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Kalitsounia- Another Reason to Use The Huge Mini-Muffin Tin Your Mother Gave You

18 Apr

If there ain’t no party like a West Coast party ’cause a West Coast party don’t stop, then there is definitely no dinner party like a Cretan dinner party because you will never, ever, ever want the food to stop. And I am pretty sure Coolio would agree with me that these kalitsounia are proof positive that cooks from Crete are not effing around. Part custard treat, part tart, part muffin, these bite sized treats defy your dessert definitions. My favorite part of making these is the reminder of how perfectly unpersnickety Greek pastry is–this dough is forgiving and easy to work with, and the filling practically pulls itself together.

This was my first time at the kalitsounia party, so I borrowed heavily from this recipe, and my teensy tweaks are reflected below. I also benefited tremendously from MamaKef’s compulsive gift giving–these guys are a great reason to whip out your 48-count muffin tin again and the Cake Boss Linzer cookie cutter kit (sans cutout attachment) was PERFECT for creating perfectly-sized dough rounds with pretty scalloped edges. But, as always, these are mere suggestions and you just go ahead and do whatever your heart desires.FullSizeRender (24)

Kalitsounia

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1/2 c Greek yogurt, left to sit in colander/strainer for ~10 min to reduce liquid
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 3.5-4.5 c flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste (or extract)
  • juice of 1/2 orange
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
 For the filling
  • 15 oz of soft myzithra cheese (you will prob have to live in NY, Baltimore, Toronto, or Melbourne to find this outside of Greece– for the rest of us, ricotta worked just fine for me)
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 eggs and 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp cinammon

For the topping

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 TBS water
  • 1 TBS cinnamon

Assembly

  1. Using the paddle attachment of a standing mixer, combine olive oil, sugar, yogurt and eggs in a large bowl. Add in the orange juice, lemon zest and vanilla and blend again until just combined. In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder, mix well, and then add gradually dry ingredients to the wet mixture. Knead the dough with your hands, until it softens. You may need to add flour–the dough should be soft and pliable, but not stick to your hands. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and set the dough aside to rest for at least 30 minutes- no need to chill.
  2. Using either a rubber spatula or a standing mixer, combine sugar, eggs and cinnamon until well mixed.
  3. Preheat oven to 350F, lightly grease a mini-muffin tin. On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to about 1/10 of an inch (good on you if you have any idea what a tenth of an inch is–I just went with “as thin as I could get it without its being see through”). Use a 6-inch cookie or biscuit cutter to cut the dough into rounds.
  4. Drop one round into each minimuffin slot. Fill with about 1-1.5 tsp filling. Whisk together egg and water, then brush the top of each pastry with the egg wash. Sprinkle the top of each with cinnamon.
  5. Bake at 350F for about 25 minutes, or until golden. Allow to cool in pan, then pop out and enjoy– these are even better when served the next day!

‘That Boy Good’ Cardamom Cream Cake

8 Jan

Whew lawdy, it has been a WEEK here in Kefville-  a post every day this week! (Monday: The Extravaganza Recap; Tuesday: Fried Eggplant with Chickpeas and Mint Chutney; Wednesday: Iranian Jeweled Rice; Thursday: Sparkling Pomegranate Punch)

But wait- there’s more! Today we’re talking about this Cardamom Cream Cake also published by the NYT in their Best-of-2015 rundown. This cake got rave reviews, which I at first thought were from people just being nice… but then when the second (!) two-layer cake was decimated, I decided this pretty little thing must be the real deal.

cake

This recipe requires three components + the cake, so it’s neither a one-bowl job nor particularly quick. The frosting comes out thick and beige, so you should surely have some plan for beautifying it (might I suggest edible glitter?). Next time around, I may get really wild and an some pistachio to the ricotta cream for some added color… but that’s a story for another day.

Before we get to the recipe–can we just all agree that this woman next to MrKef is a total MILF? Actually, we might as well go one step further and introduce PILFKef, DO (she is a hotly-sought-after Pediatrician, after all).

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Finally, I must send my most heart-felt thanks to the creators of Coming to America for 1) entertaining our guests while I made this 10,000-hour dinner and 2) providing the highest-compliment-namesake for this creation (if you don’t know about ‘that boy good,’ click here and then, for eff’s sake, go watch the movie!)

