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Last week I had two suspicious looking bananas hanging around my kitchen. They were even starting to stink it out a bit! So I decided that something had to be done, either use them in something or throw them away. After scanning my cookbook shelf I decided to make something from Everyday Muffins & Bakes. I had already made some banana and pecan muffins from here (which were amazing) so decided to tackle another recipe – Banana Muffins with Cinnamon Frosting.

This recipe was in the “healthy” section of the book so used things like wholewheat flour and low fat butter. Did I follow this…….NO! As I don’t have these ingredients I just used ordinary flour and good old full fat butter! And they turned out really well. They were so moist and the banana flavour really came through. I cooked them in my muffin tin in these cool silicone cases that my bf’s mum gave me.

I love them as there’s no faffing around with paper cases and when the muffins are cooked you just peel back the case and out they pop! They don’t get too messy either so are ideal for me!

In the original recipe, it suggests that you top the muffins with cinnamon frosting made from cream cheese. We don’t really buy plain cream cheese and I didn’t want to get a pot just to use 50g of it like the recipe calls for. So I decided to improvise……..I missed out the cream cheese and just used icing sugar, A LOT of icing sugar (so much for them being healthy!) I also added a bit of milk. The end result was quite a runny icing, not the stiff one the recipe suggests. I also added in more cinnamon as I couldn’t taste it very well. I must have used about a tbsp worth! Once my icing had “hardened” up though it did go really well with the muffins. The cinnamon flavour was quite subtle but complimented the banana flavour well.

Banana muffins!

I’m counting this as another one (of my many) recipes done. Just because I didn’t use the suggested ingredients doesn’t meant that it’s not fully made. I adapted them to suit my own needs. I used to think that if you don’t stick to a recipe religiously then it’s not properly made. But now I find it ok to use different ingredients to make it suitable for me. See my last post as another example, I’m getting good at this!!

Here is the recipe. I’ve put down my ingredients for the muffins but the real recipe for the frosting. I hope you make these are they are perfect, bite-sized, semi-healthy treats!

Banana Muffins (Makes 12 / Adapted from Everyday Muffins and Bakes)

  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 6 tbsp milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 150g margarine, melted
  • 2 small bananas, mashed
  1. Line a muffin tin with paper (or silicone) cases. Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas Mark 6.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar.
  3. Whisk the milk, eggs and melted margarine together in a jug until combined. Slowly stir into the flour mixture.
  4. Fold in the mashed bananas.
  5. Spoon the batter into paper cases and bake for 20 mins / until risen and golden.
  6. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Cinnamon Frosting (from the original recipe)

  • 50g cream cheese
  • 25g margarine
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 90g icing sugar
  1. Beat the cream cheese and margarine together in a bowl, then beat in the cinnamon and icing sugar until smooth and creamy.
  2. Chill in the fridge for 15 mins to firm up, then top each muffin with a spoonful. Enjoy!

Mine with their frosting!

Oh before I go, I got the new Zest magazine this evening. I haven’t read it yet as I’m catching up with some TV at the moment but I’ve flicked through and it looks brilliant. I can’t wait to read it tomorrow! I’ll do a little review on here about it as well.

I really have had one of the best weekends in a LONG time, and the busiest one – London and shopping on Sat/ gym, football watching and pizza consuming on Sun and now baking and ice cream eating!!!

Yesterday we just lazed around the flat really……well we did clean it from top to bottom and replenish our cupboards with a trip to Tesco first! After all that we watched Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen in the afternoon. I’ve only seen this once in the cinema and had forgotten how long it was! But it was a great way to pass an afternoon.

In the afternoon I also cooked a Lemon Drizzle Cake. My bf saw a recipe for this in one of the Sunday papers that his mum had and really wanted one, so being the great girlfriend I am I made him one (Plus it gave me an opportunity to strike another recipe off my ever expanding list of things to make!) The recipe and method is below.

After our dinner, of leftover pizza (thats 3 days in a row that we’ve had it!) we had a bit of the newest Ben & Jerry’s flavour – Fairly Nuts.

