Thursday, August 29, 2013

Baked Dark Chocolate Mousse. Guest Post by Deeba Rajpal.

I have moved cities. No wait, scratch that, countries. The last ten days have been all about cleaning, skyping, crying and feeling sorry for myself. 

What I mean to say was, I was in no condition to blog. Also the fact that my oven wasn't functional made me miserable. You see, baking makes me happy. Guess who else it makes happy? Someone who is Passionate About Baking ofcourse!

Deeba Rajpal needs no introduction. She's a legend in herself. So talented that you wish you could take a leaf (quite literally) out of her book. So passionate, that you wish she'd adopt you. And so generous, that you want to look at your feet and mumble when she is around. 

She's an inspiration. Whips up the most gorgeous things to eat (I don't want to say desserts, because her khaana is awesome too). She's also such a talented photographer that it takes your breath away. And stylist. And mother. And dog-lover. 

I met her a little more than a year ago. In the physical sense that is. Other I had been reading her blog for at least a few years. But there  was something about Deeba, that we've been friends ever since.

So when she knew I was struggling with my blog, she offered to guest post for me. And that's what friends do - rescue you when you're in a spot of trouble. I  <3 her to bits.

This is a fab fab recipe and its got all my favourite bits - dark chocolate, caramel and lots of butter - something that I feel was only dreamed up for me. So without further ado, please go ahead and read this fabulous post

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“May your life be filled, as mine has been, with love and laughter; and remember, when things are rough all you need is ... Chocolate.” Geraldine Solon



These are tiring days. Life seems cumbersome. Maybe it's that time of the year the heat and humidity; maybe the after effects of trying to pack too much into working days. I needed a break. That came today! I offered to guest post on Cookaroo to help ease her tiring days!





Wanted to send Ruchira's blog some deliciousness while she works hard {read struggles} to get life up and running in her new world. The thought of doing something for this large hearted and fab girl injected some enthusiasm into me. With a spring in my step, I grabbed the camera early this morning. I knew just what would make her smile.




Her love of cookbooks is well known. Mine not so well even though I could devour one a day! I baked from one of my fave books late last night. Indulge | 100 Perfect Desserts by Claire Clark is a classic cookbook. As the name suggests, it is packed with divine desserts.



There's a mix of very difficult and very easy recipes in this book, something for everyone. It was a book I reviewed many years go for the BloggerAid Cookbook. At the time, a bunch of food bloggers across the globe came together to make a recipe book for charity. INDULGE is a constant reminder of those days.



This was a dessert I chose to make for Cookaroo. I knew it would tease her palette as she LOVES dark chocolate as much as I do. We are a part of the 'bittersweet' gang, the darker the chocolate, the happier we get! Bring on Ghirardelli 100%, Lindt 85%, dark couverture and you can hear us heart sing out loud!



The lady LOVES loves caramel even more. I had some deep dark caramel left over from a recipe I saw at Smitten Kitchen. I drizzled some warm sauce over chilled Baked Dark Chocolate Mousse. Claire suggests seving these indulgent little rich petite cakes with a 'creme fraiche and cream' quenelle, drizzled over with butterscotch sauce. Or as in the image in the book, with finely sliced plums.
Recipe: Baked Dark Chocolate Mousse
Summary: This rich, intense, indulgent mousse is sure to win over hardcore chocolate lovers. Not one for the faint hearted, this simple make-ahead dessert is sure to please folk who treat dessert as serious business! Adapted minimally from Indulge by Claire Clark. 

Makes 6-8 petite cakes.


