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Category ... Did You Know

DId You Know?

Apr 04, 2015 | From the kitchen of Rose in Did You Know

The Ins and Outs of Making Your Own Wedding Cake

If you are a home baker, chef, or especially a pastry chef, people are going to expect (or at least hope) that you will be making your own wedding cake. After having made over 100 wedding cakes, and gotten to experience first hand all the dramas surrounding a wedding, I have a few basic ideas to help keep your sanity intact and allow you to enjoy your own wedding.

First, keep in mind that wedding cake portions are traditionally small. A three-tier cake (12 inches, 9 inches, and 6 inches will serve 150 people. If you are anticipating more guests or chose to serve larger portions, make a sheet cake in addition to the tiered cake. (The batter for two 12 inch layers is equal to one 18 by 12 inch sheet cake.) Tiered cakes take longer to cut and serve and since the wedding cake comes at the end of the reception, guests often leave before the entire cake is cut.

A good plan is to make the cake layers ahead and freeze them. If frosting the layers before freezing, they need to be set, unwrapped, in the freezer for a few hours until frozen solid so as not to mar the decorations when wrapping. They will need to be defrosted gradually by unwrapping and setting them overnight in the refrigerator, to avoid condensation. Be sure to use a refrigerator that is odor free as butter and or chocolate absorbs aromas readily. If freezing the layers unfrosted, wrap them well in several layers of plastic wrap. It is also helpful to set the wrapped cakes in freezer weight zip seal bags. You want to keep the cake from drying or absorbing any odors in the freezer.

If you choose to have a traditional white (or ivory, assuming and hoping you are using butter!) the best choice of covering the cake, if not using fondant, is mousseline. At relatively warm temperatures it holds up well, and even at excessively high temperatures, should it melt, it is so beautifully emulsified it forms an elegant sauce. (See base recipe below. You can add different flavorings such as colorless liquors. Fruit purees, lemon curd, or cooled melted chocolate will tint the mousseline so best used as the filling between the layers.)

If traveling with a tier cake it is highly advisable to stake the tiers. Drive a 3/8 inch wooden dowel, sharpened at one end, through the tiered cake layers to keep them from sliding. Choose a dowel that is about 6 inches longer than the height of the finished cake for ease in removal. Before frosting each cake layer, it is a good idea to cut two 1 inch long slits in the center of each cardboard base to form an X before placing the cake layers on top. This will enable the dowel to penetrate through the cardboard without risk of compressing the cake. No need to make the cuts on the cardboard supporting the bottom tier.

Use a hammer, tapping gently, to drive the dowel through to the bottom of the cake. When the cake is ready to be displayed, remove the dowel by twisting and pulling it up and out of the cake. Frost or place an ornament on top of the cake to hide the small hole.

Alternatively, you can use a 3/16 inch decoratively covered wooden cake base and a 1/2 inch dowel attached to its center with a flat head screw (similar to a sheet rock screw). Be sure first to make a hole in the dowel slightly smaller than the screw to prevent the dowel from splitting. The dowel must be shorter than the height of the completed cake. Also drill a slightly larger than 1/2 inch hole in the center of each cardboard base before placing the cake layer on top. When ready to tier the cake, lift the layer supporting it with the palms of your hands. Line up the center hole with the top of the dowel and carefully slip the layer down to the base or layer beneath it. To prevent marring the frosting, when the cake layer gets almost to the base or layer beneath it, remove your hands and allow it to drop gently into place.

Dry Milk--an Undervalued Ingredient

Dec 20, 2014 | From the kitchen of Rose in Did You Know

This is an invaluable bit of kitchen wisdom imparted to me by the late Carl Sontheimer of the original Cuisinart food processor. He once told me that adding powdered milk to mixtures such as marzipan results in a more velvety smoothness. I've since noticed the presence of dry milk on the labels of many ingredients. And recently I tried adding it to yogurt to see if it would soften the intensity of the lactic acid. I was amazed how just a small amount of the dry milk powder made the yogurt creamier and deliciously mellow.