This is caramel ice cream with praline almond clusters and caramel swirls and it is DELICIOUS! I love anything with nuts and this is no exception. The ice cream is peppered with little toffee/nut pieces and if you’re luck, as I was, you often get a big clump of nuts all stuck together with gooey caramel! I had 2 scoops of this with a cream wafer and can’t wait to have more……soon!

YUM!

Finally, I have some exciting news – I entered myself into the ballot for the London Marathon!! My best friend from home asked me last week if I wanted to do it with her and stupidly I said yes! I’m quite excited actually and hope that I do get in. I know I will DIE if I do it but it will cross something off my Life List and it will be such a big achievement. I’ve printed off the training plan that is suggested by them and may start on that quite soon. If I do get in, finding the time to train will be difficult but I’ll have to do it! We don’t find out until early October time so I’ve just got to wait now. I bet I’ll forget all about it by then!

I hope you all had a great weekend and before I go, here is the recipe for the Lemon Drizzle Cake. I got this from a little free booklet I got with the Nov 09 issue of BBC Good Food magazine. It has loads of great recipes in that are classics to cook and some are by celebrity chefs. This one is by Tana Ramsay (the wife of Gordon).

The page it's from

Lemon Drizzle Cake

  • 225g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C / Gas Mark 4. Line a 1kg loaf tin with baking paper.
  2. Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

    Spot the little egg!

  4. Add in the flour and mix until well combined.
  5. Pour the mixture into the tin and level the top.
  6. Bake for 45 – 50 mins / until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Drizzle

  • juice of 1 + 1/2 lemons
  • 85g caster sugar
  1. While the cake cools, mix together the lemon juice and sugar to make the drizzle.
  2. Prick the warm cake all over with a skewer or fork, then pour over the drizzle – the juice will sink in and the sugar will form a lovely, crisp topping.

    Prick with a fork....

    ...then spoon over the drizzle

  3. Leave in the tin until completely cool, then remove. Enjoy!

This is such a great recipe. It has a double-whammy of lemoness due to the zest in the cake and the juice in the drizzle. It has a pound cake texture but isn’t too heavy. Please make it as it will conjure up a summers day. This was especially needed today in the UK as it was grey and cold….boooo!

Here is the second part of my commissioned cake story – the ICING! (Read the first part here) It went rather better than I expected actually and the final cake looked great. I now have three packs of green icing left over and one pack of white icing. I hope I get commissioned again so I can make use of them!

So I started by trimming the edges off the cake layers and sandwiching them together.

Look at all the cake we can eat!

This gave us a great opportunity to sample the cake and it was so nice! I topped the first layer with jam….

….and the second with buttercream – made from the recipe on the back of the Silver Spoon packet! It was just enough to cover this layer.

I then put the third layer on top and covered it over whilst I rolled out the icing. This was the bit that I was LEAST looking forward to as I so knew it was going to break / not be big enough etc.

I used three blocks of 500g white Royal icing but should have really used another. It was just a little too small to fit over the whole cake and down the sides. We had to use off cuts of icing and stick it to what was there to cover the holes around the sides! I had a cake smoother so it didn’t look too bad…well it can’t have done as no-one mentioned it! Oh, look at our ingenious way of getting the icing from the table to the cake….

Ta da!

…Chopping boards! My bf helped to transport the icing over the top of the cake, then we removed a board one my one to drape it over. After we had botched up the icing and covered the cake that was exposed, I was quite proud of it actually. It looked like a professional cake!

Look how smooth it is!

Then all I had to do was decorate it. It was originally for my work’s 20th Birthday celebrations but due to the ash cloud hanging around over the UK this week, two directors of the company were stranded in China and couldn’t get back. The birthday cake turned into a…..cake! I had a ‘2’ and an ‘0’ candle that I was going to put on and I was going to sprinkle the base and cake with ‘Happy Birthday’ sprinkles. Oh well, at least I have them for the next time.

So all I did was roll out one block of green icing and cut out the letters that form our company logo. As I now work in the design area, I was able to get the logo an blow it up to the size I wanted. I then printed it off and cut it out to form templates to draw round.

