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Janedo's blog

Janedo's picture

Hello! How about a bit of french pastry?

I have been working in a bakery in the South of France, doing their line of pastries and goodies. The challenge has been the actual baking because I have to bake everything in a huge deck oven. It was quite daunting at first as I have always had a proper convection oven wherever I have worked. But, it is actually all right. I have been doing some tests with choux pastry lately because everything becomes enormous in that deck oven!! So, yesterday, while I was off, I made some choux pastry to test.... convention on, convection off, directly on the stone, in the middle, etc. I decided to make a Saint Honoré because it is is yummy and pretty, and I hadn't made one in ages. This type of piping is all the rage here in France these days. The base is a flattened puff pastry. I made a "princess vanilla cream", which is a vanilla pastry cream with some gelatin and butter that is cooled to room temp and then has some whipped cream folded in to it and then cooled. It becomes lighter and moussy and can be piped easily. The piped cream is a slightly sweeted (powdered sugar), vanilla mascarpone whipped cream. The choux are filled with the princess pastry cream. I had some friends over for tea and that distracted me and I glued the choux, forgetting to dip them in the caramel first. Oops! So I just drizzled the caramel on top. It sounds complicated, but it is pretty straight forwards and always a crown pleaser.


Janedo's picture

Anyone who knows me from back when, knows that one of my goals as a home baker in France was to make a great baguette. I went through a series of trials and found that the technique used by Anis Bouabsa gave great results. French bakery baguettes, much like the photos you can see in Calvel's book, are pretty much basic French baguettes and in my opnion, not that fabulous. The BEST baguette in France is either called baguette "Tradition" or a house name, such as Baguette "Catalane". The baguettes respect strict rules about their production, made only with high quality T65 without additives (unauthorized ones) and at least part of the process must be hand done (usually the shaping and oven loading). They often have sourdough in it but spiked with yeast and if there is no sourdough, the dough has probably gone through a longer fermentation period to help develop flavour and a better crumb. Not all bakeries offer this type of baguette because it is more expensive to produce and therefore more expensive to buy, usually turning around 1,05€ vs ,75€ for a regular one or even less in a supermarket. In some areas, French people don't want to spend the money and so the baker just doesn't bother with them. In general they have a more rustic appearance, either pointy ends or sometimes squared off ends, not always slashed as a usual baguette but something more creative. These are the only baguettes I find edible in France.

Now, about flour. There has been a LOT of discussion in this forum regarding French flour and the famous T55. How to get the same result in the States. Well, first of all, there are two types of flour in France... regular people flour and baker's flour. I have always used organic, stone ground flour. This provides inscredible taste but it is hard to get light, great oven springed bread. My baguettes are always on the squashed side even if the crumb is open. I prefer to eat mostly organic foods and so I didn't really look in to other options.

But as an avid home baker, I have "professional" curiosity and so I went about testing baker's flour. Now, you have to know that baker's flour is another ball game. There are a number of different millers to choose from and each bakery has the choice of either being fully independant or affiliated with a flour company (like Baguépi, Banette, etc) The bakery get's advantages when they have a contract wiht one of these companies through free training, loans for starting up a bakery, free packaging, etc. I have had the opportunity to bake with these flours and some are good and others not. I have made a decent baguette with Baguépi but I injected it with sourdough and put it through a cold retarding.

These baker's flours have some common ingredients: Wheat flour, malted wheat flour, sometimes malted barley flour, gluten, fungal amylases, ascorbic acid.

I have seen a T65 baguette flour with additions of corn flour to make the flour more cream colored!!!!

So, I have been playing around with this flour...but a special type called T55 gruau which gives the qualities of a whiter flour but has much more gluten in it... probably around 11-11,5% (I  have to check but don't have the bag because I bought it from a baker). This isn't a flour you can buy at the store and it is hard to find on the internet. Bakers have easier access and much better prices on raw materials. I payed ,74€/kilo! Not bad for a specialty flour!