One of the important uses of dry milk I value the most is its addition to bread dough. I've experimented with "instant" dry milk and King Arthur's "Baker's Special Dry Milk. Their dry milk not only adds a smoother and more mellow flavor, it also results in a more tender texture and a significantly higher rise.

Unlike "instant" dry milk, which is intended to be reconstituted and processed at low heat, the "Baker's Special Dry Milk" is heated during production to a high enough temperature to deactivate the enzyme protease, which impairs yeast production and, what is most critical, gluten formation and structure. This variety of dry milk will not reconstitute in liquid so it must be added to the flour.

The high heat process also produces an exceptionally fine powder, which disperses uniformly through the dry ingredients. Because the particles are so much finer than the more crystalline ones of "instant dry milk," they pack down when measuring in a cup so if replacing "Baker's Special Dry Milk" with "instant" dry milk by volume you will need double the amount to arrive at the same weight.

To substitute it for regular milk in recipes, use 1/4 cup of "Baker's Special Dry Milk" or 1/2 cup "instant" dry milk (1.4 ounces/40 grams) plus 1 cup/8.3 ml/8.3 ounces/237 grams of water per cup of milk. Up to 8.2 percent of the weight of the flour is the recommended amount; I use 6 percent in my soft white sandwich loaves.

DId You Know?

Oct 18, 2014 | From the kitchen of Rose in Did You Know

Melting Chocolate Effortlessly

When melting a large block of dark chocolate, such as a 2-1/2 kilo/5.5 pound block, there's a much easier way to do it than chopping it first into small pieces with a chef's knife. The only draw back is that it will take several hours so I like to do it the night before. Simply place the chocolate in a pan and set it in an oven with a pilot light or oven light. Be sure to put a note on the oven door so that someone doesn't come along and turn up the oven! About four hours later the chocolate will have melted into an even liquid pool of shiny chocolate.

Chocolate should not exceed 122˚F/50˚C. At higher temperatures it will lose flavor. So be sure that your oven's pilot light does not register higher. This method works only for dark chocolate as chocolate containing milk solids requires frequent stirring to prevent seeding.

Tip for accentuating the flavor of chocolate:

Many ingredients enhance the flavor of chocolate. Coffee, raspberry, walnuts, for example, are known to be synergistic additions. But have you tried malt powder? Start by adding about 1.5% malt to the mixture. Ideally you should not be able to distinguish the flavor of malt but rather to achieve a more intense yet mellow chocolate flavor.

How to Prepare a Fluted Cake Pan

Aug 09, 2014 | From the kitchen of Rose in Epicurious

Cakes baked in fluted tube pans form their own beautiful decoration and often require nothing more than a dusting of powdered sugar or cocoa if that. However, if the pan is not prepared properly, the cake will not release well and some of the lovely decorative parts will be stuck to the pan.

I have found only one supermarket product that works to give a full release to the cake and that is Baker's Joy, which contains flour and lecithin. Other products simply don't work nearly as well. Pam cooking spray is excellent for other uses but for baking, the Pam with flour and lecithin for some reason does not release well and, to my taste, it imparts an unpleasant taste to the cake.

The best way to coat the pan, using Baker's Joy, is to use an even spray and then to brush out any excess to avoid air bubbles. Also wipe the top edge of the pan with a paper towel to keep the pan clean during baking.

If you can't find Baker's Joy, the best substitute is solid vegetable shortening and flour, preferably Wondra flour, but any will do. Use a brush for the shortening to make sure you reach all the nooks and crannys. Then add some flour and tap and rotate the pan to coat evenly. Invert the pan and tap out any excess flour.

If you like a high shine on the cake's surface, here's a great tip from the late Rich Hecomovich who worked for Nordicware: Set the pan in a 325°F/160°C for 1 to 3 minutes until warm. If the pan is hot, allow it to cool just until warm. Coat the inside of the pan with Baker's Joy. Then take a small pastry brush and brush the spray into all the groves. (The warm pan will melt and thin out the spray.) Flip the pan upside down on a paper towel to let the excess coating drain out (1 to 3 minutes). Invert the pan and slowly pour in the batter. Set a towel on the counter to buffer the pan and knock the pan on the counter a few times to make the air bubbles/pockets in the batter pull away from the outside of the batter so that the sides of the baked cake will be smooth.