Prep Time: 15 minutes Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:
  • Dark Chocolate Mousse
  • 100g dark chocolate {bittersweet 85%}
  • 50g semi sweet chocolate
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 50g raw sugar {or Castor}
  • To serve
  • Deep dark salted caramel sauce {adapted minimally from Smitten Kitchen}
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 35g salted butter
  • 30g low fat cream
Method:
  1. Baked Dark Chocolate Mousse
  2. Preheat the oven to 170C.
  3. Lightly grease 8 X 2" round dessert rings. Line the bottoms with good quality aluminium foil, bringing the foil up around the sides to ensure the the filling doesn't leak out. Place on baking tray.
  4. Place both chocolates and butter in a heatproof bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Repeat for 10-15 seconds if necessary, then allow to stand for about 10 minutes until the chocolate has melted. Whisk well to mix. Reserve.
  5. With an electric hand beater, beat the egg and the sugar in a large bowl until tripled and mousse like {or whisk by hand as the portion is too small for the food processor}.
  6. Pour the melted chocolate and butter mixture and fold in gently into the whisked egg mousse using a rubber spatula. Be careful not to release the whisked in air.
  7. Divide between the molds and bake for exactly 8 minutes towards the top of the oven. {I use the lower element only}
  8. Allow to cool completely and then chill in the molds.
  9. Gently run an offset spatula to loosen the sides and demold into the serving platter. {They will be difficult to transfer later}
  10. Let it sit out for an hour before serving.
  11. Drizzle over with caramel sauce.
  12. Deep dark salted caramel sauce
  13. Place the sugar in a deep heavy bottom saucepan and melt over medium low heat until dark amber. Swirl around if needed.
  14. Add the cream and butter together. Be careful as it will splutter at first before it comes together. Stir to combine.
  15. Store in a jar. You might need to heat it gently before serving as it tends to harden in the fridge. {Can be made ahead}
  16. Note : My rings were almost 3" wide so the mousse is a little shallow. Use 2" rings to get a better height.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Scandinavian Fig and Almond Cake



The last couple of days have been terribly hectic. People. Conversations. Cleaning. Stress. Oh so much stress. And the only time I find some peace is when am either stirring a pot in the kitchen or throwing ingredients together to bake something.

I'm also clearing out my refrigerator. Which is great because I keep stumbling upon ingredients that I'd stored away for "later use." Which is how I found these gorgeously juicy (dried) figs tucked in the nether corners of my giant cold storage. And a bag full of almonds too.



These beautifully plump figs were brought by the husband on a trip someplace (gosh I'm growing old) and was saving them to make some fig and honey ice cream and perhaps to make a nice posh jar of granola as well.  

I did make a few changes to the recipe I found on Saveur, but only because I had only those ingredients at hand. And while this cake was lovely the day it was baked, the flavours developed beautifully the next day. This cake remained beautifully moist on day three and four as well. And frankly I have got to say that I'm going to bake this cake again tomorrow. It was that good.




Scandinavian Fig and Almond Cake
Adapted from Saveur magazine


 1 cup whole dried brown  figs 
1 cups flour
 1⁄4 tsp. salt 
1/2 tsp. baking soda 
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon 
 1/2 tsp. allspice 
1/2 cup butter, softened 
1 cups light brown sugar 
2 eggs 
1 tsp. vanilla extract
 1⁄4 cup sour cream 
1 cups coarsely chopped roasted almonds
 1⁄4 cup sugar 
1⁄4 cup Cointreau


1. Slice each fig lengthwise into 4 pieces (try not to rip skin; the nicest figs will be used to garnish cake). Place in a medium saucepan, add enough water to cover, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside until figs are soft, about 20 minutes.

 2. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 4" × 13" terrine mold with greased parchment paper. Sift flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, mace, and allspice together into a large bowl. Set aside. 

3. Beat butter with an electric mixer, then gradually add brown sugar and beat until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then add vanilla and sour cream. Slowly add dry ingredients, mixing until combined. 

4. Using a slotted spoon, transfer three-fourths of the figs from poaching liquid to batter. Mix with a wooden spoon, then fold in almonds. Spoon into mold and bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. 

5. Meanwhile, remove remaining figs from poaching liquid and place in a bowl. Add sugar to poaching liquid and reduce over medium-high heat until thick and syrupy, about 15 minutes. Stir in Cointreau, then pour over figs and set aside to macerate for at least 20 minutes.

