Welcome to adobo-down-under!

Musings. Family. Food. Stories. Cooking. Recipes. Eating. A recipe journal. From simple Filipino dishes to challenging recipes and exciting gastronomical failures. This is for my girls to look back on for comfort, memories, laughs, love and lots of food!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Corn dogs!

Classic corn dogs in BW !

We had a sci-fi-villain-super hero-themed Halloween weekend party with some friends and had alien grub for our spread!  And corn dogs was part of the alien feast!  This is a take off from PW's post on the classic corn dog!  And I must say all the aliens and super-hero guests just could not stop munching on these classics!  Definitely not Australian, but was welcomed by all aliens, villains and superheroes from different planets and agencies (talking about DC Comics, Pixar and Disney here).    These were made using a waffle-mix recipe (from scratch as we don't have the American pancake mixes around these parts, and the Oz brands sad to say, are just not the same) with that added secret ingredient - polenta (or corn meal in most other planets).  What originally was a waffle mix turned into a classic nutty corn dog!  

The basic waffle mix with corn meal:

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 and 3/4 cups milk
125ml or 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 - 2 cups polenta (corn meal)

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar 3 times into a large mixing bowl. 

In another bowl, using a wire whisk beat egg yolks until frothy, stir in milk and oil and mix until thorougly combined.  Pour into the flour mixture and whisk (or beat with a hand held mixer) until smooth.

Using a hand-held mixer, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold into the batter.

Add the polenta (corn meal) and mix until you get a thick and grainy texture/consistency.

Classic corn dogs in full colour!

To make the classic corn dogs:

1 pack Hans American Hotdogs , cut into half
bamboo barbeque skewers
1-2 cups flour
vegetable oil

Prepare and heat a deep medium-large saucepan on the stove (or use an electronic deep fryer) and add the vegetable oil.  (The oil is hot and ready when smoking and bubbling. Or you can check by placing a small piece of bread and it browns instantly.)

Skewer the hotdogs using the bamboo sticks (or as per Pioneer Woman, use chopsticks!).

Coat the hotdogs with the flour and set on a plate.

Dip the flour-coated hotdogs in the corn-dog-batter one by one.  Then slowly dip the battered hotdog -  stick and all,  into the very hot oil and cook until golden in colour.
Serve with some catsup (tomato sauce in Oz parlance) and mustard! 

Then stand back and watch your family and friends enjoy a classic American treat! 

alien grub

The BW photo is making its way to The Well Seasoned Cook's B&W Wednesday!  As always, big thanks to Susan for organising this weekly culinary photo event!  XX

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Brazo de Mercedes (Rolled meringue cake with custard filling)

I have been craving for a variety of Filipino foods lately, and this sweet roll is one of them.  Recently, I made biko/sinukmani/kalamay which is a Filipino rice cake, recipe courtesy of Panlasang Pinoy.  And the weekend is not complete without another new recipe to try and this time it's the classic Brazo de Mercedes (translated would mean arm of Mercedes).    From the name alone, one can tell it is Spanish in origin, stemming from the early influence of Spaniards who came to the Philippines.  With little time and effort, I did find that it is similar to the Spanish rolled sponge cake called Brazo de Gitano or gypsy's arm.  Let's just say with Google backing me up, how the name Brazo de Mercedes came about, is a mystery at this point.  I can only assume it's a take off from the Spanish sponge cake but  progressed and took  a local route with the name of the first person who replicated the recipe.  She could be a farmer's wife who worked in the kitchen of some of the mansions occupied by Spanish government officials, or a Filipino cook stationed at a military post and replicated the recipe and named it after his wife.  It could be a result of some disastrous experiment to copy the Spanish cake and turned out differently. It could be......  

At my grandmother's house in Candelaria Quezon, this is her cake as her name is Mercedes.   Not that she proclaimed ownership of the first ever meringue rolled cake ever.  It is that brazo which literally means arms, we used to touch Inay's arms when we were kids and called them brazo de Mercedes.  One of the many moments the grandchildren spent playing around with her and she'd lovingly obliged. 