And another great tip, from Liz Duffy who was the food stylist for Rose's Heavenly Cakes: To eliminate air bubbles in the surface of the cake, for butter or oil cake recipes: first add a small amount of batter to fill the bottom of the pan, and using the back of a large spoon or spatula, press
the batter into the pan's flutings at the bottom.

Now here's a tip from me: If you prefer to use unbleached flour, tube pans are perfect to prevent the usual dip in the center. Why? because there is no center!

A Flour by Any Other Name...!

Jul 12, 2014 | From the kitchen of Rose in Epicurious

Just under the wire--12 days before The Baking Bible was ready to ship to the printer--Woody bought a new bag of "Gold Medal Better for Bread Flour" and to our shock, the name of the flour on the bag had changed to "Gold Medal Bread Flour."

I raced over to the computer to see how many instances the flour was mentioned in the book with the old name and there were 17. Then I put in a call to my editor, Stephanie, telling her what had happened and asking if it were possible to make this one last change. She called Jamie, the production editor who said it was possible. Whew!

When I first started working as a spokesperson for Gold Medal, several years ago, the name of the flour had been changed to "Harvest King Flour." Apparently many people were confused, thinking it was no longer the same bread flour. Some years later, after I was no longer the spokesperson, the name of the flour went back to "Better for Bread Flour." I'm so glad I can now make the change to refer it to in print as its latest name: Gold Medal Bread Flour, as it won't matter what the name may be changed to in the future, it will always be just that.

I use this flour for most of my breads as it has a slightly lower protein content than other bread flours and has the ideal extensibility, giving it the best rise and texture.

I recommend that if using other brands of bread flour, most of which have a higher protein content, to use half bread flour and half unbleached all-purpose flour.

For a soft white bread I prefer unbleached all-purpose flour which has a lower protein content.

And to achieve a high gluten flour, using Gold Medal bread flour, I add 3.7% vital wheat gluten or about 2 tablespoons per cup of flour.

The Secret Shelf Life of Arrowroot

Apr 05, 2014 | From the kitchen of Rose in Epicurious

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Arrowroot is used as a thickener for sauces and glazes. It is made from a tropical rhizome (underground stem). I like using it for glazes to top fruit on a tart, pie, or cake because it has a slight sparkle and also because it starts to thicken long before the boiling point so does not cause the fruit to soften.

Although cornstarch, also an effective thickener (when allowed to come to a full boil), has an indefinite shelf life if stored in an air-tight moisture-proof container, I have found arrow root to have a limited shelf life.

As a result of my move from New York, I discovered I had three bottles of arrowroot each of a different vintage. I seized the opportunity to do a comparative testing of their thickening powers.

The oldest one (now don't be horrified as I was!) was 24 years old! The next to oldest was 19 years old. And the third one was 14 years old.

The results were: The oldest arrowroot thickened but not effectively as it still had flow. The next to oldest thickened but not as fully as the last one which also was less tinged with yellow. This was was kept in an airtight container in an air conditioned room which accounts for its unusual viability. I recommend that if you want to be sure of the full effectiveness of arrowroot, use it up to two years from the purchase date and then replace it.

The Pastry Chef's Magic 'Glue'

Jul 14, 2013 | From the kitchen of Rose in Did You Know

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How to Rim a glass: nothing works as well as a light brushing of egg white. Enjoy your summer margaritas!

Glazes for Bread: Did you Know?

Nov 03, 2012 | From the kitchen of Rose in Recipes

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The quality of bread crust is not determined only by the type of bread being baked. There are glazes and toppings that can help to achieve a range of textures from soft and velvety to crisp and crunchy.

