The Fresh Loaf

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Last week HeidiH posted about her Heavenly Hard Rolls. I've made lots of rolls but I don't think I ever went after an actual hard roll with a soft chewy crumb before. So I called Stanley Ginsberg at and ordered some Pivetti 00 Rinzfornato flour since Heidi was so excited with her results. I really like that I have access to what I consider exotic ingredients at a reasonable price with Stan. The couple extra bucks for shipping is a bargain to be able to use premium flours for a special project in my opinion. 

Anyway, I followed HeidiH post exactly except for I only applied one coat of egg wash and seeds. Those of you who know me, know I almost always doctor up the recipe. It's a over powering urge I find hard to control. This time I was good. The rolls were scaled at 100G's each and just about filled up a 1/2 sheet pan perfectly. I baked at 375F for 35 minutes with normal steam and left the sheet pan in the oven an extra 7 minutes with the door cracked open with a wooden spoon.  The crust is crusty and the crumb is soft and delicious just like Heidi promised. Thanks!

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Smoked Pastrami

While we bake bread for many purposes, few could be considered more noble than to aid in the creation of an outstanding Pastrami sandwich. Corned beef is a close second in my opinion but also a nice topping for deli rye breads. I have made this recipe many times and suggest you might consider smoking all you can get in your smoker at one time. It freezes well, sliced, and you will enjoy knowing you have a bag at hand if the need arises to feed special friends on the quick.

A few years ago, a fellow at Kenny and Zuke's Deli in Portland OR , took pity on me and showed me how to make what has been described by many as the best Pastrami in the USA. Many food writers from all over have marveled at the flavor and texture of the absolutely marvelous Brisket done Pastrami style in their restaurant. Even the food writers in NY have waxed on about how there may be better but they haven’t found it yet.  Everything I write here, in fact everything I know about the fine craft of creating this delicious and tender indulgence, I learned from Nick which I think is Zuke. I scaled the quantities back and fooled with the process for  a home cook but it is essentially the original recipe. I have read they are now back to curing their own meats and have changed the recipe slightly to improve the flavors. For a time they sub contracted the curing because it takes up so much space and is a pain to keep track of, in the quantity they go through. I can’t help but to trust these guys to have made it better, hard as it might be to believe. If you find yourself near Portland, please do stop in for a real treat. They serve the very best of everything in this unusual Deli.

There are many ways to cook or smoke Pastrami. As I understand it, the term applies more to the process than the actual meat used. I have read of pastrami  turkey and other poultry. However for me the only real pastrami starts off life as a beef brisket that is first cured and marinated in special preservative (pink) salt, sugar and spices for at least 5 days and as long as 12. The combination of ingredients in the brine has a major impact on the finished product and while I am suggesting below that you start by buying an already cured piece of brisket sold as “Corned Beef” in the grocery, that product was intended to be boiled and consumed as corned beef. It will produce a very good Pastrami but the best flavor will come from starting with a raw, fresh brisket and curing your own. If you want to cure your own, start by finding some curing or “pink” salt. This is available on line and is added at around 1 Tablespoon per gallon of water.  You MUST have the proper salt. You MUST have the ability to refrigerate and rotate the meat daily during the days of curing time. The following pastrami demo was done with pre cured corned beef and it’s delicious.

A full Packer Cut of Brisket consists of a flat and a point, once it is separated and  I find them at Sam's or any real butcher between 9-11 Lbs. Your butcher will be able to remove the point from the flat and leave a 1/8-1/4 inch fat cap remaining. The flat is the more lean piece and usually the larger of the two. When done properly, the point is my favorite. It has more fat and connective tissues so it’s not for those on a diet. To be clear, you definitely want to separate the point from the flat before curing. When I have purchased full Packer cuts of whole brisket that have been cured for corned beef, I always separate them. The cooking (smoking time) and evenness is much better with two smaller pieces. If you have a real butcher, ask him to let you watch how he splits the brisket into a flat and a point. It isn't hard but you need to know how to do it.  I don't think I could describe the process well enough in words to make it meaningful. So ether get a cured piece of flat or find a real butcher and order what you want or need. I like the butcher personally. It's a dying art and I like to support them.