I have made bagels and some other simple breads to get a feel of the flour. The I made some baguettes using Steve's double flour additon technique where the poolish (in this case sourdough starter at about 100% hydration) and only a bit of the flour and water are combined and then whipped for a minute or so. You can see his ciabatta recipe here Steve's Ciabatta. I made a dough with a 250g starter for 600g flour at 73% hydration. I then added the rest of the flour and water, did an autolyse of 20 min. Added the salt and then kneaded with a Kenwood at 2-3 for about 10 min. The dough was AMAZING! It looked alive, was silky with perfect gluten development. I let it rise about 2hrs, then did a preshaping but not too tight. Then shaped the baguettes. The dough was elastic but easy to roll out. They rose very nicely, keeping their shape. I was scared they were over-proofed as I was outside playing with the kids and sort of forgot them, but in the oven they got good oven spring. I waited til they were cool to cut (hard to do, but I managed!) I could feel the air pockets in them. Here's the result:

I bake my baguettes dark on purpose, I think the crust has better taste and crunch. Baguette tradition has a slightly thicker crust and a crumb with more chew to it. I don't like cottony baguettes.

Anyway, I hope that maybe we can clear up some stuff about what that famous French T55 or 65 is all about. I do think you can make great baguettes in the States without having to have our flours over here. A very good quality flour that is around 11% protein (maybe with some added malt) should do the trick, which I assume is the case since there are some bakeries making great baguettes over there. The way they are baked counts, too. They need to be on a hot stone or four à sol. The ones baked on racks just aren't as good.

I had to type this out fast, it's Wednesday over here... kid day. So excuse the style. Just wanted to share with you!


Janedo's picture

Hi all! I've been one busy person what with the holidays, kids, etc. But now life is settling into a more calm and regular rhythm. So, I'm BACK!

Over the holidays, Steve from Breadcetera, and I did a flour swap (yes, it cost a fortune!). We sent each other dried samples of our starter and flour. I sent him some organic stone-ground T55 and T65 and he sent me some KA AP and bread flour. Not so much because he himself uses that particular flour, but he figured it would give me an idea of the type of flour many people bake with.

I was VERY excited to try the All-Purpose flour for two reasons. I wanted to see how it felt, how it worked and what it tasted like but also I wanted to test Flo's 123 formula because many people seemed to have trouble with it.

So, here are the results:

I did up a dough of 150g starter (100% hydration), 300g water and 450g KA AP and 9g salt.

There is obviously more or different gluten in the flour. It takes AGES to get developed. With the T55 or 65, you literally only need to knead a few minutes to get a good dough formed, but with the KA AP, at initial mixing (in a Kenwood) it was rough and together, then went gloppy and then got extremely elastic (TOO elastic). It took quite a while to mix. So, this leads me to believe that for those who found the dough too wet may have hand kneaded and found it gloppy, but it would take ages to knead by hand to get the right consistancy. With French flours, the dough is wetter than with American flour which is the opposite of what people believe. I think it just the kneading time. More flour would have made a dough that would be much too firm (to my liking).

When it was finally risen and baked, I took it out of the oven and to my surprise, it was SHINY and smooth crusted. It looked plastic. Now, I did everything exactly as I always do, no changes, no more steam than usual. It was really weird. Then, with my husband next to me, we smelled it. We looked at each other and said, It doesn't smell like anything! OK, then we left it to cool and cut it. I handed pieces to my family in different rooms. My son said, it doesn't taste like anything. I went to my daughter who smiled and said, "It's good!... but it doesn't have any taste". The overall concesus was that it really didn't taste like anything at all.

So, I got thinking, and I understand a lot of things now. I understand why preferments are so important and retarding and adding rye, etc. If you bake with KA AP as your basic artisan bread flour, well, it really needs help!

In France, the non organic flours that bakers use can lack in taste but it's still a lot tastier than the KA AP. So, the French organic flour is pure bread heaven.When a loaf comes out of the oven, it smells so incredible, a blend between deep wheaty aroma and the slight tangy, yet earthy sourdough. I did  up some Mike Avery's version of The Three Rivers bread that I spoke about on my blog for a cheese fondue and even though there is no sourdough, just poolish and retarding, it could have been mistaken for a sourdough, it smelled so incredible.

I guess I'm being French chauvinistic, but ever since I joined this group and have shared and learned so much from you, the huge question that has lingered for me has been all about American flour, how it reacts and tastes. I'm sure there are some better flours out there. Many speak of some organic brands, Guisto's and some other mills. I know it's more expensive, but if you're looking for something tastier, it's a good idea to try some of them. Oh, and remember, French wheat is soft, not hard. I think that makes a big difference.