I love it! The green is a little dark but I swear it didn’t look that dark on the website I ordered it off! Again though, no-one commented on it so I think I got away with it! Everyone at work was so surprised that I had made it. So many people thought it was a professional cake! My friend said to me that she would have to get married soon so I could bake her cake! I got so many nice emails from people and at the ‘party’ in the afternoon a lot of people spoke to me about it. I was really pleased with how it turned out and it was sooooooo much better than my first attempt! It isn’t the most spectacular cake but it looks quite elegant as it is simple. I really enjoyed making it and it has proven to me even more that THIS is what I LOVE to do.

So the day’s cake making mission has finally finished! This making of the celebration cake went so much better than my first one and that was all thanks to my new present – a hand mixer!

My bf’s mum bought this for me a few weeks ago and I can’t thank her enough! It made this cake making sooooo much easier and I can now whisk egg whites without getting arm ache! By using this I could bring the mixture together in about 10 mins which was great.

I started by weighing out 8 eggs…

I then used an equal amount of sugar, margarine and self raising flour and basically mixed it all together. I made three layers so I got through A LOT of ingredients! Here is my method in pictures….

Sugar and margarine

Blended together

Add the eggs in two at a time

Gradually add in the flour until incorporated

As you can see, it was quite a basic batter with a little twist…….a bit of vanilla extract! I added in a capful of this when the flour had been incorporated. I think it subtly added to the cake and it smelt amazing when it was cooking!

The secret ingredient!

I then whisked the mixture for another 5 mins or so until it was light yellow in colour and was full of air. I then poured it into the MASSIVE roasting tin that I was using and smoothed the top.

Ready for the oven

I wasn’t sure how long to cook it for as it obviously wasn’t a regular sized cake. I decided to cook it for 30 mins at about 190C/Gas Mark 5, rotating halfway, and then check it. Surprisingly it was quite cooked by then. I left it in for another 5 mins just to make sure it was cooked and then took it out. It cooked very evenly and didn’t rise too much in the middle. The edges are a little burnt but I am going to cut them off tomorrow when I ice it. (my bf is so looking forward to eating them!)

Cooked!

I did made another 2 layers after this and the whole process took about 2 + half hours – not too bad. Our little kitchen was boiling hot afterwards and we had to fling open the windows in the kitchen and living room to cool down!

All three layers

To get the lining off the bottom of the cakes I had to flip the layers onto a chopping board otherwise they would have broken in half! Our living room table was covered in cake crumbs after that! At the moment all three layers are sitting on my big square cake board on top of our oven, ready to be iced tomorrow. I’ve sandwiched the layers with baking paper for the moment and covered the whole board in clingfilm.

Please come back soon for Part 2 – the icing of the cake (I am soooo scared about this!)

One thing that I really want to do in my future life is make a career from baking. Be that by opening a tea shop, by holding caking classes or by making cakes for others, I would so love to work from home and make money doing something I love. I took my first steps towards this in August last year. For my birthday at work I made some fudge, two different lots of cupcakes and some cookies. My friend there then asked me to make a cake for her birthday!! I was soooooooo excited!  I had visions of this beautifully iced cake that everyone went ‘wow’ about…..unfortunately, I didn’t take into account all of the hard work that this entailed and my lack of cake decorating skills.

After all this was my first time at making a ‘professional’ cake. I thought that I had blown my chances of ever making another one again and was actually quite disheartened after making it. It wasn’t the amazing thing I had imagined. However, luck has shone on me and the same person has now asked me to make another cake for her. This time it’s a bit more important as it is for my works 20th birthday celebrations on 20th April. They didn’t want to get someone to do it in such short notice so decided to use me again. I really want to make it look professional but am coming up against a few problems, so if you have any suggestions please help me out.

The main problem is that I will be cooking the cake in our massive roasting dish, about 18 x 12 inches. Therefore, it’s going to be quite hard to cover with icing. All of the pre-rolled icing I’ve found will only cover an 8 inch round cake and I don;t really want to roll out a block of icing as I just know it will have holes / break etc. Maybe there is someway that I can blend the edges of two pieces together……I need some ideas!

