this one, as I really want to preserve wetness in the dough.
I can feel the dough responding to each stretch and fold, and see air bubbles, which is exciting!

e) All the authors recommend using lots of flour and being really gentle with the dough when shaping.
I sifted a heavy coating of flour on the counter, gently turned the dough out of its rising container, and sifted more flour on top. I cut the dough into three strips. Shaping one dough strip at a time, I pushed the sides together as Rose instructs (to create the wrinkled look on top of the loaf), then inverted bottom side up. Then I gently picked the loaf up and stretched to lengthen it slightly while placing on parchment paper.

f) Kastel's final proof was for 20-30 minutes, and Hamelman's was for 1-1/2 hours. I chose the longer timeframe for proofing.

I followed Hamelman's baking instructions, 460F then 440F, and baked on a baking stone with steam.
I found the loaves were really browning so reduced the oven to 400F after about 18 minutes in the oven.

Here's how they turned out:

When I sliced the bread, the crust sort of splintered.  It's a very crisp crust. I am eating a piece of the bread right now as I finish this post...and the bread is good!
I am not sure if the crumb is as open as it could or should be, but it's more open than anything I've made yet, so for that I'm grateful!

Regards, breadsong








Terrell's picture

I am extremely pleased to say that the book I've been reading this week, 52 Loaves: One Man's Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning and a Perfect Crust by William Alexander is a vast improvement over the previous bread-related memoir I reported on. It's possible, even probable, that you need to be at least a little baking obsessed to enjoy it as much as I did but anyone who has baked at all or even those of you who just really appreciate a good, chewy bite of the staff of life should appreciate this chronicle of a year of bread. Alexander, author of the 2007 book on gardening The $64 Tomato in which he told of his quest for the perfect garden, seems to have a problem with obsessions. Fortunately, he's very funny about it.

In 52 Loaves, he decides that he must, absolutely, recreate the perfect flavor, crumb and crunch of a piece of bread he ate some years ago while on vacation. He reasons that if he bakes the same artisan peasant bread every week for a year, he will come to understand it down to its tiniest filament of gluten and thus be able to achieve his goal. Along the way he guides the reader through the mysteries of wheat and flour varieties, the true nature of yeast, explains in plain English the fearful calculus of the Baker's Percentage and allows us to follow him into the subterrenean kitchens of the Paris Ritz. He travels to meet bakers, scientists and like-minded enthusiasts. He even grows, harvests, threshes, winnows and grinds his own crop of wheat. Best of all, he is hilarious as he describes his attempts to make his perfect loaf. In the last section of the book, he convinces the monks at a monastery in Normandy to let him come bake bread in their ancient community. This section is weightier and clearly important to the author. He seems to finally get close to the "why" of his bread obsession.

I highly recommend this book for any novice bakers (and even for people who have more than a few loaves under their belts). I guarantee it will make your own struggles with levain and alveoli easier and much, much funnier.


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