Here is the full range of possibilities:

Type of Glazes and Toppings
A crisp crust: Water (brushed or spritzed)
A powdery, rustic chewy crust: Flour (dusted)
A soft velvety crust: Melted butter, preferably clarified (1/2 tablespoon per average loaf)
A crisp light brown crust: 1 egg white (2 tablespoons) and 1/2 teaspoon water, lightly beaten and strained (the ideal sticky glaze for attaching seeds)
A medium shiny golden crust: 2 tablespoons egg (lightly beaten to measure) and 1 teaspoon water, lightly beaten
A shiny deep golden brown crust: 1 egg yolk (1 tablespoon) and 1 teaspoon heavy
cream, lightly beaten
A shiny medium golden brown crust: 1 egg yolk (1 tablespoon) and 1 teaspoon milk, lightly beaten
A very shiny hard crust: 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch and 6 tablespoons water: whisk the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of the water. Bring the remaining 1/4 cup
water to a boil and whisk the cornstarch mixture into it; simmer for about 30 seconds,
or until thickened and translucent. Cool to room temperature, then brush on the bread
before baking and again as soon as it comes out of the oven.

Note: When using an egg glaze, it goes on most smoothly if strained. I like to add a pinch of salt to make it more liquid and easier to pass through the strainer.

An egg glaze will lose its shine if using steam during the baking process.

My preference is to use Safest Choice pasteurized eggs.

Did You Know?

May 12, 2012 | From the kitchen of Rose in Television

Now here's something I didn't! When blind baking (baking a pie or tart crust without the filling before adding it) I like to use a large coffee urn filter to contain the beans or rice which are used to weight down the crust and keep it from bubbling up or slipping down at the sides. I prefer it to parchment because I find there is no need to coat it with nonstick cooking spray to keep it from lifting off a little of the crust but mostly because its shape conforms perfectly to that of the interior of the pan. A sheet of parchment has to be pleated in order to achieve this shape.

Fellow blogger Cenk Sonmezoy, from Turkey, has a terrific blog called CafeFernando. One of the great tips I learned from him as that by simply crumpling the parchment it practically shapes itself to curve into the dough lined pan.

As a graduate of FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) I should have figured this out long ago. But isn't it the case with all great ideas that one experiences that "why didn't I think of it" moment?

Thank you Cenk!

About Egg Whites

May 05, 2012 | From the kitchen of Rose in Did You Know

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It always seems nothing short of miraculous how a small pool of transparent egg white can whip up to a billowy white cloud of meringue...or not!

I once took for granted that it was common knowledge that egg white will not beat if there is even the tiniest speck of fat in contact with it. But then I visied my favorite older cousin, who I thought knew everything, and was amazed to have her ask me why her egg white wouldn't beat. So I want to share the simple but all important details and discoveries I have made that will ensure success every time.

There are three important things to know about egg white.

1. The bowl and beater(s) must be free of fat. If you are not using a dishwasher, give them a rinse with water and a little vinegar.

2. Use exactly 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar for 1 egg white/2 tablespoons/1 ounce/30 grams and you will never risk overbeating the whites. (Overbeating turns them dry and grainy and causes them to curdle and deflate when folding them into other mixtures.) Add the cream of tartar as soon as the beaten egg white begins to foam--after about 1 minute of beating. Start on low speed (or medium-low if using a small amount of egg white) and gradually bring the speed up to medium high. Note: more cream of tartar than the amount specified will have the opposite effect!

3. Pasteurized egg white such as from Safest Choice Pasteurized Eggs makes an exceptionally stable meringue. It is similar to a Swiss meringue which involves heating the egg white over a double boiler before beating. (During the pasteurization process the egg white is heated which results in the same effect). Pasteurized egg white, however, will not beat to a stiff meringue unless either cream of tartar or lemon juice is added. You will need double the cream of tartar for pasteurized eggs: for 1 pasteurized egg white/ 2 tablespoons/2 ounces/30 grams use 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar. Start beating on low speed (or medium-low if using a small amount of egg white) and gradually bring the speed up to high. It will take longer than egg white that has not been pasteurized but trust me, beat long enough and you'll have meringue looking like this!

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You don't even need the usual amount of sugar to achieve this creamy texture. In fact, instead of double sugar to egg white by volume I used only 1/3 the volume! Here's my new recipe!