This is a sweet rolled meringue cake that can be bought from just about any bakeshop in the Philippines.  It is seriously sweet.  I tweaked the recipe a bit and added a teaspoon of lemon as I was a bit worried about the custard filling being too eggy which helped a bit, but I am considering making it 2 tsp the next time around. 

To prepare, we used the following ingredients:

10 eggs, separated

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

3/4 cup caster sugar

1 - 395g condensed milk

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla

4-5 tbsp icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180* C.

Separate the egg whites and yolks into two bowls. 

Using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer with the balloon whisk, whip together the egg whites and cream of tartar, until frothy.

Add the caster sugar gradually and whip until you get soft peaks.

Grease or spray with canola oil a 9 x 16in rectangular baking pan or cookie sheet about 1-inch thick.   Spread the meringue evenly on the pan/tin using a spatula. (To create the embossed top, I used a serving fork).

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes until the top has turned a golden colour.  Set aside to cool - 10-15minutes.

While the meringue is in the oven, prepare the custard filling.

Whisk the egg yolks and pour into a small sauce pan.  Add the condensed milk and lemon juice.  Stir continuously with a heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon over medium-low heat until thick (This may take 10-15 minutes or more. The consistency you're looking for here is like the canned creamed corn or cream style corn.  Thick and little bit lumpy.)

Add the vanilla extract and let cool.

Once the meringue/cake is cool, sprinkle some icing sugar on the top. Using your hands, gently spread the icing sugar all over the meringue/cake.

Cover this side of the meringue with some baking or parchment paper.  Place a similar size baking tin on top and invert so that the meringue is on the new pan. Gently peel off the baking paper from the cake.  You will then have the bottom of the meringue cake as the top.

Spread the custard filling on the meringue/cake and spread evenly.

 Starting from the side farthest from you, slowly and gently roll the meringue/cake using the baking/parchment paper in a wrapping motion.  Grab the opposite side baking paper and wrap like a roll.   (The baking paper here is only to help shape the rolled meringue cake.  You need TLC here as the meringue roll is very fragile and can crack which happened when I was rolling the cake, although it did not completely ruin the cake.)

Brazo de Mercedes - Meringue rolled cake with custard filling
Brazo de Mercedes - Meringue rolled cake with custard filling

Going back to .... ... could the cake have been named after a mysterious lover stemming from a forbidden love ala Rome and Juliet.   A love story!   Whatever the history is, this cake has its own unique sweet charm, literally. And I'm sure it was created out of love and passion and care. The soft meringue cake melts in your mouth and the custard complements the cake with its texture.  It is a loving reminder of days with Inay and the many afternoon tea moments spent with family and friends back in the Philippines.  

As I have never ever tried making rolled cake before, this was a great first step to start experimenting on jelly rolls such as the original Spanish Brazo de Gitano.  Or the Swiss roll with cointreau mascarpone from ex Masterchef contestant Billy Law.   But before I move onto Spain or Swiss cuisines, I'm still learning a lot from my own heritage, so for now, those are bookmarked for future posts.  I'm thinking the Filipino mamon or sponge cupcakes will be next.     

Another weekend has whooshed by and onwards to warmer days and blue skies in Sydney as summer approaches!  Keep it sweet and let the love flow freely folks! And by the way, get on with the Christmas shopping already, will you?!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Biko (Filipino rice cake)

It's Term 4 already in the New South Wales school calendar!  I can't believe the girls are growing up so fast - moving on in primary (J A S) and high school  (B) so quickly.  Sometimes, I take a deep breath and look at them and sigh.  Ah. Before I know it they will all be in their teens bopping and talking Gen Y (or Z, who knows!?) lingo.   It wasn't long ago that they were tugging on my shirt and pants too scared to go to school (except B who's always been the social butterfly).  And just last night, S asked me at bedtime, "Mum, is it alright to have a crush on someone when you're 8 years old?" Here we are barely able to understand how our teen daughter ticks, and we are already onto young love.  So exciting!  I hope hubby and me will still have the energy to endure more teen hood dramas in the next decade.  I seriously am thinking of  that contingency retirement under the Tuscan sun. A dream....