Let’s get started.

Equipment needed:

Stock pot
1 gallon Zip Lock bags with gusset
roasting pan
sheet pans
Sharp Carving Knife


I’m going to include the home curing ingredients now. If you are starting with a cured corn beef, ignore this list of ingredients and skip to the rub ingredients, which is the same for both procedures. The amounts listed for the curing brine is enough for 6 full briskets. Scale down for home use as necessary.

6 gallons of water
7 cups kosher salt
1 1/8 cup pink salt
5 cups white sugar
2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup pickling spice
1/4 cup coriander seed
1/4 cup mustard seed
1/3 cup minced garlic


Ground Coriander
Course crushed Black Pepper
Mustard seed ground
Garlic powder or granules.




I don’t think you can hold a slow steady 225-250F indirect heat  on any grill I have seen or used. You have to have some kind of smoker where there is a heat source, wood chip shelf, water bath and grill racks. These fall into categories of fuel type and size. The purist types might opt for a wood or coal fired unit but that means you have to tend a finicky fire for 12 hours. I’ve done that a few times but the convenience of a gas or electric heater makes this smoking far easier and the final product is barely any different than if you stayed up all night singing to yourself. Weber has a couple models that will hold a decent size Turkey that work well for this. I have a Smoke Vault by Camp Chef. You can find it near $220 on sale around or online. I see Brinkman has a less expensive gas model for $149 that looks like it would get the job done, at Home Depot. Get the biggest one your budget will afford. The world of smoked meats is addictive and there are plenty of ways to use your smoker. Turkey breast and salmon are our other smoked favorites.  This process doesn’t impart so much of a smoky flavor that you taste the smoke. It should be a mild and subtle enhancement. Any Low and Slow pit master will tell you it is easy to ruin a Q by over smoking.  You are looking for a little smoke during all the cooking  time. I’ll include a photo but your nose is the best guide. You can just see the smoke as it drifts  out the top. Perfect.

Regardless of your smoker you should be able to get two flats on the rack with space between or on 2 layers.  My smoker will hold 6 large flats at one time but then I tend to do things on a larger scale for parties and such. The smoking process shrinks the meats considerably so I suggest getting the largest flat portion usually about 4 lbs each. By the time the meat is done, you will be wishing you had done 2.  Left over’s freeze well, double wrapped in plastic or vac-u-packed.

The process:

First, purchase the largest one or two corned beef flats from your grocery store. I have to look around to find two the same size above 4 pounds so they cook at the same rate. It is hard to know what a brisket flat will look like out of the bag. It pays to take a little time to find quality and hopefully get a piece that isn’t tapered down to a small flap and thinner on one side than the other. Look at the piece I’m holding below and see how I was moaning I didn’t see the thin side at the store. This meat cooks a long time. You’re  looking for even cooking which comes from even thickness. Ultimately you have to cook for the thickest part of the meat so the thinner part will be more well done at the end. Not the end of the world but a perfect piece is better.

Start by rinsing the meet off under cold water and letting it soak in cold water for 2 hours. After 2 hours, dump the water and replace with fresh cold water. I add ice to keep it cooler. After the second rinse, pat dry and let it drip over the sink on a wire rack for a few minutes.  This soaking will remove some of the salt from the commercial curing process which is usually too salty for our purposes. Additionally, the smoking process will concentrate the remaining salt so it’s good to remove some now.

While the meat is soaking, prepare the spices. I buy the whole coriander seeds and run them through my spice mill. Some are ground more finely and some are more like crushed. I usually buy course crushed or cracked black pepper since my spice mill (coffee grinder) has a hard time with whole pepper corns. I use Coriander as the primary spice with black pepper as the secondary. I also use granulated garlic and a small amount of ground mustard. You want the Coriander to be the prominent flavor with the pepper in the second seat. Mix it all together and have it handy for application. I’m not giving exact amounts because the size and number  of meats varies. Mostly Coriander, then pepper, then garlic, then mustard. The spice coating and the fat below it become what is known as the “Bark” or “Mr. Brown” in Southern BBQ circles. The bark is my favorite part but it is an acquired taste, thankfully. You can see in the photo I started with 1-1/2 Cups of spice mixture. I had ½ Cup remaining after covering 3 brisket flats.

