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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Desserts

TIP: Apple Pie With Salted Caramel Ice Cream

Apple crisp with Salted Caramel Gelato.
Photo courtesy Talenti Gelato & Sorbetto.

 

Most people serve their apple pie or pecan pie à la mode with vanilla ice cream. That’s the classic, but we’ve always preferred Rum Raisin, a festive holiday flavor.

Yet some people like neither rum nor raisins. The emergence of Salt Caramel ice cream and gelato over the past few years has provided another perfect pairing with apple pie or apple crisp.

So today’s tip is: Serve Salted Caramel ice cream with your apple or pecan pie.

While salted caramels, the candy, have been made in France for hundreds of years, we thought Salted Caramel ice cream was a 21st century San Francisco phenomenon (we first had it at Bi-Rite Creamery there).

 

According to Graeter’s, the Cinncinnati-based ice cream emporium, their Salted Caramel flavor has been sold in Graeter’s stores for more than 100 years. Pints of it are now available in the premium ice cream freezer section at food stores across the country.


Talenti Gelato & Sorbetto
suggests their Sea Salt Caramel Gelato with apple pie or apple crisp. Here’s their recipe:

 

RECIPE: APPLE CRISP WITH SEA SALT CARAMEL ICE CREAM

Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 6 medium tart apples, sliced
  • 1-1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice*
  • Salted Caramel Gelato
  •  
    *PUMPKIN PIE SPICE RECIPE: Combine 4 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 4 teaspoons ground nutmeg, 4 teaspoons ground ginger and 3 teaspoons ground allspice. If you don’t need the 8 tablespoons this produces, cut it down accordingly: 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/3 teaspoons each nutmeg and ginger and 1/2 teaspoon allspice.

     

    Waiting for some apple crisp. Photo courtesy Talenti.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 375°F. Grease an 8″x11″ pan with cooking spray or shortening.

    2. TOSS apple slices with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 cup brown sugar. Spread apples in pan.

    3. STIR remaining ingredients together in a medium bowl; spread over apples.

    4. BAKE for 30 minutes, until apples are golden brown and tender. Serve warm with a scoop of Sea Salt Caramel gelato or ice cream.

    For more inspiration visit TalentiGelato.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Christmas Strawberries

    If you typically bake a cake or cookies to bring along as a house gift, how about a better-for-you alternative: chocolate dipped strawberries?

    We were inspired by these festive Holiday Chocolate Dipped Strawberries from Harry and David ($39.95 + shipping) to make our own.

    And all you need to do is melt chocolate and dip! Just as you need tasty fruit, quality counts with the chocolate. While strawberries with their leaves are particularly pretty, you can substitute any other fruits, including seedless orange slices and dried apricots.

    Note that even if you prefer milk chocolate, dark chocolate provides a better flavor contrast with the berries. Dark chocolate lovers: For similar reasons, no matter how bittersweet you like your chocolate, keep the cacao content in the 50% to 70% cacao range.

     

    Chocolate covered strawberries with a holiday embellishment. Photo courtesy Harry And David.

     

    It’s best to make these on the same day as they will be consumed. If you don’t feel up to piping red and green decoration, serve them plain: Everyone will love them just as much.

    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE COVERED STRAWBERRIES

    Ingredients

  • 1 pound strawberries with attractive green leaves and stems
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate
  • Christmas Garnish: piped red and green royal icing or colored white chocolate, green and red sprinkles or sanding sugar, silver or gold dragées
  • Hanukkah Garnish: piped blue and white royal icing or colored white chocolate, blue and white sprinkles or sanding sugar, silver or gold dragées
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PURCHASE strawberries on the day of preparation, if possible, so leaves will remain perky. Buy the largest berries you can find. If you can’t find berries with fresh leaves, default to orange segments or dried apricot slices.

    2. CAREFULLY WASH the strawberries and pat them dry with a paper towel, leaving the stems intact.

    3. CHOP the chocolate and melt in a double boiler, or in a small bowl placed over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Take care that the chocolate does not get too hot. Remove from the heat. You can also microwave the chocolate at 30-second intervals, stirring in-between.

    4. DIP the berries into the chocolate, holding the stems very gently. Place onto sheets of baking parchment or waxed paper to cool and set.

    5. KEEP the berries in a cool place (but not the fridge, or the chocolate may bloom) until ready to serve.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Pumpkin Pie Yogurt Sundae

    Make your own pumpkin yogurt at home.
    Photo courtesy Pinkberry.

     

    We’ve been dropping by Pinkberry for an occasional pumpkin frozen yogurt. But you can make your own, either frozen or conventional yogurt, with this recipe adapted from Chobani.

    It’s great for breakfast, a snack, or dessert, try this pumpkin sundae.

    RECIPE: PUMPKIN YOGURT SUNDAE

    Ingredients For 1 Serving

  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt of frozen yogurt (plain or vanilla)
  • 1.5 tablespoons pumpkin pie purée*
  • 1.5 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1.5 teaspoons dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon crushed ginger snaps
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  •  
    *If using vanilla frozen yogurt, use pumpkin purée (unsweetened) instead of pumpkin pie filling.
     