Anyway, I thought I would show you what the first cake looked like. Now that I’ve stepped back from the moment of making it, I realise that it wasn’t too bad for a first attempt. I’ve definitely learnt from my mistakes (eg. you have to take into account your time and effort and the amount of electricity you use!) and hope that the next cake will be much better. Anyway, here is the story of the first cake……

The shape of the cake was to be a van as they wanted it to look like the work van. THis was such an awkward shape to cut out! I made the cake on the Saturday and then decorated it on Sunday. For each layer I weighed 8 eggs and then used an equal amount of flour, butter and sugar. Then I split the mixture into two foil trays – this wasn’t such a good idea as the trays warped when they were in the oven and the cakes didn’t rise evenly.

8 eggs

Butter

Plus the sugar

I mixed all the ingredients together by hand as our electric mixer is sooooo old it would have blown a fuse and I got a blister between my fingers!. Luckily I now have an electric mixer, even if it is Tesco Value (cheap for all the non-UK readers!) so I might avoid an injury this time!

Cake Layers

Covered up overnight

I sandwiched the layers with jam and buttercream and then cut it into the van shape (there was a lot of leftovers to nibble on!) I then ‘covered’ it with red icing. However, I didn’t have enough to cover the whole cake and the sides. This really annoyed me because the icing looked awful! There were loads of little holes in it and the joins were showing. I have learnt from this mistake and have ordered A LOT more icing for this next cake!

I put two strips down the cake where the awful joins are. This isn’t what the van looks like but it did make it look so much better!! Then I decorated it. I stuck various things on with buttercream. It did look quite messy so this time I will use jam to ‘stick’ the icing on and be much more careful.

Finished!

Looking at it again now, it doesn’t look too bad!! It was very much appreciated at work and everyone thought it looked good. It definitely tasted nice and that was all that mattered. We managed to make it stretch for two days, but not a crumb was wasted!! I am really looking forward to making this next cake and am hoping that it looks much more ‘professional’!

Yesterday was the first day of my long Easter break. I’ve booked the 1st and 6h April off so in total I have 6 days off. However I can’t escape work as I have my work emails synced to my Blackberry! Some people might say that this is not a good idea because I can never get away but I find that it puts my mind at rest. I like knowing when I’ve got an email that I’ve been waiting for, instead of worrying about it all night. Maybe I need to be less attached to my job….interestingly, my horoscope in the Telegraph on Sat for the week said ‘…don’t let domestic chores or work commitments take up too much energy and time’. I think I need to take this on board. I do often ‘bring my work home with me’ and rant at my bf about it. I need to leave my work at WORK and not worry about it until the next day.

So today I decided to not worry about the emails coming to my phone (15 so far, and counting!) and take a whole day to myself. I went to the gym in the morning and was there for about an hour. It was so nice going when it wasn’t packed as there wasn’t the pressure to get onto a machine before someone else! After my workout I went home, showered, then baked – my favourite way to relax. Recently I’ve really got back into cooking and baking, thanks a lot to this blog, and I had had my eye on this recipe for a long time.

Originally I wanted to make something with yeast in as my yeast has been opened for about 3 months and I’ve only used it twice (so bad!). I bet it has ‘deactivated’ itself actually! But as I was driving home in the afternoon I didn’t have enough time to let dough rise. My initial plan was to make homemade Hot Cross Buns so I adapted it to another recipe I had, Hot Cross Scones (from Delicious magazine). I admit before I post the recipe that I rolled my dough out too thinly and used a small cutter so my ‘scones’ are more like biscuits! But they are yummy nonetheless. They are still crumbly and the cross on top is chewy. Next time I make them, I’ll make a thicker dough and definitely use a bigger cutter as these ones are too bitesize for my liking! The recipe is quite simple, they do take a little time to put together as you have to put crosses on each scone but it is definitely worth it.