3 large egg whites from Safest Choice Pasteurized eggs: 6 tablespoons/3 fluid ounces/3.2 ounces/90 grams

cream of tartar: 3/4 teaspoon

sugar, preferably superfine: 2 tablespoons/1 ounce/25 grams

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater, starting on medium-low speed, beat the egg whites for about 1 minute or until they foam. Stop the mixer and add the cream of tartar. Continue beating, gradually raising the speed to high. When the whites begin to thicken, gradually add the sugar. Continue beating for 5 to 10 minutes or until a thick meringue forms.

Know Your Equipment!

Oct 01, 2011 | From the kitchen of Rose in Did You Know

No two pans cook exactly the same way any more than no two ovens bake exactly the same way. This is why exact guidelines for recipes are so difficult to make precise. With one saucepan, for example, I need to have the cooktop on low heat while with another one it needs to be medium-low to achieve the same degree of simmering.

I first discovered how non-stick coating changes the way in which a griddle cooks (or should I say griddles?) when I was making pancakes on my Farberware electric griddle some years ago. I should explain that I have two Farberware griddles and I treasure them. The first rectangular one I purchased over 30 years ago when I was a food stylist. It was the only device I could find that produced perfect, evenly browned pancakes. This is because it has an encased heating element running through the entire griddle. (Sadly these griddle are no longer being produced but can be found on ebay.)

Some years later, I discovered that Farberware was producing round griddles with non-stick coating. I loved the idea of not having to add too much butter to the pancakes to keep them from sticking but I wished that it would come in the rectangular model, which it did not. So I called Farberware and asked them if they would be willing to make one for me. To my delight they said yes.

When I use the nonstick model in Hope, NJ, I set it to the highest temperature, but one day, in New York, I used the model without the nonstick surface and set it to the same temperature. My first batch of pancakes burned and I realized that the nonstick coating was lowering the temperature of the griddle and that the griddle without the coating needed to be set at a lower temperature. This is no doubt why my Chicago Metallic cake pans with dark grey exterior and nonstick interior bake at the same rate as my uncoated lighter grey aluminum pans. The dark exterior speeds baking but the nonstick coating tempers it and slows it down.

The lesson here is to learn the idiosyncrasies of your own pots, pans, and ovens and other equipment, and treasure them with care.

About Egg Yolks

Feb 05, 2011 | From the kitchen of Rose in Did You Know

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Egg yolks are the sunshine of baking. Golden, beautiful, and full of flavor. They also are very effective in emulsifying and thickening creams and batters.

There are three things that are very important to know about egg yolks:

1) More and more often, the proportion of yolk to white is less than it has been over the past decades. This means that a recipe dependent on many yolks in order to set or have the proper consistency may be significantly short on yolks if you go by just the specified number. I've found, occasionally, that when I measure or weigh 6 yolks I need to add as many as 3 more to have the needed amount. So be sure either to measure or weigh the yolks. I list them on every recipe and if you're using other people's that don't, make a little index card with measurements or weights to put up in your kitchen as a reminder.

2) If egg yolks are combined with sugar and allowed to sit they will crust over, dry out on the surface, and result in lumps in the cooked or baked product. If you need to separate eggs ahead of using them, either spray the yolks with nonstick cooking spray or if using oil in the recipe that will be added together with the yolks, simply store the yolks in the container with the oil.

3) If you have extra yolks and are not in the mood to make lemon curd! you can freeze them but only if you stir in some sugar which will maintain their texture. Be sure to mark on the container how much sugar you added so you can subtract it from the recipe when you're ready to bake with them. I use 1/2 teaspoon sugar per yolk which is enough to keep them from being sticky when defrosted.

Tips for Using Cookie Cutters

Mar 05, 2010 | From the kitchen of Rose in Did You Know

Decorative cookie cutters are great fun to use making extra special cookies that are ideal as gifts!

Betsy Cukla of Hammersong, creators of the most exquisite cookie cutters I've ever seen, has also created a great bunch of tips to help you get that cookie dough out the cook cutter in one perfect piece!

Continue reading "Tips for Using Cookie Cutters" »

Freezing Citrus Zest

Feb 20, 2010 | From the kitchen of Rose in Did You Know



Lemon zest, the colored portion of citrus peel, freezes well after zesting. But my step-daughter Beth, who is an architect, came up with this great idea for zesting citrus peel after the fruit is juiced.