‘That Boy Good’ Cardamom Cream Cake

Ingredients

FOR THE RICOTTA FILLING:

  • 1.5 lbs fresh whole-milk ricotta (this was about 24 oz)
  • ½ c heavy cream
  • ¾ c confectioners’ sugar 
  • 1 tsp rose water (I used orange blossom water because that’s what I had, you could also use a flavored extract of your choice or brandy–same goes for all the other rose water additions below)

FOR THE MILK SYRUP:

  • 2 c whole milk
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 6 TBS sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons rose water, or to taste

FOR THE CAKE:

  • 12 TBS (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (+more for greasing pan)
  • 3 c cake flour + more for flouring pan
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 c whole milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp rose water
  • 1.5 c granulated sugar
  • 1 TBS plus 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt

FOR THE MASCARPONE FROSTING:

  • 12 TBS (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened 
  • 1 c confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tsp rose water, or to taste
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 c COLD mascarpone
  • ¼ c COLD Greek yogurt (just buy the damn full fat FAGE)
  • pistachios, toasted and chopped
  • Candied rose petals, for garnish (optional) (Ed note: I don’t even know what this means, but if the NYT includes it, so do I.)

Assembly

1. Drain the ricotta in a fine mesh sieve placed in a large bowl for 1 to 2 hours until very thick. If you’ve bought very thick, very freshly made ricotta from a specialty shop (not the kind from the supermarket), you can skip this step.

2. Meanwhile, make the milk syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the milk and cardamom pods. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer the milk until it reduces by half, 30 to 45 minutes. Stir in the sugar until it dissolves, then continue to simmer until the mixture thickens to the texture of half and half, about 10 minutes longer. Let cool, strain the mixture to get rid of the cardamom and any coagulated milk, then stir in the rose water. (Syrup can be prepared up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated.)

3. Make the cake: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, then grease the parchment. Flour the entire pan and parchment, tapping out any excess.

4. In a medium bowl, lightly whisk together the egg whites, milk, vanilla and rose water.

5. Using an electric mixer, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, cardamom and salt, and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and about a third of the milk-egg white mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed and beat for a minute or so until everything is very smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

6. Add the remaining milk mixture in 3 batches, beating well between additions. Scrape down the sides.

7. Transfer the batter to the prepared pans and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center, 25 to 35 minutes. The cakes should start to shrink from the sides of the pans only after removal from the oven. Let the cakes cool in the pans on racks for 20 minutes, then unmold and cool completely.

8. Make the ricotta filling: Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the ricotta, cream and confectioners’ sugar until quite smooth, about 30 seconds. Beat in rose water to taste. Beat on medium-high speed for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. The mixture will thicken.

9. Make the mascarpone frosting: Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, confectioners’ sugar, rose water and cardamom until fluffy, about 2 minutes. On low speed, beat in mascarpone and yogurt until the mixture is just combined and looks smooth. Do not overbeat or the mixture may curdle.

10. When the cakes have cooled, use a long serrated knife to trim the tops of the cakes, so the tops are flat and even. Then cut each cake in half into 2 layers, to make a 4-layer cake. Brush cake layers on all sides with milk syrup. Place one cake round on a cake stand or serving platter, then top with one third of the ricotta filling, leaving a small border around the edge of the cake. Repeat with the remaining cake layers and ricotta filling.

11. Frost top and sides of the cake with the mascarpone frosting. Top with chopped pistachios and candied rose petals, if using; chill until ready to serve.

Opa Go Bragh– Irish Soda Bread, Greek Style

16 Mar

Today we’re traveling back in time to one of the only recipes that satisfies my Greek and Irish ancestors. A gluten free Irish Soda Bread with Greek yogurt–what could go wrong?

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Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients

  • 4 c flour (I used Cup4Cup gluten free)
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 TBS granulated sugar (I used coconut)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 c golden raisins
  • 1.5 c whole milk
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt (FIBBYDY)

Assembly

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicon mat.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, sugar, salt and raisins. In another bowl, whisk together milk and yogurt until fully combined. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and stir using a wooden spoon until you have a shaggy dough.
  3. Lightly flour your counter or a piece of wax paper, press the dough into a loose ball, and lightly knead the dough for a couple of minutes on your work surface. You want the dough to be pliable and not too sticky. Reform the dough into a ball and throw it on your prepared baking sheet. Cut an X into the top of the dough with a sharp knife.
  4. Find a large mixing bowl that is twice the size of your dough ball and is OVEN PROOF  (I used my large Pyrex mixing bowl– you will know it is oven proof because it will say on the bottom) and place it on top of the dough to help keep dough moist and to avoid burning. Bake for 30 minutes with the bowl covering the dough. Remove the bowl and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and allow to cool before slicing.