Hot Cross Scones (adapted from Delicious Magazine)

  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 75g butter
  • 40g light muscovado sugar
  • 125g greek currants
  • ½ tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tbsp milk, plus extra for brushing
  • 50g plain flour
  • 1 – 2 tbsp water
  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas Mark 7. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Sift the self-raising flour into a large bowl, then rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

    Rubbed in

  3. Stir in the muscovado sugar, currants and mixed spice.
  4. In a jug, beat together the egg, milk and a pinch of salt. Pour into the flour mixture and bring together with your hands to make a soft dough.

    With the mixture added...

    ...mixed in to form the dough

  5. Lightly dust a work surface with flour, then roll out the dough to no thinner than 2cm. Using a 6cm cutter, stamp out the rounds – try not to twist the cutter, as this makes the scones rise unevenly. Re-roll the trimmings and stamp out more. Transfer to the baking trays.
  6. Crosses – Mix together the plain flour and water to form a smooth dough. Roll out, cut into thin strips and put a cross on top of each scone.

    Flour & water mixed then rolled out + cut into strips

    With Crosses on top

  7. Brush with the extra milk, then bake for 15 minutes, until well risen and golden.
  8. While baking, make the glaze. Dissolve 2 tbsp sugar in 2 tbsp boiling water. Brush over the tops of the scones as soon as they come out of the oven. Cool slightly on a wire rack.
  9. Eat while warm, or split and toast the next day and serve with a smudge of butter. Enjoy!

As well as making the Almond Cake for the Passover I went to last night, I attempted to make my own Chocolate Truffles. We had to bring some sweets or chocolate with us but instead of being normal and just buying a box, I wanted to make my own! This is the baker in me coming out! I looked through my recipes and found a few different recipes for truffles. I also looked in the internet and found an easy to follow recipe on BBC Good Food. I really need to start making the recipes I already have instead of finding more!

The chocolate that I used

Ready for the cream!

The cream and the butter ready for melting

With the cream/butter added....

...all melted and ready for the fridge!

I made the ganache at about 3.30pm and it still had to set in the fridge for 4 hours, so I didn’t actually get round to forming the truffles until 8pm at night – that was when my kitchen turned into a disaster zone! As I mentioned in my last post our kitchen is tiny. When I made the truffles there was all the stuff from dinner on the left of the hob, the hob covered in pans and then a little space for me on the right, next to our cereal boxes – there was soon chocolate EVERYWHERE!

I used a tsp to get the ganache out of the bowl and then rolled it between my hands. I think it had only just set (or I was feeling hot) because as soon as I rolled it, it started to melt. My hands were covered! I then used two teaspoons to make them ’round’ but this was messy too. I ended up with 2 tea-towels covered in chocolate and half a kitchen roll used up! But the act of making the truffles was very fun. The recipe below made about 35 truffles. I covered 10 in white chocolate – this was quite difficult as the hot white chocolate melted the ganache a bit so a few are more marbled than covered (but the look fine now they are set!), rolled 12 in crushed pistachio nuts and 13 in cocoa powder.I then put them in the fridge overnight. The next morning they had hardened up nicely and the ones covered in white chocolate looked fine.

Chocolate Truffles (Makes about 35 – adapted from BBC Good Food)

  • 170g good-quality dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa solids (even though my chocolate was 74% cocoa it was classed as plain…..weird tesco!)
  • 170ml double cream
  • 30g butter
  • Pistachio nuts, crushed
  • 100g white chocolate, melted
  • Cocoa powder
  1. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place into a large bowl.
  2. Put the cream and butter into a saucepan and heat gently until the butter melts and the cream reaches simmering point.
  3. Remove from heat, then pour over the chocolate. Stir together until you have a smooth mixture.
  4. Cool and chill for at least 4 hrs.
  5. To shape the truffles, dip a melon baller in hot water and scoop up balls of the mixture, then drop the truffles onto greaseproof paper. Or lightly coat your hands in a flavourless oil and roll the truffles between your palms.
  6. Coat the truffles immediately after shaping – tip some crushed pistachios into a container and some cocoa powder into another. Gently roll the truffles until evenly coated. To coat in the white chocolate,  pick up one truffle at a time with a fork and spoon the chocolate over the truffle until well-coated.
  7. Chill all truffles on greaseproof paper overnight.
  8. The truffles can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for 3 days, or frozen for up to a month.