Now back to reality.  We are onto Week 2 in Term 4 and everything is back to its normal hum which is good.  In between domestic duties, fulfilling my culinary exploits, parenting, juggling macro economics, shuttling the girls to piano-tennis-swimming-cello-etc, I've been itching to try something new in the kitchen.  After our super-size grocery shopping, our pantry suddenly exploded with so much stock that I'm trying to find ways to make/create dishes with whatever is previous inventory - half pack of sticky rice, 2 extra jars of peanut butter, some palm sugar, etc. etc.  Lately, I've been craving Filipino snacks so I've bookmarked several classics from Panlasang Pinoy and today was the day to make Biko.

Biko is a Filipino classic delicacy which is made from sticky rice (glutinous white rice), coconut milk and brown sugar. Its usually sold in local markets as a whole plate or tray (usually served in a bilao - the original bamboo plates) or in single serve squares (the rice cake is cut into serving pieces).  As this is made of sticky rice, it is quite heavy and most often than not, served for meryenda or afternoon tea/snack.  It is also usually topped with some toasted shredded coconut or caramel topping.

To make this sweet rice cake (biko), you'll need:

2 cups glutinous white rice
1 and /2 cup water
2 cans 400ml coconut milk
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
banana leaves (optional)

Wash the rice in a bowl to remove impurities and dirt and drain the water.  Pour the washed rice into the rice cooker and add the 1 - 1/2 cup water.  Cook until done.  (Using a conventional pot or sauce pan, you may cook the rice stove top using the absorption method over medium to low heat).

While rice is cooking, in a medium to large pot, bring the coconut milk to a boil, then add the sugar and salt.  Stir over low heat until the sauce thickens.

Add the cooked rice and stir over low heat, until the liquid has been fully absorbed by the rice.  
(This took about 40-45 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally to avoid the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot). 

Prepare a square 8inch tin and line with the washed banana leaves or baking paper.

Scoop the rice mixture into the pan and smooth the top with a spoon or spatula.

Place on a rack to cool.

I don't think it looks as appealing with the lack of some dark toasted coconut or caramel for topping.  But it sure did bring lots of smiles and ooh's and aah's in this corner of the globe.  Definitely one of those comfort foods that brings the fuzzy wuzzy in our Filipino hearts. 

And before the week ends - let me welcome the spring-summer weather with a great big hug!  More time to spend outdoors!    It doesn't have to be under the Tuscan sun for now, but someday.  Ah, to sleep, perchance to dream......  Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Photography essentials workshop @ Mumu Grill

  A picture is worth a thousand words. - Anonymous

For BW Wednesday @ The Well-Seasoned Cook - A Weekly Culinary Photo Event
Olives @ Mumu Grill, Crows Nest NSW

Yes, a picture is worth that and more!  It can evoke a variety of feelings and invites participation of the senses.   At least, that goes for most food photos!  It can either ignite a yearning for some pot roast, or to eat that roast pork belly with the slightly browned and crispy skin.  You can actually almost taste the sweet berries on top of some delicious cheesecake, and sometimes ignite that craving at the sight of a really dark gorgeous looking chocolate cake!  I can't say how many times I have lost track of time browsing through Pinterest food photos and somehow, in some way found myself replicating the dish a few days after, or going to a restaurant to have a taste of that dish, or buying some books or equipment in order to prepare a specific cake.  So yes, a picture is definitely worth a thousand and one words and more.

mini sweet burgers - tiny cookies

We are half-way through October and onto last quarter of the year!  Spring is finally showing its true colours!  No more grey skies from here on.  Sunny blue skies and colourful hues.  Alas,  spring has finally showered Sydney with some love and affection.  But knowing its half-way through October, it also brings me into some state of unnecessary panic.  What of?  Christmas shopping of course?!   Have you done your Christmas shopping yet?! Ooh... but I have a list so it should be good.  Now, let's put down that list and back to the present.