 6. Using a skewer, poke holes all the way through cake. Spoon syrup over cake and overlap remaining fig slices on top. (Store, wrapped in plastic wrap, in refrigerator for up to 1 week.)




Varq. Taj Mahal Hotel. Blogger's Table

It's awesome being a part of a group where food is the focal point each time. And the last year, has been one meal to another - good or bad - together. And I'm going to miss this immensely.



And as it happened my final meal with the Blogger's Table was at Varq at The Taj Mahal Hotel. A little bit of bullying and we ran full house (well almost, Aishwarya was the only one who'd rain checked) and that was the most exciting part of the meal. The truth was I was looking forward to this meal for another reason, Varq is often compared to my favourite restaurant - Indian Accent - and I have been dying to see how they match up.


As we all sat down to talk to each other, in a seemingly private dining area at Varq, (I say seemingly only because I KNOW how loud we were), the mocktails / cocktails were brought out. Pineapple basil and a tamarind orange, both gorgeous, but I took to the tamarind orange mocktail like fish to water. Must have downed atleast four glasses of this delicious drink if not more.

The menu placed before us was extensive, and fortunately apart the drinks, we weren't really allowed to nibble at anything else. As the chef made his introductions and we had the chance to choose what we'd like to eat as our mains and entrees and hand over our choices to the maitre de.



It all began with an amuse bouche of fruit chaat. A chunky piece of fruit with a twist of lime and a bit of chaat masala. Supposed to have whet the appetite, I suppose it did its job as I waited for the next course to show up.



Varqui Khumbh - Mushrooms in rather spicy south Indian curry. While it tasted meaty, I found it much too hot on the palate and felt that one of two of the spices could have easily been reduced. The Varqui crab the non vegetarian option was received with a lot of enthusiasm.


Photo Courtesy: Deeba Rajpal

Haleem plus gandheri kebab and the galouti on a beautifully platted was laid out next. The haleem was excellent, I wish I could have had a lot more of it as was the galouti which was served with the sheermal. The gandheri kebab paired well with the sauce which was sweet and spicy at the same time. This is quite the star of the evening.

Photo Courtesy: Deeba Rajpal 


I skipped the next course of soup - since I have no particular love for either lobsters or kala chana / horse grams - and asked for the vegetarian appetiser which was the palak patte ki chaat. And am glad that I decided to change things around, because while the soup was mellow and nice, it really wasn't my favourite. The palak patte ki chaat however, was lovely, I loved the tamarind chutney it came with, but I just wish there was a bit of yogurt on the side to go with it.

Before the main course was brought out, the palate cleanser arrived. Gari/ pink ginger sorbet which was well not soothing at all. Gimme a lemon/tamarind/fruit sorbet anyday, ginger is way too overpowering.



Next up was the Sea bass with potato dauphinoise in allepy curry. And I am glad I chose that from the range of entrees - which included chicken and paneer. The curry was beautiful, nice coconutty and the fish perfect. It reminded me of this John Dory with Meen Moilee at Indian Accent. The potatoes dauphinose were done well and I thought rounded off the dish quite well.

By now we were really quite full, but the dish of the day or the martaban ka meat was still to come. It was being served with a pulao. I had great expectations from this dish, especially since it was a Hemant Oberoi special. Unfortunately it did nothing for me. While the mutton was super tender, the spices didn't particularly stand out. I wish I'd skipped it entirely.



After what seemed like a loooong wait, the dessert was brought out  - Jalebi, apple kheer and malpua - of the three I really liked the apple kheer and while the jalebi was super crisp it was a bit too sweet for me. Odd I thought that.

Paan, some lovely rose tea and three-and-a-half-hours later, we were done. And it was time to say goodbye.



Now here's the thing, I expected greatness. I got well, fair. Such a fall. I wanted a meal like that at Indian Accent, this gave me heartburn all night instead. :(.

But... having said that. I had a lovely time. I was sad, but happy that I'd be welcomed back whenever I return. I'm miss going to miss you guys. SO. VERY. MUCH.