Many recipes call for freshly squeezed lemon, lime, or orange juice. But after the fruit is juiced, the remaining outer portion of the fruit becomes too limp to grate into zest. If you freeze it until you are ready to use it, it is rigid enough to allow it to be grated with ease. So if you didn't think of grating the fruit's outer peel while it was still whole, this is a terrific method.

Meatballs & Spaghetti

Feb 06, 2010 | From the kitchen of Rose in Did You Know



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Did you know that not all plastic bags can be boiled? Only the ones designed for that purpose such as these bags from FoodSaver vacuumer. It took me years to figure out that when I vacuum pack my meatballs in tomato sauce I can reheat them along with the spaghetti right in the bag!

A good quality vacuum machine is an indispensable piece of equipment in my kitchens. You wouldn't believe how much it increases the life-span of ingredients in the freezer.

When You Bake in Tart Pans with Removable Bottoms

Dec 03, 2009 | From the kitchen of Rose in Did You Know



This goes for springform pans as well: Always place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any possible leaks--usually butter--that make there way out of seam in the pan and potentially onto the floor of the oven!

Did You Know

Apr 04, 2009 | From the kitchen of Rose in Did You Know

That egg whites can be frozen for at least a year but to freeze egg yolks you need to add sugar to keep them from getting too sticky and unusable.

For 1 egg yolk/about 1 tablespoon/0.6 ounce/18 grams stir in ½ teaspoon/2 grams sugar. Don’t forget to remove the sugar from the recipe after defrosting the yolks.

My favorite healthful lunch is 0 fat Greek yogurt with 1 heaping teaspoon of lemon curd swirled in and a handful of blueberries.

Continue reading "Did You Know" »

Did You Know

Feb 13, 2009 | From the kitchen of Rose in Did You Know

I love the Nespresso aerocinno for foaming milk perfectly and effortlessly but when it comes to cleaning the 'non stick' bottom surface it is anything BUT effortless and if it isn't cleaned between foamings it develops little burnt milk points.

My first solution was to scratch at the milk with my fingernails--not a happy one. A better solution turned out to be a dobie plastic sponge reserved for this use. But what a nuisance to have to hide not one but two dobie sponges from my cleaning lady who loves to grab them to scour the cooktop!

I've just discovered the best solution of all to remove the milk scum is to spray the bottom of the aerocinno very lightly with odorless cooking spray. If too much spray comes out simply wipe out the excess.Too much spray could affect foaming.

Voila! I mean ECCO!
When rinsing the aerocinno all the milk comes out easily.

Turning the Tables

Jan 03, 2009 | From the kitchen of Rose in Announcements

I’ve never liked or should I say accepted rules--at least not without questioning or testing them. But for the new year I’d like to offer up two for consideration and that’s the operative word—consideration!

Restaurant Reservations: How would you like it if you made a dinner party and cooked your heart out for your guests and a few didn’t show up without even letting you know before hand. That’s the way it is for restaurants, especially small ones that have even more trouble surviving, especially in this economy. Some restaurateurs are forced to take credit cards along with reservations.

Also, keep in mind that in order to survive financially, small restaurants need to turn the tables, i.e. you really can’t occupy your table for the entire evening unless, perhaps, you are willing to pay for two seatings.

Group E-mails: If you like or need to send the same message to several people, be sure to blind copy. This is not to keep anonymity of e-mail addresses as much as to prevent hackers—vampires of the internet (who adore group e-mails) from sending everyone in your address book endless spam. All you need to do is put the names in your group list in ( ) and they will be safe. Some people think of this as e-mail etiquette. Surprisingly, though, I’ve lost one very old friend and another previously friendly though evidently self-centered colleague after making this request. Each promised never to e-mail me again at all! And I had informed them in good faith assuming they didn’t realize the consequences of what they had done and would be glad to know how it works.

My husband Elliott has a saying that is a near mantra—it goes something like this: Do what you want as long as it doesn’t hurt others. Of course this is subject to interpretation and requires much turning of the tables but could well account for why our marriage has endured for 33 years as of this July 2009.

Happy and Considerate New Year!

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