Asparagus with sweet lemon dressing and roasted almonds

Last weekend, I attended a photography workshop conducted by Simon Park from theheartoffood.  Apparently the workshop is somewhat a take-off from Billy Law from A Table for Two, who used to teach the class prior to his Masterchef commitments. Anyways, to make a short story shorter, here is the gist!  It was an eye opener, literally!  I’ve learned so much about my point-shoot camera and more.  Who would have thought white balance can be life changing!  LOL!  Seriously, it was great fun!  It’s a good thing I coaxed some mates along to join – D and A both had fun learning about their DSLR the whole workshop went by with just a few words in between us.  Yep, we’ve had our eyes glued on to our camera viewers and kept on click click clicking away.   And not just the workshop, the food at Mumu Grill was excellent.  (It is the first Jamon (Spanish ham) bar in Sydney and boasts 100% grass fed beef). Besides filling our minds and eyes with new learning and skills, our stomachs were not left behind with all the wonderful food not just to photograph, but to EAT as well!

Olives in full colour

Asparagus with lemon dressing and roasted almonds

All in all, it was great fun – learning and eating and engaging all our senses. The bonus here is – Simon has actually informed me of available spaces for the EDB Conference!  I’m stoked to be offered a place and looking forward to learning and meeting other great people who have the same passion and interest – food!

Over the weekend, we also managed to go supersized grocery shopping and visited the Costco outlet which opened July this year in Sydney!  100 rolls of toilet tissues!  Yeah!  It was literally jaw dropping – the massive sizes of each product variety and the bulk portions reminded me that yes indeed, American brands super-size! Everyone has a smile on their face after the shopping - big Skippy's peanut butter for mum, giant Tabasco sauce for Dad, chocolates for the girls heaps more for the pantry.  And yeah - a hundred and one rolls of toilet tissue!  Ha ha ha!  I'm sure we'll survive another quarter without Costco with the loot we got! 

Well, before the end of October comes along, Christmas shopping is in the do list!  With some selfish motive  thrown in as I’ve found the DSLR camera I want  need at a bargain price!  I’m hoping to get my hands on those babies before the month ends.  White balance here I come!  Click, click, click!

PS - My photo of the olives in black and white will be this week's contribution to The Well-Seasoned Cook's Black and White Wednesday. Thanks Susan!

Hope you're all engaging your senses wherever you are! And it maybe smart to get on with your Christmas shopping too!  XX

MUMU Grill
70 Alexander Street
Crows Nest, NSW

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Perfect pot roast

I have been following the Pioneer Woman for some months now and I know for sure, for years to come.  And maybe in my wildest dreams I will come to meet her some time.  Just like I met recently David Lebovitz.  Who knows.  And why not, right?  I've made some of PW's recipes like the cinnamon rolls and the rosemary buttered dinner rolls and over the weekend, I've embraced the pot roast!   Yes Ree, I did!  And I loved the simplicity of this recipe that I'd probably do it over and over again, until my family's pleadings that they're tired of it.  It is perfect in every sense - preparation, taste and it even looked perfect on the plate! Thank you, Pioneer Woman!

To make this perfect pot roast, you'll need a pot which you can put in the oven.  I used a La Chasseur cast iron pot and the rest, should I say will perfectly fall into place.

 To prepare the perfect pot roast, we used:

1.8kg scotch fillet
2 onions, halved
4 carrots, tips removed and roughly cut
2 sprigs of fresh rose mary, about 6-7cm each
(Ree included thyme but I didn't have it at the time, but maybe next time around)
3-4 cups vegetable stock (or beef stock as was PW used)
olive oil
salt and pepper to season

And here's the step by step in photos.... just like how PW did!

Pre-heat oven to 140* C

Generously season the meat with salt and pepper on both sides.

Heat the pot and add olive oil.  Saute the onion until it the outsides are seared.  Remove and place on a plate.

Next, stir the carrots until it gets a bit of colour, just like what you did with the onions.  Set aside.

Next stop, the roasting meat. Sear until browned all over but not cooked through.  Set aside with the veggies.

After you sear the meat, pour about a quarter cup to 1 cup of stock into the pot to deglaze - that is to get all those flavours from the bottom of the pot.

fresh rose mary... we had a massive shrub in our backyard!