See what the others had to say

Deeba at Passionate About Baking
Sangeeta at Banaras Ka Khana
Charis at Culinary Storm
Sushmita at My Unfinished Life
Himanshu at The White Ramekins
Parul at The Shirazine
Mukta at Bake-a-mania
Rekha at My Tasty Curry
Sid at Chef at Large
Nachiketa at Crazy over Desserts

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Pear and Almond Bread



Four lonely pears stared at me as I opened my fridge. I'd eaten it's fifth counterpart a few days earlier, and wasn't too pleased with flavours. It was slightly blander than I'd anticipated and not as juicy either. So the remaining pears sat languishing in the bottom shelf of of my fridge, giving me the stink eye every time I opened the door.

But that was yesterday. While clearing out my fridge I also found a pack of almonds virtually untouched and figured that something must be done. 

Cake? Muffin? Something savoury? I couldn't make up mind until I stumbled upon this pear bread recipe on Smitten Kitchen's blog. It seemed right up my alley. And as most of you know I love pears and go through a lot of recipes when they are in season. 



This bread turned out to be beautiful mild with a lovely crumb that only quick breads can give you. I wish I had added more spices though, because I felt that spicing it up would have made it spectacular instead of just very good. 

The recipe made two loaves which meant there was a lot more to share. But you can easily cut this by half and still get a yummy loaf. Oh and a bit of butter and maple syrup makes it even better. 



Pear and Almond Bread
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen


3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 cup chopped almonds
 3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups sugar
2 to 4 pears firm, ripe pears, depending on size (you’ll need 2 grated cups total, but I don’t recommend you grate them until you are about to use them, so they don’t brown)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Method

1. Heat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and lightly grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan or two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans.
2. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, all spice, cardamom, ginger and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl, and stir with a fork to mix everything well. If you’re using nuts, scoop out about 1/4 cup of the flour mixture and combine it in a small bowl with the chopped walnuts, stirring and tossing to coat the nuts with the flour.
3. Peel and core pears, then grate them. You’ll want two grated cups total; set them briefly aside. In a medium bowl, combine the butter or oil, eggs, sugar, grated pear, nuts (if using), and vanilla, and stir to mix everything well.
4. Scrape the pear mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until the flour disappears and the batter is evenly moistened.
5. Quickly scrape the batter into the prepared pans and bake at 350°F (175°C) for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the bread is handsomely browned and firm on top and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
6. Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack or folded kitchen towel for about 10 minutes. Then turn it out onto a plate or a wire rack to cool completely, top side up. 

7. Serve it as is, sprinkle it with confectioners sugar




Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Essential Delhi Cookbook. Review

So I'm moving. Cities, that is. And I'm, well, quite bummed about it. Not so much about where I have to go but more about all the things I have to wrap up. And instead of packing, paying bills and meeting people, I'm being an ostrich.

I think I am just overwhelmed at the prospect of leaving all my friends behind and going to a place where it's just the husband and me. 24x7. But I'll find something to do, I hope.

One of the things that I am insisting on taking with me are my cookbooks. They'll keep me sane at least for a little while. So today while sifting through them all, I chanced upon a book that was tucked into a corner of my bookshelf - The Essential Delhi Cookbook by Priti Narain.



I bought this book a couple of years ago at a very quaint bookshop in SDA Market. I liked how noisy yet quiet it was and that they had stools that we could grab to browse through the books. From Penguin's Essential series, this book had everything I wanted to know about Delhi's khaana - the street food, the mughlai influences and even the cuisine from various sects (read castes) from Delhi. I already owned The Kerala Cookbook, which I reviewed here, and believed it was a great buy

I couldn't wait to try the cookbook, because one of the first things I'd read was the prologue which discussed Delhi's heritage and culinary history. The meats, the roasts, the pulaos and the desserts. How the ancient texts talked about food and how austerity ruled in the middle. And how people borrowed from each other's cultures to make their unique cuisine. In short, this was perfect. Ofcourse, as it is with the rest of the Essential series, there are no pictures.