I like to pat the meat dry with paper towels and place it on a wire rack over a sheet pan to set for a while and come to room temperature for a bit. Then, remove the rack, dry further and set the meat on the pan. The idea is to apply as much spice as will stay in place, covering all sides completely. I like to wrap the meat in plastic wrap or a gallon bag and refrigerate it overnight if possible. I have started the smoker immediately and started the cooking but it’s better if you can give it an overnight dry marinade.

Smoke Day:

Remove the meat from the cooler a couple hours before you plan to put it on the smoker. Start your smoker and get it prepared with a water bath below the cooking rack filled with hot water. Pre heat the heater and fill the wood chip tray with some hardwood. I don’t use musquiet which is popular in Texas for BBQ due to it’s pungent flavor. Any other hardwood will be fine. Set your heat adjustments to 225-250F and find yourself an adult beverage. It takes a while for the smoker to come to a stable temperature. The meat is cool the water is cool and the wood chips haven’t started to smoke yet. After an hour, make sure you check the thermometer and start making changes to stay between the range of 225-250. Plan on this taking at least 11 hours and maybe more. The larger your meats are, the longer it will take to get them to 175F. If you can hold a stable 250F all through the 11 hours, your internal temp probe should be near 175F. You can over run the 175 to 190F so don’t concern yourself if you do. I always go to 190F for a darker bark (outside crust) and less remaining fats and connective tissue.  The next step is to braise the meat in a baking pan in water so the warmer it is here, the shorter the  braising time will be.

Pre heat the oven to 350F.
 I try to plan the smoking process so I am done around 4 or 5 hours before I want to serve the meat. Remove the smoked pastrami to a large roasting  pan with an inch  of hot water in the bottom. Using a double layer of foil, cover and seal the top of the roasting  pan. Place in a pre heated 350F oven to braise and make the meat fork tender. If you removed the meat from the smoker at 175, the braising will take 3 or more hours. If you waited and smoked to an internal temperature of 190F, about 1-1/2 hours or so will do. After 3 hours of braising, check for fork tender. Be sure to check the most lean portion of the meat. The fatty part will be soft regardless.  The problem is that it is hard to check the meat for fork tender and then re cover the top with foil so, do your best. You shouldn’t need to add water if you get a reasonable seal. Once the meat is fork tender, remove from the oven and let it start to cool. If I’m planning to serve right away, I let the meat cool in the pan for about an hour to absorb some juices back in. I’ll set it on a cutting board to cool further and carve on an angle across the grain after it has cooled to warm. This is hard to cut in thin slices so I generally cut ¼ inch or thicker slices. If you simmered it to soft, it will be hard to impossible to cut into small pieces. So wait until the meat has cooled to a nice warm plate temperature before carving with your just sharpened knife.  A stack of smoked Pastrami is the perfect topping to a slice of Jewish Deli Rye bread. Enjoy!

 Notice the photo of 2 slices below. This was cut before the braising was complete. I mistakenly removed the piece and cut a couple slices. Notice how the meat looks like the grain is long.  You have to be very careful to check the bottom of the meat for grain direction and cut across the grain. You would think the grain would be along the longest side but, it usually doesn’t. The first cut should have been on a corner. It makes a big difference in how tender the meat is, pay attention. Notice the end grain in the close up photos.  This is a critical consideration you need to get right. Brisket is a tough stringy meat that becomes soft and deliciously tender when cooked properly AND cut correctly.

One thing to remember. I started with 3 bags of cured corned beef that weighed 12.5 Lbs.. That included the brine. After smoking and braising the total package weighs only 7.5 Lbs. Shrinkage.

Make sure your knife is as sharp as you can get it. Because you are cutting across the grain, I start the cut by drawing back across the piece first so the end doesn’t spit off on the grain. I usually do a better job of cutting stack-able pieces than I did in the close up shot but that’s the idea. I tried to make this clear but if there are questions, fire away.



This is to be avoided if possible. Try to find evenly thick pieces.