Honey Pine Nut Tart

3 Mar

As I’ve mentioned about a billion times before, I just cannot keep doing winter and am doing anything I can to think spring. For lots of people, prepping for spring would mean buying capris and registering for races. For me, it means trying out new recipes for the highest of holy days: GREEK EASTER. So, when my favorite pair of MrKef’s friends invited us over for dinner the other night, I knew exactly what I was making: a pine nut tart. This comes to us from the same rando bargain-bin cookbook that brought us the Spanakopita on Crack, so if these random not-Greek chefs said a pie full of savory nuts would pass as a dessert, I was going to give it a whirl.

pine nut tart recipe

Pine nuts. Kουκουνάρι. Did you know they actually come from pine cones? Fascinating. Makes me feel better about paying almost $1/oz for them. I made this pie crust (with Greek yogurt!), mixed the nuts in with some butter, eggs, sugar, and honey, then called it a day. And yes, it really was that easy.

I was pretty nervous about this one–for all I knew I was bringing a pesto pie for dessert–but it got a unanimous vote of confidence. I made it gluten and sugar free (both options below), and all the regular eaters in the crowd agreed that the sweetness was perfect. The texture was similar to a pecan pie, but a bit lighter and without the gross corn syrup (fans of Karo: I see you, but that ish is repulsive). The tart has a nutty flavor (duh), but it’s earthy and deep and more interesting than other nut pies I’ve had. Enough talk- empty out your life savings and go make this pie!

Honey Pine Nut Tart

Ingredients

–For the pastry

  • ­1.25 c all-purpose flour (I used Cup4Cup for gluten free)
  • 1 tsp sugar (I used palm)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ c cold butter, diced
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 4-5 TBS Greek yogurt (I used the full fat with honey mixed in from Trader Joes)

–For the filling

  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, diced
  • generous 1/2 c sugar (I used palm sugar)
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 c honey (if you’re feeling really fancy, spring for an infused flavor like lavender or eucalyptus)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 c pine nuts (about 12 oz)
  • pinch of salt
  • confectioner’s sugar or homemade nutella, for garnish

Assembly

1. To make the filling: In the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter. Mix on low speed until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 45 seconds.

2. Mix the egg yolk and yogurt together in a small bowl until smooth, then add to mixer. Mix on low speed for about 15 seconds, for about 15 seconds–no need to overdo it here. You want a mixture that is shaggy, just a little wet, and will form into a ball pretty easily.

3. Carefully shape the dough into a ball  with your hands and turn it out onto a floured work surface. Roll the dough out into a circle, carefully place the dough into the tart pan and trim the edges. Throw in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before baking.

4. Preheat oven to 350F*. Use a hole to poke holes in bottom of crust. If you have pie weights, use them, otherwise line the crust with parchment paper and use dry beans/lentils or uncooked rice to weigh the crust down. Bake for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool.

*If using Cup4Cup and palm sugar, I found my dough got just crispier than I would have liked–you might think about decreasing temp just slightly (like 340) and keeping a closer eye–but I haven’t tried this myself. Do so at your own peril.

5. To make the filling: In your stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Put the lemon zest, juice and honey in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in intervals of 15 seconds until thin and runny–do this slowly so that you do not heat up the honey too much and cook your eggs in the next step.

6. Add honey/lemon to butter mixture, mix until just combined (about 15 seconds –again, no need to overdo it). Stir in pine nuts and salt until you have a pretty homogeonous mix. Pour into crust.

7. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until filling is browned and center is set. Let the tart cool, then garnish with nutella, confectioners sugar, or both. Serve warm or at room temp.