So, I invite discussion and ideas or questions. I'm all ears.



Janedo's picture

I make several different versions of this very famous cake as it is probably my very favorite of all chocolate desserts and perfect for a fancy presentation. The only thing that may cause problems is finding the ingredients in the States. I don’t know what’s available over there, so I’ll do my best to describe how it’s done here.
For Sean’s birthday we had a very nice dinner of marinated, then BBQ’s duck breasts, a zucchini – chèvre tian and sautéed potatoes. I decorated his cake with maltezer’s and white and dark chocolate Mikado’s and 4 sparklers.

French Royal or Trianon

Gâteau Royal or Le Trianon

Marcaron base :

60 g finely ground almond
130 g sugar
15 g flour
2 egg whites
1 tsp cocoa

Preheat the oven to 220°C
In a bowl, mix 60g of the sugar, the almond, the flou rand the cocoa.
In a mixer, beat the egg whites and when they start to foam, add the rest of the sugar and let stiffen. Fold in the dry ingredients.
Prepare à springform pan (around 22 cm), line it with parchment paper and fill with the batter.
Bake ten minutes. Let cool and then remove from the pan.

Prepare a cake ring, or the spring form pan that has been cooled and washed. I use a ring that is placed directly on to the serving platter. I lined the outer edges of mine with a plastic ring so that when it came time to take the cake out, the plastic stops the cake from sicking on the side of the pan and then can be simply peeled off.
Place the baked base in the ring by cutting it to size.

Praline layer :

In France we have a brand of chocolate called Poulain 1848. They make a praline bar that is used for this cake. I don’t know if anything like that exists. You can also use milk chocolate blended with Nutella. Less « chic » but it works. Soft, pralne chocolate of any kind should do the trick. The gavottes may pose another problem. Here they are:


200 g pralinoise (Poulain 1848)
90 g crêpes dentelles « gavottes »
40 g ground praline

Melt the chocolate. Crush the gavottes. Mix the praline and the gavottes in to the chocolate.. Spread this mixture on to the macaron base, making sure the corners are filled and it is level.

Mousse au chocolat :

75 g sugar
1 egg + 3 yolks
200 g baker’s chocolate (good quality !)
300 ml whipping cream

Beat the egss and the sugar with 2 tbsp of hot water. This should triple in volume and become very light in color.
Melt the chocolate and then blend it in to the egg mixture.
Whip the cream until it form a « whipped cream » and fold this gently in to the chocolate mixture, making sure it is fully incorporated.
Spread this on top of the praline layer and even the top as much as possible.

Place the cake for 8-10 hours in the fridge. I placed the fridge at 1°C for the setting period.

Comments :

This recipe can be found on a great number of French cooking sites and blogs. The recipes vary somewhat. This one comes from a very nice blog called Amuses bouches

I wanted to try the macaron base because I usually do a génoise-type base and often soaked in kirsch. I have to say, I prefer the génoise base. You can also skip the praline layer and make a chocolate brownie base. I do that sometimes and make a thicker mouse layer using only whipped cream and melted chocolate.

Trianon with sparklers

I also made this cute Batman cake for his friends at school. He was quite delighted with it. It was one of those things... 9pm, wanting desperately to go to bed, but I had to figure out how to do a Batman theme because it was Sean's special day. It worked out just fine. I was rather proud of myself!

Batman cakeBatman cake

Janedo's picture

I made Anis's baguettes and they came out rather nicely. I was very happy o finally get a good result. But, see, I don't really like yeast bread. Other than sweet doughs, I don't really see the point. So, right away, I decided to take the basic recipe and the techniques and see how a sourdough version would come out. I tried pure sourdough and maintain my dislike. The crumb is just too chewy for my taste. So, the next step was to try it with a touch of yeast. The result was perfect to my liking!

Now, unfortunately I'm having computer trouble.  I can't open Gimp my program that I use to make my pictures small enough to post here. But I posted my results on my blog here:

They could have used a few more minutes baking and my pictures are light (they weren't that light in real life).

I used a firm starter because I really don't like the flavour of a white bread retarded all night in the fridge from a liquid starter. Too soury for my liking. The firm was great for my taste. 