Add back into the pot, the meat first, then carrots and onions, and the rose mary and thyme if using.  Pour enough stock to cover the meat - about 2-3 cups.  Place lid on, and put in the oven to cook for 3 hours.

After 3 or so hours, voila! Perfect pot roast!

Seriously good roast!  Simple, but packed full of flavour!

I served this for Sunday lunch with some home made mash potato.  Shredded the roast meat, served on top of mash and some of that glaced carrots and onions!

Hope you will embrace the pot roast like I did!  This is new to me as most Filipino dishes are stove top and roasts such as chicken and beef are only made on special occasions.  But how easy this is has left me to wonder why I  never tried to do it before!  Its so much like Julia Child's boeuf bourgignon. Now that I've taken the pot roast route, I'm not too afraid to try on the French classic!

PS - Here's my simple mash potato consists of: 4-5 medium sized potatoes, boiled till tender and soft.  While still hot, peel the skins off, add about 50g of unsalted butter cut into cubes, half a cup of milk, salt and pepper to taste.  Mash with all you might using a sturdy masher.  Add some chives for that extra colour and flavour! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Masterchef Live 2011

Macarons at the Patisse stall - Masterchef Live 2011 Sydney

Its amazing how chefs these days have a multitude of followers as if they are rock stars.  I saw a bunch of them at the Masterchef Live at Moore Park over the weekend which was an exciting day for a foodie.  I love these kinds of events as it showcases new local products that you'd otherwise not notice at the supermarkets.  I loved the spicy hot chilli sauces from the Byron Bay Chilli Co, locally produced olive oil by Lomondo from Mudgee NSW and these gourmet tasting pizza that's actually available from the frozen section of the supermarket called Dr Oetker! Who would have known?  A pizza named after a doctor would be as gourmet and fresh tasting as it can possibly be?!

There were a thousand more different products and stalls that fulfilled a foodie's day out.  From breads to the latest kitchen gadgets!  

Macarons from Patisse, in colour

P.S. - The products mentioned here are not paid ads/mentions.  These were actual products that I had a go at tasting and somewhat liked, so worth mentioning.

P.S.S. - This post is making its way to this week's monochromatic culinary photo event - The Well-Seasoned Cooks Black and White Wednesday!  Thank you Susan for hosting this weekly event! 

Friday, October 07, 2011

Devil's food cupcakes by Martha Stewart

Drama is very important in life: You have to come on with a bang. You never want to go out with a whimper. Everything can have drama if it’s done right. Even a pancake. - Julia Child

It seems that no matter what day or what season, whether I'm feeling uppity or crooked, there's that inert energy in me that's pushing me to make something in the kitchen - doesn't matter if its a regular dinner meal, or something to bake in the oven.   Yeah.   Good and bad, in a way.  I've been feeling really weak since my physio appointment yesterday.  My muscles ache all over, bones feel so weak nd my body is moving in slow motion.  I skipped work today to take a bit of rest and take the time to review for my practical exam in Kitchen 10 next week.  As it is the last week of the school holidays, the girls are at home.  And by that it means, patience and tolerance.  Cranky might be in the picture, yes.  But as long as they have a full stomach, they'll be fine.  So with the cupboard filled with other 'sometimes-food', I moved in slow motion and made these.  Devil's food cupcakes adapted from the Martha Stewart website.

Either I'm feeling devilish or  you'd have to believe me when I say the choice was perfectly random.  It's all good.  The girls enjoyed it with the ganache (did you know you can keep ganache in the fridge for about a month) left over from our No-Bake Strawberry Ice Box Cake, with a bit of 100s and 1000s sprinkled on top.   I topped mine with some dark chocolate shavings.  Nothing beats chocolate cupcakes to keep you up to speed with the day's routine!  Yeah.  Revving up right now.

To make these moist and soft cupcakes, you'll need:

3/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup / 180ml hot water

3 cups plain flour
1 tsp bi carbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 and 1/4 tsp course salt

339g unsalted butter (the recipe called for 3 sticks = 4oz)
2 and 1/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 tbsp + 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream

Pre-heat oven to 175* C.  Line the muffin tins with paper liners.
(we used a standard 1/2-cup  cupcake/muffin pan).