One of the first things I tried off the book was the Kheema Matar and the Chicken Pulao. Both turned out phenomenal, very flavourful but not hot, yet beautifully spiced. One, rather wet day, I decided to try and make the papris, which might I add turned out to be really quite fantastic.

I've also tried the mutton curry, which comes close to the dhaba wala meat, I've eaten at several places and the murgh korma which my entire family loved.

Post a trip to Old Delhi, while flipping through the book, I realised it had the ever-so-popular Mutton Istoo recipe and Daulat ki chaat. I've still got to make both of them, but I'm going to wait till I'm well-settled in my new kitchen. Because this is one book, I'm definitely carrying with me.

The Essential Delhi Cookbook is available in the US, UK and India

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Feta and Bellpepper muffins




I love me a muffin. They are by far the easiest thing to bake. And well, the easiest thing to eat as well. Given a choice between a sweet muffin and a savoury one, I'd always always pick a savoury one, only because you can slather some cream cheese or butter and enjoy it as a snack any time of the day.

Which is perhaps why my blog has a number of savoury muffin options including the Triple Olive muffin, Spinach muffin and the very popular Pizza Muffin.

I make muffins on a whim, depending on what flour I have lying around and what cheese and vegetables need to be rescued. These feta and bell pepper muffins are something like that. I roasted the pepper, found some peppers and then also some ricotta and figured that the best way to make them was to blindly follow my gut. The result? Beautiful savoury muffins that tasted brilliant warm with a bit of goat's cheese.

Also this recipe is immensely forgiving, so don't worry about the boo-boos.



Feta and Bell pepper muffins
Makes 12

1 cup all purpose flour 
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 tsp sugar 
1 egg
3 tablespoons oil
100 ml buttermilk 
1 cup roasted bell pepper
100 gms feta 

100 gms ricotta


Method

1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degree centigrade. Butter and line muffin tray.

2.Roast the peppers in the oven till nicely charred. Let it cool and chop into pieces.

2. Measure all the dry ingredients - flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, paprika and herbs- in a mixing bowl and stir to mix

3. In another bowl mix the egg, oil and milk/buttermilk together. Add the feta and ricotta to it.


4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry mix. DO NOT STIR. Add the roasted bell pepper Mix in quick circular motions just until all the ingredients are incorporated. Stop. Do not overmix. Otherwise you'll get super dense muffins.

5. Drop into line muffin tray, top with a sprinkling of Parmesan. And bake for 20 minutes until the tops have browned and a toothpick comes out clean.



Fratelli Wines. At Set'Z.

I don't remember much about this afternoon. I do remember how wet it was and that incessant pouring had resulted in major traffic situations. I also remember giggling. Like a lot of giggling. And that, I bet was thanks to all the delicious wine we'd been drinking through lunch.

Photo Courtesy: Charis Alfred Bhaginanthan

This wasn't the first time that we were doing food and wine pairings, this was however, the first time the wine was so good, that you'd forget to only sip it ladylikely but instead swig it in a rather ungainly way. But that apart, the wines from Fratelli were really very delicious.

It all started with a chilled glass of Fratelli's Chenin Blanc. Crisp, fresh and fruity this was a wine that I just couldn't stop drinking. It paired very beautifully with the cheese platter (that included cheddar, goat's cheese and feta) and I suppose with the Asian Bao as well.



Waiting for more peeps, I'd already downed a glass of this beautiful wine, when we moved to a different table and served the Chardonnay. This wine smelt beautiful like a Granny Smith apple and was extremely smooth, almost buttery. It paired very well with the prawn, raw mango mint and spring onion oriental salad. I did like this wine, but preferred the Chenin Blanc over it.

With the whites out of the way, the reds were brought out rather grandly.The Cabernet Franc-Shiraz was poured out first. This half and half wine - half Cabernet Franc and half Shiraz is a wonderful wine which smells like fruit. And well, has an aftertaste of some too.