Pistachio and White Chocolate Truffles

Cocoa Powder Truffles (plus a few pistachio ones!)

Packaged up ready for Passover

Tomorrow evening my boyfriend’s aunt is holding a Passover and I’m very excited about going to it. My church holds a Christian version of the Passover each year (in fact it it today!) so I know a bit about it and what everything symbolises. I’m quite sad actually that I couldn’t go to it this year – clocks going forward, work tomorrow, don’t want to drive there and back in a day – as I really love it and there is such a sense of fun about it. But, I’m excited about going to a ‘real’ Passover tomorrow. My boyfriend’s dad is Jewish but as Judaism passes down the mother’s side he isn’t Jewish himself. I think it’s nice that his family still celebrate Passover and even nicer that we have been invited along. I’ve only met his aunt once, 2 years ago at Christmas time, so I’m a bit scared of seeing her tomorrow!

On Passover, you aren’t allowed to eat anything that is leaven – anything that has flour in. This is because when the Jews were fleeing Egypt, they quickly used up the ingredients they had to make a flat, unleavened bread – matzo. It’s really nice, quite dry and kind of like a cracker. I love it with boiled eggs on top….mmmmm! Anyway (!), we have been asked to bring something with us to the Passover tomorrow and me, being my usual adventurous self, decided to look for flourless cake recipes. After a bit of research I stumbled upon this great recipe for flourless Almond Cake from Clarissa Hyman’s The Jewish Kitchen. It’s ingredients are: eggs, sugar, ground almonds and orange zest. So simple to make and I had all the ingredients at home.

The first step is to separate 5 eggs and whisk the white until soft peaks form……..slight problem – NO ELECTRIC WHISK! I am still trying to buy all of the baking implements I need and after today, an electric whisk is top of my list!! Actually, it wasn’t that bad and I actually enjoyed physically changing the eggs’ consistency from runny to thick and shiny.

The separated eggs

The start.....

...on the way...

....getting there....

...Done! Soft Peaks formed!

I had to enlish the help of my boyfriend who rather enjoyed flexing his muscles and showing me how powerfully he could whisk….actually, who needs an electric whisk when you have a muscly bf??!

The next step was to fold in a lot (175g) of ground almonds, orange zest and a tbsp of orange juice. I didn’t dump all of the ground almonds in as I knew it would knock all the air out of the eggs (and ruin all our hard whisking!) so I folded them in a bit at a time. This way, the mixture kept it’s airiness and didn’t lose any height created by the whisking.

Orange Zest and a Naked Orange!

Ready to be folded in...

...all folded in

All you do then is pop it in the tin, sprinkle with some flaked almonds and cook for 30 mins. Even though we moved into our flat 5 months ago I STILL haven’t worked out how hot the oven is. It’s a fan oven so I didn’t use the heat suggested but still cooked it for 30 mins…..it was a little black/brown round the edges so I think it was in too long. Maybe I have to cut the cooking time down too….

Ready for Baking

Almond Cake (taken from The Jewish Kitchen by Clarissa Hyman)

  • 5 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 175g ground almonds
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 25g flaked almonds
  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas Mark 5. Grease and line a 20cm / 8 inch springform cake tin.
  2. Whisk the egg whites with the salt until they stand in soft peaks.
  3. Whisking constantly, add the sugar a little at a time, until the mixture is firm, shiny and very thick.
  4. Fold in the ground almonds, orange zest and the juice with a metal spoon.
  5. Pour the mixture into the tin and sprinkle the flaked almonds on top.
  6. Bake for 30 mins / until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out cleam.
  7. Allow to cool for 10 mins, then loosen, turn out and leave to cool on a wire rack.
  8. This cake is best eaten the day after it’s made. Serve with whipped cream or fruit. Enjoy!

Hi! I'm Helen, 23 and from the UK. I love food, keeping fit, going out with friends, wine, gin, having fun, laughing and living life to the max! Motto for this year is to say YES to everything and see what happens!

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