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Greek Easter 2014: Part II

23 Apr

Previously, on Cooking Up Kefi…

JetSet and I were at Grandpa Joe’s house, and the situation was this:

The kitchen was a disaster

IMG_0110My brother and I were getting into all kinds of nose-picking-selfie shenanigans

IMG_0115the Mets were losing, and Grandpa Joe was napping. So… it was pretty much business as usual.           IMG_0120 Somehow, all of this pulled itself together and some Easter miracles occured. Namely:

the spanakopita (recipe later this week), which is always the very first thing we make,

IMG_0117some new lamb keftedes WITH DRIED APRICOTS (recipe also coming this week),

IMG_0121 - Copythe gluten-free picnic pie that was so good I ate it with my non-driving hand the whole way home,

IMG_0122JetSet’s painstaking, time consuming labor of love: eggplant keftedes-cum-casserole,

IMG_0119gluten-free/sugar-free koulourakia,

IMG_0124tsoureki that didn’t quite make it through MixMonster Kef’s crash course + eggs made by my Godmother,

2014-04-20 13.17.47the beet salad to end all beet salads (and finally pictured half-way decently here!),

2014-04-20 13.17.53Francesca’s Orange-Dijon potatoes,

2014-04-20 13.36.15

and Paulatimi’s Five-Ingredient Wonder.2014-04-20 12.58.50

Not bad for two days work, eh?

MamaKef put the finishing touches on her salad

2014-04-20 13.03.34while JetSet poured us mugs of wine.

2014-04-20 13.42.01And then ANOTHER Easter miracle happened– my Aunt said that JetSet “always looks like Justin Timberlake.” Indeed, he has risen.

2014-04-20 13.51.07AND I STILL HAVEN’T TOLD YOU ABOUT THE BAKLAVA!

2014-04-19 17.58.08  IMG_0130Okay so baklava is pretty much always good–it’s flaky dough painted with butter and butter and butter (and then some more butter) and layered with sugar, spices and nuts. How is it possible to improve on such a good thing?

2014-04-20 14.38.52Well, if you use this awesome, creamy honey and finally heed the advice of every Greek on the face of the planet, your results will improve. What advice, you ask? The hot-to-cold principle, which states that if you have hot baklava you must have cold syrup, or vice versa. We did cold syrup to hot baklava (instead of hot syrup AND hot baklava) and the results were stupendous.

How good, you ask?

In case that testimonial isn’t good enough for you, my phenomenal Grandma Rita put it best:

2014-04-20 14.59.52“That’s baklava so good you have to eat the crumbs off your boob!” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: just TRY and tell me your grandma is better than mine. You’re fighting a losing battle there.

We had a stupendous meal full of the two major food groups: laughs and carbs. Grandma Rita made stuffed peppers (very sadly not pictured here) and Aunt Tina supplied the hardboiled eggs. A GREAT time was had by all.

No family gathering is complete with out a selfie– Ellen, you and Lupita have nothing on us!

IMG_0132 - CopySadly, the weekend had to end and I had to leave the la-la land of my family’s loving glow.

JetSet and I took one last photo (this one remiss of spinach and flour) and then I headed off into the sunset.

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This is a record-setting post, so I’ll cut it off here– I had the most delightful weekend with my family. Our Greekness is so very, very much your weakness.

The Terror Twins Do It Again: Greek Easter 2014 Part I

22 Apr

You may have heard the Good News this weekend: it was Greek Easter! This year, Orthodox and Western Easters fell on the same day, so JetSet and I rallied the family to Pennsylvania for a big, fat Greek Easter celebration. (NB: There will be two…yes TWO… more Greek Easter celebrations to come. Buy stock in spinach now.)

The prep work took place at my Grandpa Joe’s house. This is where JetSet and I conjured the eggplant and Fage to SOUND THE ALARM OF EASTER!
2014-04-18 17.24.27

 

We got started at about 5 PM on Friday (after a truly epic shopping trip in the Wilkes-Barre Wegmans). JetSet started with his eggplant keftedes, while I worked on spanakopita and the Picnic Pie (aka: Spinach Pie on Crack).2014-04-18 21.23.29By midnight, I was pretty spent–so I requested my evening reading be brought to me “in my easy chair,” where I may have nodded off for a minute or two.

2014-04-18 23.09.55

 

After a good night’s sleep and my first run in two weeks (long story for another time), we got right back to work. Years ago, my dad, HomeBrew Kef, would go to baseball games just for the satisfaction of throwing peanut shells on the ground– y’all don’t know LIVING until you’ve had the satisfaction of throwing excess phyllo dough alllllll over the floor.

 

2014-04-19 16.56.43In the past, JetSet has graciously served as the sous chef. After three years apart on Easter, my dear brother returned to America with his spinach swag turned ALLLLL the way up. Charged with the creating the most sacred dish of Easter, he took our collective baklava game up about three levels with nothing other than my (very) watchful eye and a few unsolicited pieces of advice (because what fun is it to cook with your know-it-all sister if she just sits tight and lets you do you?).