After soaking they need to be patted dry.

Soaking the excess salt out of the cured Brisket.

After each piece is spiced heavily, they should sit out for a while to warm to room temperature. The spices
will stay on better if you wait a while. Optionally you can wrap them in plastic wrap overnight in the refrigerator.

Loaded and ready to go. The smoker is warmed up to temperature already.

Just a small amount of smoke is all you need. I leave the top vents wide open.

Notice I cut the first slices on the grain and not across the grain. This is a common error.
Be sure to check the grain on the bottom and cut across (at 90 degrees).



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I so enjoyed Franko's post on his Pineapple Macadamia  sticky-nut Bun last week I had to give it a go. His crumb shot makes me drool and the step by step directions convinced me I could make a stab at something I don't do all that often. Sticky buns or cinnamon rolls are great but I shouldn't really eat things like that as a mild diabetic so I don't make them often. Let me tell you the effort is well worth while. This is a good idea Franko came up with and I haven't seen it anywhere before that I recall. You could easily swap out the pineapple for any fresh fruit combination and get a totally different flavor. My first batch I stuck with the recipe pretty much as posted but, next time---.

My dough wasn't all that smooth and silky for some reason and I haven't figured out why quite yet. It could be the way I incorporated the flours in the beginning. I misread the directions and added all the flours at the autolyse phase so the dough was a little stiff during autolyse. It didn't seem to hurt the over all performance in the end and it did smooth out by the time I got to rolling it up..

I decided to try a Jumbo Muffin Tin instead of foil tins which are slightly larger. The product size is perfect for one person even though I actually ate two:>) So here are some photos of the rolls as I baked them and then after being inverted onto a sheet pan lined with parchment. My wife and daughter were happy to see these this morning and the "Yes You Can" note I had left on the side when I finally went to bed late last night.

One substitution I made was using SAF Gold Osmotolerant yeast. I guessed and used half the weight that was specified and it seemed to work out well for me. The other swap was I skipped the vanilla and used a few drops of Fleur de Sicily in the sugar glaze. It has a nice fruity aroma I thought would go well with the pineapple. Vanilla would have been just as good, maybe better.

My crumb isn't as pretty as Franko's. His is much nicer in terms of softness and open cell structure. That said, I can't taste the picture and I can taste mine which is delicious. So I'm quite happy with my results on this. I'm certain anyone with a will could make it and be completely satisfied with the results. I baked half of the batch last night and refrigerated the balance for later this week.


You can see I cut my slices too large and they started to expand out of the tin, unwrapping as they baked.

They popped right out of the tins when I turned them over onto the sheet pan. Very easy but hot. Be careful of the hot sugar!

This one didn't stand up as well as others. Still a nice sweet dough that worked out very nicely.
Imagine this with peaches and lemon zest or blue berry's and lemon, or mango's and lime zest, or----

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I hope you see this and respond Pat, I read your tip about the butter frame and want to ask a question.

After reading your tip on using a frame to roll butter into a light went off in my head. That sounds like a great idea for building a consistent size and thickness of butter, if I understand what you wrote. So the first thing is to figure out what the cubic volume is in a block of butter. Next decide how thick you want the slab to be and mill some hardwood to that size thickness. I'm thinking that 1/4 to 3/8 inch would be a good thickness as it it twice the thickness of the final roll out and would be the same thickness as the dough roll out the first time. You would tap and roll the butter (encased in parchment or plastic) inside the frame and flatten it. Removing and chilling the butter after for later use.

The hard part of this will be determining What the volume is of the amount of butter in your batch recipe. There would be minor differences in weight/volume ratios between various butter makers depending on water content but these would be so small I think not worth bothering with. I usually use the English method of encasing the butter whereby I form the dough to be 1/3 longer than the size of the butter. So then, I need to make a frame about 8 inches wide on the inside and long enough to equal a pound of butter at say 3/8 inch thick or what ever that thickness turns out to be.

Is that about right Pat?  If this works out, it will resolve my main issue with making croissants, which is forming the butter.