Here's the recipe:

500g T65 flour organic

375g water 

125g firm starter (made the night before from around 30g starter, 90g flour and 40g water) 

10g natural grey sea salt (it really is tastier!) 

1/4 tsp yeast (could maybe have used less, but it worked)


A BIG thanks to Pat (Proth5) who introduced my to folding instead of kneading. I put all the ingredients in a bowl, mixed pretty well, then did 20 folds with the spatula turning 1/5th turn, so I went 3 times around the bowl (as Hamalman explains in his no-knead bread). Let the dough rest 30 min, 20 folds, 30 min 20 folds, 30 min., 20 folds, then after 1h30, in to the fridge for the night.

Next day, the dough is weighed and portioned while cold. Preformed, let to sit for one hour as it comes to room temps.

Oven turned on at 250°C. I wanted that stone HOT!!!! It makes a huge difference for baguettes.

Shaped the dough in  to short baguettes, let rest a few minutes and then stretched them into the desired length (like the Acme baguettes). I made five out of this recipe.

Placed on to the couche, seam side up, let to sit covered 45-60 min.

My husband found me a nice collection of boards in the basement that I rubbed with flour and then sprinkled with flour and semoule. With a thin one I flipped the baguettes and then placed them on a larger one as a peel. I could slide on two at a time.

Poured hot water into the pan in the bottom of the oven, slid in the baguettes, got the others, slid them in and then steamed again.

Baked 25min but could have used a touch more. Anis made his apprentice put some back in the oven that I thought were baked well. Now I understand the problem. They can look baked on top because of the nigh heat, but aren't necessarily.

I think that's about it. Steve if you're around, I put a link to you kneading video because I also use that for my wet dough. It's great!!

I have sleep baby on my lap, so I hope I haven't forgotten anything, but wanted to post because time is so limited these days. It took me AGES to do the blog post! It's long and lots of pics.

Cheers everyone!




Janedo's picture

Tuesday morning, we decided to go visit the Duc de la Chapelle, Anis Bouabsa's bakery in Paris. As you probably know, he won this year's Best Baguette. The bakery is situated in a modest neighborhood, far from the typical tourist traps and chic areas. We entered the bakery and asked he woman behind the counter several questions before buying a selection of breads. She was very nice and helpful. As we left the bakery, we took some pictures of the young baker/apprenti who was scoring baguettes and sliding them in to the oven. Disappointed by the quality of the photos through the window, Florence returned and asked if we could go inside and take just a few pictures. The woman showed her the way, no questions asked!

Once inside, who came through, but Anis himself! I felt like a teenager who was getting a real-live view of her movie star hero. He looked at me through the window and asked Flo who I was. I think he thought I was a bit idiotic because I had such a huge grin on my face! He opened the door and told me to come on in.

So, here you have two passionate home bakers in front of a master, and may I say the sweetest, nicest and most generous master. We started asking him questions and he told us EVERYTHING! He explained from A to Z how he makes his famous baguette. He adapted the recipe for home use for us and explained how we could do the steps at home. He showed us how to form the baguettes, slide them in the oven, what temperature.... EVERYTHING!

We even asked him if we could come and have a real lesson and he didn't say no, he said in September it could be possible.

Now, what he told us was actually quite surprising! The baguette dough has a 75% hydration, very little yeast, hardly kneaded, folded three times in one hour then placed in the fridge 21hrs. They are not fully risen when placed in the oven, it is the wet dough and the very very hot oven (250°C) that make give the volume. 

When I get some time, I will be trying his recipe. I feel success is near!!!!

Anis gave me permission to publish his pictures. They were all taken by Florence, "photographe extraordinaire".


Anis Bouabsa


Baguettes à cuireBaguettes à cuire




Janedo's picture

Well, I haven't been around much lately, just too busy! But yesterday I decided to read the directions VERY carefully and try the Acme rustic baguettes once again. Howard's looked so great, I figured I should try again respecting every single step because I didn't last time.

The difficulties I found were the flour and the weather. It's HOT, around 30°C and over 25°C in the kitchen. Things went fast and I'm not used to this extra heat with this type of bread. I think I got them in the oven at almost the right moment. I got some oven spring this time... though probably not enough. The initial rise was a bit too much, I think. 