2014-04-19 17.58.28Prior to the baklava, Grandpa Joe was pretty happy to be left out of the madness happening in his kitchen. But once we got that flaky, honeyed goodness going, Grandpa Joe was all ears. Here, JetSet gives him the scoop:

2014-04-19 18.03.30In the event that you didn’t know, my grandfather is THE cutest man on the face of the planet (not to mention the most upstanding citizen alive). Y’all should be waiting with bated breath for the post he’s gonna get all to himself one of these days.

I’m winding down on the prep pics here, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this pretty little lady right here– the Sunbeam MixMaster (nickname: MixMonster Kef)!

2014-04-19 21.23.31

This 12-speed from the class of 1983 belonged to my grandmother and was probably last used in the 20th century. The bowl didn’t turn on its own and it was nearly impossible to cream butter and sugar together, but it was so special to use my grandmother’s kitchenware for the weekend. Though she died almost 15 years ago, I’ve really been missing her lately, and it was nice to feel like she was with us for the weekend… though I’m quite sure she would have found her grandchildren’s cooking methods a bit… unorthodox.

286417_10100261870695835_639936075_oCome back tomorrow to see the fruits of our labor, a trip down the mountain to my fabulous Grandma Rita’s house, a family selfie that rivals Ellen’s Oscar stunt, and find out what dish was so good it had to be eaten off a boob!

Blueberry Ice Cream Parfait

26 Mar

“You know what ELSE everybody likes? Parfaits! Have you ever met a person, you say, ‘Let’s get some parfait,’ they say, ‘Hell no, I don’t like no parfait?’ Parfaits are delicious.”

–Donkey (of Shrek fame)

Truer words were never spoken. My love of parfait started way back in high school when McDonald’s introduced the Fruit ‘n’ Yogurt Parfait–luckily, I’ve kicked it up a notch since 2002 and today’s post is not about fake yogurt, sugary syrup, and genetically modified fruit.

Back before QueijoKef and I went on a Miami bender, CousinKef and ManCaveKef came over for crockpot chicken tikka masala and GF naan.  The obvious thing to do would have been some delicious Indian-inspired dessert (Rasika’s cardamom ice cream comes to mind) but your resident contrarian friend ChefKef took things the other way and went hog wild on an American favorite: blueberries.

I saw this recipe for no-bake Greek yogurt blueberry ice cream and pretty much every synapse in my head fired at once. Determined to make a cute little dessert deserving of my wonderful cousin, I decided to layer it with Babycakes NYC’s vanilla cupcake and drizzle a lemon blueberry sauce allllll over that puppy to make the love child of an ice cream cake, a trifle, and a parfait. Are we in heaven yet?

photo 1-7

Absolutely none of these components requires one ounce of skill (the cupcakes are a ONE BOWL miracle) and I was quite pleased with the results- although as soon as I put them all into mason jars, I realized I should have served them in these cute little ramekins I have. Alas. Presentation has never been my strong suit.

 

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Blueberry Ice Cream Parfait

–The Cake

  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 1/3 cups agave nectar
  • ¾ cup homemade applesauce or store‑bought unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup hot water

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Grease two standard 12-cupcake pans. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, potato starch, arrowroot, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt. Add the oil, agave nectar, applesauce, vanilla, and lemon zest to the dry ingredients and combine. Stir in the hot water and mix until the batter is smooth.

2. Pour 1/3 cup batter into each prepared cup, almost filling it. Bake the cupcakes on the center rack for 22 minutes, rotating the tins 180 degrees after 15 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when they’re golden brown and bounce back when pressure is applied gently to the center.

–The Ice Cream

  • 2.5 c blueberries (I used frozen)
  • 16 oz whole milk Greek yogurt (FIBBYDY)
  • 1/3 c sugar (I used coconut)
  • 1/4 c pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt

1. Combine everything in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour mixture into an ice cream maker and churn until thick, about 25 minutes. Pour or scoop Scoop into a large glass dish, cover, and freeze until firm — about an hour.

–The Sauce

  • 2 c blueberries (I used frozen)
  • 1/3 c coconut sugar
  • 1/3 c lemon juice
  • 2-3 TBS coconut milk

1. Bring blueberries, sugar and water to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Reduce to medium heat and let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often.

2. Stir in the coconut oil milk. Stir well and cook for  another 1-2 minutes, then remove from heat and let it cool.

The Parfait

1. Layer your ingredients as you see fit– I did sauce, cake, sauce, ice cream, cake, sauce.

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