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Recently we have had a few posts on people having issues getting the No Knead Bread to turn out a wonderful as it should. Jim Lahey has just published a new book called "My Bread" that I thought might be fun to take a look at. It isn't an expensive book at $16.60 and has many variations on his original recipe as well as many popular variations of offerings at the Sullivan Street Bakery.

I thought I would start with the basic formula which is all Bread Flour. It almost came to pass but at the last minute I swapped out 5% of white for rye. I love what a small amount of rye does to a simple white flavor. All of Lahey's formulas call for 400 grams of flour and 300 grams of water and 2% salt. The variable is the yeast which runs from 1-3 grams depending on the additions. The resultant hydration is 75%.

One concern about the KNB process is that the chance of mixing a smooth silky dough with no lumps is diminished by minimal mixing and no kneading. After my initial mix, I went to check the dough after an hour and found many clumps of partially hydrated dough. I know that these clumps will result in inconsistency in the crumb. So, I deviated from the script and did a frissage, (squishing the dough with the heel of your hand while sliding it across the counter) which broke up the clumps. Now I have a smooth cool dough that will set at room temperature for at least 12 hours.

Somewhere along the way, the NKB process took a turn towards what I would call normal breads in that Lahey now wants us to do a second fermentation after a brief shaping. The book calls for flouring a towel and setting the bread in a bowl to "proof". I used a linen lined basket and let it proof for 2 hours.

Interestingly, the procedure calls for the final ferment (proof) to be done seams down and baked seams up. No slashing is called for so the bread expands on the weakness of the bottom seams from shaping. It worked pretty well on the two loaves I have done although I would have liked a better spring.

I baked the loaf in the Lodge Combo Cooker, 15 minutes covered and 15 open at 460F. The internal was just over 203F. I didn't get the wildly open crumb structure that is shown in the book image but it's very appropriate for the bread, and delicious.

There are several very interesting recipes in Chapter Three "Specialties of the House" that are on my to-do list. The Italian Stecca with tomatoes and garlic pressed in the top of a stick. Then the Beyond water section, there are several interesting selections. The carrot bread looks like it would be fun and tasty. It uses home made juice extracted from carrots for hydration. So here is my first crack at the new "My Bread".


Just a little course corn meal prevents scorching on the bottom.


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A few days ago, dvuong posted a beautiful image of Vienna bread with a Dutch Crunch topping applied. It was so beautiful I just had to try it for myself. I went straight to my copy of Reinharts BBA and followed the instructions for Vienna Bread and the following add in for the history and suggestions for Dutch Crunch. I learned that there are several variations including corn meal and farina that will work, providing different flavors. I thought I would stick with the white rice flour this time and try to duplicate the results posted by dvuong.

As you can see, I didn't get quite the same degree of cracking but never the less, still quite nice. Since there is yeast in the crunch topping, there are some controls available that I have to tinker with in future bakes.

So for anyone thinking about this bread, go for it. The crunch topping is easy to make up and if you don't have rice flour, try fine cornmeal.


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When 3 separate ideas rush over me at the same time, well I'm helpless to stop the resultant activity. Recently I saw Larry produce some beautiful baguettes and the Margaritta star shape. That got me thinking.

Then Proth5 (Pat) posts about her new Bear-Guettes. A dual yeast French mix that has the promise of wonderful taste.

The final thing that pushed me over the edge was receiving a bag of Central Milling's Organic Artisan Baker's Craft (Malted) from a friend who knows I will put it to good use. 

With all of these positive influences popping at once, I decided to join them and try a shape I had never made with flour I had never used in a formula I had never played with. Sounds like fun, right!

First, I love the Bear-Guettes recipe. I get no sense of tang what so ever. Very mild sightly nutty flavor with a nice crispy crust. Thank you Pat, I agree with your Chief Tester.

The Artisan Bakers Craft flour is wonderful. I had excellent development and a smooth silky dough using hand mixing and a few of Bertinet's slap and fold and just one S&F after 2 hours. Thanks to my flour fairy! You know who you are:>)

The shaping and creation of the star shapes "La margueritte" was fun. Not as hard as it looks if you can count to 6 lol. Thank you Larry for leading the way on this. The second batch which was retarded over night turned out better and were more symmetric

I'm convinced that I want to obtain a decent amount of the CM Artisan Bakers Craft for use in my French breads. You can tell it is a quality milled product by the silky nature of the dough in such a short time and in a hydration level fit for straight formulas. I like to use one flour and get comfortable with the characteristics of it so I know what to expect when I toss a batch together based on the percentages I have in my head. This is going to be my new flour.I like the creamy crumb color.