Now, the other problem is the flour. The crumb was similar to the last baguettes I made which makes me think there is a gluten problem happening. During fermentation the dough gets very bubbly, but the bubbles end up baking quite uniformly compared to a very holey, open crumb. The dough was sticky and remained very soft and sticky. I even added flour even though Glezer said NOT too. I HAD to! I think the American recipes use a higher gluten flour (that's what Glezer said in her book) and the French flours don't react the way they should for these recipes. Now, I may be TOTALLY wrong and would like some input. I bought some gluten and thought maybe I should try to add some the next time. Is this a good idea and how much?

Other than that, they TASTE great and they are very light and airy even though the hole structure isn't picture perfect.

I'll try the ones posted in my last blog entry next following ALL the indications given. But before I do that, I'll wait to get some gluten answers.


Acme's rustic baguette crustAcme's rustic baguette crust

Acme's rustic baguette crumbAcme's rustic baguette crumb

Janedo's picture

What makes a great baguette? Well, first of all, what's a baguette? It's a post-war, "we're sick of tough pain au levain, we want what the American's have", loaf of very light, white bread. It's made with yeast, very white flour that is very often, believe it or not, a mix of French soft and American hard wheat. Most French bakeries "cheat" and use white flour with stuff in it like ascorbic acid which produces an even light loaf. The baguette "tradition" is the no-cheat version, made with only flour, water, yeast and salt, no additives.

I'm not a huge fan of the baguette but it definitely has its uses. It makes great sandwiches, it sops up sauce very nicely and when it is very, very fresh, still warm out of the oven, it is quite heavenly!

But it's darn hard to find a really good one these days and no bakeries around where I live make a decent one.

It isn't that hard to make a baguette-style bread. There are loads of recipes, either straight method, on a poolish or even a sourdough version. But the question some of us have been asking is, How do you get those that really light, airy, big holed crumb? Is it the flour? The preferement? The fermentation? The kneading? The proofing? The baking? All of the above?

I have no clue really. I have ideas, suspicions. So, the only thing to do it TRY!

For my first test I simply took the recipe for Baguette Tradition from the web site of the INBP, L'Institut National de la Boulangerie Pâtisserie. I thought I'd try their very straight method before doing some of my own experiments.

Well, I was actually impressed with the results. They don't LOOK that beautiful, but they were very tasty and very light. They look sort of heavy but when you pick one up, it is much lighter than you imagine. The crumb is light and melt-in-your-mouthish. The crust is crackly.

I used organic T55, tap water, Guérande salt and yeast.

Here's the recipe:

Poolish: 150g T55 flour, 150g water, 2 pinches yeast - 15 hr ferment

Dough: poolish, 300g T55 flour, 140g water, 8g salt, 1tsp yeast

The recipe called for fresh yeast and since I forgot to take it out of the freezer, I guessed on the regular yeast.

There is no autolyse. 10 min on first speed, 3 min on second (that's what the recipe says!)

30 min rise, fold, 30 min. Mise en couche oblong shape. 30 min rest, form 3 baguettes, proof 1 hr.

Incisions then 20 min bake with a medium steam at 250°C.

Baguette N°1

Baguette N°1 crumb

So, I let the baguettes proof until I found they were nicely risen and I could see the air pockets under the "skin". I sliced quite deeply, but at baking they didn't get that much spring which I found strange. I followed the instructions and baked at 250°C but wondered if a lower temp wouldn't have been better.

I think the basic recipe is definitely a good one and I'm going to try again changing the variables to see what I can get out of it. Longer/shorter proofing, longer mixing (I read in a French site that baguettes need "agressive kneeding) Any suggestions are welcome! 


Janedo's picture

I don't really know what to call this bread. It is mostly based on the method of Nury's Light Rye. I made that one a couple of times and found it very good, but I wanted a bread with more rye and that had nice big holes but was a bit higher, blown up. I decided to modify the ingredients a bit and then go for a dough that was just slightly more compact. Not a normal bread dough that forms a ball, but not as hydrated. I also proofed it in a banneton for a couple of hours straight out of the fridge. These modifications produced this bread here:

Rye bread

Rye crumbRye crumb

The recipe goes like this (it can be halved. I just like making more of the long recipes):

I made a firm starter with 3/4 white and 1/4 rye (no WW like the Nury's) in order to have at least 200g the next day (I never measure, I admit)

Then, in my mixing bowl 800ml water, 200g T110 rye (medium whole?) and 750g T65 (bread flour?). 30 minute autolyse.  Then 4 tsp good sea salt, 200g starter and mixing. I don't mix until windowpane. Just until it really starts to look nice, but not overly. Now here is the thing... the dough should be well hydrated, but NOT as much as a ciabatta or the Nury's light. It won't form a real ball. In the mixer most of the dough will be ballish but it won't disconnect from the paddle. It still sticks. So flour should be added/or not to produce this.