The next wine was the Sangiovese. This is easily my favourite wine from the entire Fratelli gamut. This is a wine I like to drink, to gift and to cook with. I love the aftertaste of vanilla in this wine and totally love the mouth-feel. I love how it sits on the palate and is so smooth to drink. This wine worked beautiful paired with the humble pizza as well.



Next was the Merlot. Now here's the thing, I am not a big Merlot fan. I don't like the way it smells, I also have never liked the after taste. But Fratelli's Merlot is an exception. Rich-bodied and well-balanced this is a really good wine (but not better than the Sangiovese) and paired well with the Yakitori that the chef was serving.



Finally, the wine we'd all been really called out to taste (read drink). The Sette was opened much earlier during the lunch, allowed to breathe in the decanter and finally served to us as the piece de resistance. And it was gorgeous. A combination of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese which has been barrel-aged for 14 months, is a wine that is luxurious and divine. With a delicate vanilla flavour at the end, this was the perfect finish to a lovely meal.



Ofcourse a dessert wine was greatly missed, since Set'Z offered a lovely selection of desserts at our table including french hearts and eclairs. But by then, the giggling had commenced. Charis and Mukta couldn't stop smiling and Parul was a happy camper, bringing the fun afternoon to an end.




Friday, August 2, 2013

Pear and Chocolate Crumble



This is no ordinary crumble. This is definitely not for the faint-hearted either. This is a crumble unlike many crumbles that will make you weak in the knees.There's chocolate, lots and lots of it. Pears, beautiful pears and vanilla, to make your heart sing.

I love love pears. More than apples.More than peaches. And certainly more than plums. Pears are so versatile, you can stew them, squish them, chop them into submission. But more than just the fruit, I love the combination of pear and chocolate. I know it sounds a bit off, but you have to try it to know what it really means.

Last year, I made these divine Pear and chocolate muffins over a dozen times. I'd make a batch they'd quickly get wiped out and then I'd bake another lot, just for me to eat. I did also try a pear and chocolate cheesecake, which might I add was awful. You read that right. Pear + Chocolate + Quark = Icky Poo.

But this combination, in the crumble, is like finding a pair of shoes which you know are going to last you a lifetime. You know like Flitflops or Hush Puppies or Crocs (I have a pair of crocs which I have worn for over 5 years now, but that's a story for later).

 


There's a bit of crunch from the crumble, molten chocolate lava from the filling and plump juicy bits of fruit in each bite. Here are two things I do suggest though - bake the crumble in a shallow dish, so that the ratio of your crumble to filling is almonst the same. Secondly, use good quality dark chocolate over 44 per cent (at a pinch plain bournville will do too).

Note that you cannot eat this crumble straight out of the oven. It needs to rest 20 minutes to an hour, so it's a great recipe do make while dinner's being set. Only because the chocolate is bubbling and it needs time to thicken just a wee bit. You can serve this with both ice cream and cream. I prefer cream because it elevates the experience. But it tastes gorgeous the next day ice cold from the fridge too :).






Pear and Chocolate Crumble
Serves 6

Ingredients
8-10 pears - peeled and cut into squares (about 4 cups)
1 cup chocolate chips / chunks
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp corn flour

For the topping
3/4 cup all purpose flour or wheat flour
1 1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder

Ice cream or cream for serving


Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degree centigrade for 10 mins. Get around prepping your dishes.
2. In a bowl combine pears, vanilla, sugar, corn flour and chocolate chips together. Arrange this into a shallow dish.
3. Measure out the flour, oats , cocoa and crumble in the butter until it resembles bread crumbs. Add vanilla to it.
4. Sprinkle this mixture over the pear and chocolate. Pat it down well.
5. Bake for 20 minutes at 200 degrees. And then lower the temperature to 180 degree centigrade and bake for a further 10 minutes.
6. Let it rest for 20 minutes before serving with ice cream or cream.


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