Let's see, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, damn!

Not the most open Baguette dough ever but considering the handling, not bad.

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I've been wanting to make this Hamelman bread for a while. I was hoping that the wheat germ would bring nutty wholesome flavors and the oil would soften the crust some.

I wasn't disappointed by the results, except for the crumb. I was careful in my non handling of the dough and it looked good before baking but I must have man handled it when transferring and inverting the three loaves.

The flavor is good and it's going to make a good sandwich later tonight.


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For the game yesterday, I baked this rustic loaf to munch on during the game with spreads and cold cuts. The football shape was in the spirit of the Super Bowl game in which our home team, the now WORLD CHAMPION Green Bay Packers, was a participant and victor. Imagine my surprise when I cut into the loaf to see this crumb pattern? The karma is thick around these parts when the Packers are playing.


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I have always been taken by the photos of European bakery's that produce large loaves of bread. The Polain Miche is the shining example of bread for the week. After all of the beautiful posts of miche breads here recently, I let my inner drive get the best of me and decided to make as large a bread as I could manage on my stone. I made a mix consisting of about 7% rye and 93% bread flour. The levain contained 10% dark rye and the balance was fresh ground whole rye. I also added some toasted wheat germ. I basically followed David's Miche post except I used rye instead of whole wheat.

The 2300 gram dough was too large for my sfbi large linen basket so I proofed the rather slack dough in a large plastic steep sided bowl with a couche linen cloth lining the bowl. The dough nearly filled the bowl when starting the proof time and it turns out my couche cloth could have been larger. I let the dough proof for just over 1 hour after a 3 hour ferment time that produces a nice aerated and active dough.

I have been happy with my results shaping these higher hydration doughs recently. I dumped the dough out onto a floured counter and pull the dough edges up around the circumference to the center. Much like making a kaiser roll. Then I roll the ball over and let it rest for 20 minutes or so covered with a large bowl. After resting, I leave the ball on the seamed side and tighten by pushing it around the un-floured counter top and drawing the skin ever tighter in the process. Finally, I dust the top of the ball with my rice flour and AP combination, pick up the ball and place it, inverted in the banetton (in this case, my jury rigged bowl). Proofing was done in the microwave following boiling a cup of water to warm it up. It was Zero last night with 40 mph winds so the kitchen was a little cooler than I would have liked for proofing.

The oven was turned on at 500f when the proofing started. I knew this wasn't going to be fully proofed due to the size of the dough in the bowl. After an hour, I inverted the dough onto a sheet of parchment dusted with corn meal and I'm amazed at how well it stood up. Had it pancaked, I would of not been able to keep it on the paper.

Forgive me for attempting to score with breadsong's wonderful looking Miche in mind. Hers is so beautiful I had to try my hand. Trust me it's not as easy as it looks or rather as easy as breadsong makes it look. I ham fistedly made some cuts that (as my artist wife pointed out) were too deep. Lol I'll learn for next time.

Baked for 20 minutes at 450F then another 35 minutes at 430F, I gave it the anti alien treatment (foil cover) for the last 12 minutes when I rotated the browning boule. It sang loud and clear as it cracked and popped during cooling. This is a large loaf of bread. My family is wondering what I was thinking. Cheese Fondue is on the menu this evening.

The flavor has a mild tang but was not retarded. The rye helps bring out the acids that deliver those flavors. Moderately aerated, the cells are nicely gelatinous. A chewy mouth feel and nice aroma from the bold bake can be tasted. I do think the flavor would have benefited from an overnight cold fermenting. So then, here it is. My Jumbo Miche.

It's hard to get a sense of scale here. Note the bread is as wide as the sheet pan.

My stalks of grain look like redwoods lol.

A slice off the end reveals a nicely aerated crumb.


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