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the cocoa and hot water until smooth. (While you're doing the other steps below, this cocoa mixture will cool and look like soft chocolate.)

Whisk the flour, bi carbonate of soda, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.

Melt the butter and sugar in a sauce pan over low heat. Stir to combine.  Remove from heat and pour into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand-mixer.  On medium-low speed, beat until the mixture has cooled approximately 5 minutes.  (The mixture will look a sharp yellow, thick and grainy).

Add the eggs one at a time, continuing to beat the mixture for about 30-45 seconds, after every addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl when necessary.

Add the vanilla extract and stir.  Then add the cocoa and beat to combine.

Reduce the speed to low, add the flour in 2 batches, alternating with the sour cream, beating until just combined.

Divide the batter into the lined cups and bake for 20 minutes, rotating the tins half-way through (or until a skewer inserted comes out clean)

Transfer the tins onto a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes.  Turn cupcakes onto the rack to cool completely.

Frost the cupcakes with Martha Stewart's chocolate ganache and Martha Stewart's chocolate shavings (or you can use your own).

These cupcakes are moist and soft and oh so devilishly brilliant.  They are not too sweet by itself too.  We've tried a different Martha Stewart recipe before - the one bowl wonder but this one is definitely worth coming back to every time.  

Certainly agree with Julia Child on the drama. Cupcakes need to go with a bang as well.   Don't you think this cupcake's such the drama queen?

Have a great weekend everyone!  And enjoy life's little dramas ~ !

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Mini cheesecakes galore

It has been busy for my new Chicago Metallic Mini Cheesecake Pans since they arrived just before the long weekend.  So far, it has produced 48 mini cheesecakes in a span of 3 days.  As it was too much cheesecakes to consume, I decided to invite some friends over as part of road-testing the pans.  I was not surprised the cheesecakes turned out well - two varieties of mini cheesecakes over the weekend. Who wouldn't want to share in a treat as a finish to the NSW long weekend?

Ah.... cheesecake heaven!
I've used my previous recipe post for the Oreo no-bake mini cheesecake, but had extra base and cake so made an extra one using a Willow mini pie tin.   For the blueberry topped cheesecake, I used the recipe printed on the mini pan's box.  It was simple and quick.  The blueberry topping was from the recipe of the NY Cheesecake I posted awhile back.

To make these mini cheesecakes I used: 

 1 - 250g pack Philadelphia Cream Cheese
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup caster sugar
60ml thickened cream 
(something I added in the second batch as the first one was a bit too thick)

1 cup grounded graham crackers 
(recipe called for ground nuts but we used graham crackers.  I bought heaps when we made the strawberry ice-box cake)
90g melted butter
3 tbsp caster sugar

Pre heat oven to 175* C. Lightly grease the pans or use non stick spray.

Mix the ground graham crackers (or nuts if you're using) with the melted butter and sugar.  Scoop 1 to 1 and 1/2 tbsp evenly among the 12 cups and press with a small dessert spoon or with your thumb.  The crumbs should cover about 1/3 up the sides of the cups.

Using a hand-held mixer of stand mixer, cream the cheese and sugar together.  Add the egg, vanilla and thicken cream and mix until all together.

Scoop 1 tbsp each of the cheesecake batter into the cups. 

Bake for 14-15 minutes. 
(I checked the pan after 14 minutes and found the cake still a bit wobbly.  It too another 2 minutes to cook the cake.  But still, it should depend on the oven you're using.)

Remove from oven and place on a rack and cool for 20 minutes.
Serve with your favourite topping!

We took advantage of the blueberries which were on sale at the fruit shops for $3 a punnet!  I can't wait to try on other toppings with these pans!

Thanks to Bakers Royal which I found though Pinterest, for pointing me to the Chicago Metallic Mini Cheesecake Pans.  While my Oreo cheesecakes don't look as attractive, I think I did justice to the cheesecakes with the taste!

PS - The B&W photo above is making its way to Week 13 of The Well-Seasoned Cook's Black and White Wednesday!


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