Put it in an oiled bowl, rest one hour, fold, rest an hour, fold, rise another 2 hours, then in the fridge over night. 

The next day, pull the dough out, mise en couche even though it's cold. After 15 min, form the dough in two bannetons, or more (I once did two small and one big, whatever). Cover and let rise about 2,5 -3 hours depending on the temp. The dough is cold so it needs to come to room temp and then rise a bit so this time is needed.

The trick is, I think, to limit the handling of the dough. It forms lots of bubbles that should stay. So, no kneeding after it comes out of the fridge.

Preheat at 230°C, steam the oven lots, in goes the bread. Turn the oven down to 210°C and the baking depends on the size. 

The whole family is nutty over this bread, even the little ones (2 and 3 yrs).

The first time I made it I wasn't sure weather to score it. The dough is hard to score. It looked like this:

unscored rye

And the one I baked today didn't get folds and didn't have any room temp rise because I had to go out yesterday. It went straight in to the fridge over night (almost 24h). It had HUGE holes. Go figure!


Janedo's picture

baguette farciebaguette farcie

A big thanks to Eric (ehanner) for this great idea. These baguettes (baguette Monge recipe - quick to make) are filled with mountain ham, like serrano, ewe cheese and grainy mustard. The kids loved them! I made a sun-dried tomato, herb, olive oil, goat cheese, serrano one for me. Perfect picnic fair. I formed six small rectangles, lay the ham, cheese, etc in the middle and folded the sides up and rolled lightly to form a baguette. Just have to be carfeul not to roll the dough too thin. The seam on the bottom, then slashed before baking. 

pain épice T110pain épice T110

The breads were made using a firm starter that I fed to become stirrable in the evening, left out all night, then the dough made in the morn, baked in the afternoon (an initial 4-5 hr rise, then a 2-3). Half T65 and half T110. The T110 is a new brand I found. It's organic and stone-ground like the other but the bran is really small and you can't really see it, but the flour is sort of grey-beige. Really strange but it makes the best bread ever with a spicey, pain d'épice smell to it.  

pain romarin
pain romarin

I made Mike Avery's sourdough ciabatta that was a huge hit here. I have actually never tasted it but my italian friend said it was great! This bread I'm showing is based on the same technique, but I changed a couple things.

Rosemary-honey bread 

the biga (I made an orange size ball and left it out all night) didn't weigh it 

400 ml water

625-50g T65 (bread flour over there and maybe a bit more)

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp honey

2  tsp salt

2 tbsp fresh rosemary chopped

I don't know why but the bread was lighter in texture, almost like a yeast bread. Maybe because there was no milk and the honey helped? I have no idea but it was really GOOD! 

baguettes rustiquesbaguettes rustiques

These are the rustic baguettes from Glezer's Artisan baking. They were really good, but  it dawned on me that I'll never get those huge holes if I always use my organic T65 which isn't real white flour. I bought some T55 non organic to try one of these days but that breaks my heart a bit. It's just a challenge thing. I don't like baguettes that much really anyway! But any amateur baker wants to try and master them ... don't we?

I read an article about french flours and yeast. Did you know that most bakeries in France have a flour sponsor? They only use the flours from that supplier and they get great, light, holey baguettes because the flour has emulsifiers, and other additives. That's pretty icky in my books... and also my initial motivation for baking my own bread. But it's very much like the States, you have wonderful artisanal bakeries and so do we. They just have to be hunted down! I read an article yesterday about France's N°1 baker who makes the best baguette in France. His name is Anis Bouabsa and is from a family of Tunisian immigrants. He talks about using a very, very small amount of yeast and a long long rise (20 -30 hrs) but didn't say anything about builds. 

Have a nice Sunday!




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