  • Optional garnishes: 1 teaspoon toasted pecan pieces, crushed crystallized ginger, whipped cream, gingersnaps or graham crackers
  •  

    Preparation

    1. BLEND all ingredients.

    2. CHILL (or reharden, for frozen yogurt) for 15 minutes or longer.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Mini Pecan Pie Bites

    Mini pies have been trending, and might be a better choice for Thanksgiving, when you’re stuffed to the gills but still want dessert. But Lauryn Cohen, a.k.a. Bella Baker, has an even better idea: mini pecan pie bites.

    Mini Pecan Pie Bites are baked in a mini muffin tin, creating “just a bite” to end the meal. Like the idea? Make mini pumpkin pie bites, too.

    “These are quick, easy and a perfect choice to serve at a holiday party,” says Lauryn Cohen, a.k.a. Bella Baker. Here’s her recipe; there are many more special sweets to discover at BellaBaker.com.

    RECIPE: MINI PECAN PIE BITES

    Ingredients For 24 Bites

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  •  

    Just a bite of pecan pie! Photo courtesy BellaBaker.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F and spray the cavities of a 24-cup muffin tin generously with nonstick spray.

    2. COMBINE the flour, sugar, butter and cream cheese with an electric mixture on medium/high speed until the dough comes together. One at a time, roll small balls of dough into the palm of your hand (about the size of a ping pong ball). Press each ball of dough into the muffin tin cavity, pressing dough up the sides to form a pie crust.

    3. WHISK together the egg, brown sugar, butter and vanilla extract. Switch to a rubber spatula and mix in the chopped pecans. Pour filling into each of the muffin tin cavities filled with pie crust.

    4. BAKE for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 300°F and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before removing from muffin tins. If need be, run a knife around the perimeter of the mini pie bites to loosen them from the muffin tin.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: Gourmet Fig Recipes For National Fig Week

    Fresh black mission figs with foie gras and a
    frisée salad. Photo courtesy BLT Steak Atlanta.

     

    National Fig Week is the first week in November.

    One of the simplest desserts, enjoyed since early times, is figs with honey. It couldn’t be easier: just decide how many figs you want to serve to each person (we serve three or four, depending on size), and plate them with a drizzle of honey. Other decisions:

  • One variety of fig or three? Enhance the dessert with three different types of fig to each person—a black Mission fig, a green Adriatic fig, and a brown turkey fig, for example. You can garnish one with chopped hazelnuts, one with pistachios and one with almonds. If you have rectangular or even square plates, it makes a lovely presentation (see photo and recipe).
  • With or without cheese? Figs, honey and nuts—the components of the recipe above—are all excellent complements to cheese plates.
  •  

    So why not pass a cheese plate with figs, nuts and honeycomb? It’s one of the world’s great desserts, and you don’t have to cook a thing! Check out this simple recipe for Figs With Honey.

  • Not serving a separate cheese course? You can add an optional scoop of soft cheese to the center of a fresh fig, or a slice of goat cheese log or wedge of Brie next to it. Drizzle honey across the plate before plating the figs and cheese.
  • Dessert or Snack? Ripe, luscious figs can be served like other fresh fruit: at breakfast, lunch or dinner, or at midday tea/break.
  •  

    Here’s something you don’t see every day: fig panna cotta. The recipe is from Vic Rallo, host of the television show, Eat!Drink!Italy! With Vic Rallo.

    RECIPE: FIG PANNA COTTA

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup of fig purée
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 one-ounce packet of gelatin dissolved
  • 3 tablespoons of cold water
  •  

    A seasonal surprise: fig panna cotta. Photo courtesy Vic Rallo.

    Preparation

    1. DISSOLVE the gelatin in 3 tablespoons of cold water, for about 10 minutes.

    2. PLACE the cream, vanilla bean, vanilla extract, fig purée and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat. Add the gelatin to the pan, stirring constantly for about 30 seconds, or until the gelatin is well blended with the cream.

    3. POUR the cream mixture into molds, cover and refrigerate for 3 hours or until set.

    FIG NUTRITION

    By the time of the Bible, figs had been cultivated for thousands of years. They may have been the first crop* cultivated—perhaps first in Egypt. From there they spread to Crete and around the 9th century B.C.E., to Greece, where they became a staple.

    The ancient Greeks loved figs so much that they enacted a law forbidding the export of the best quality figs (in the ancient world, at least 29 varieties of figs were cultivated).

    Figs spread throughout the Mediterranean. They arrived in the New World in the early 16th century, with Spaniards explorers. When Spanish missions were established in what is now southern California, the monks cultivated planted fig trees. Today, California is one of the largest producers of figs, along with Greece, Portugal, Spain and Turkey.

     
    *Agricultural historians believe the order of cultivation to be figs, wheat and barley, grapes, olives, sugar, tea, rice and sesame. Different historians have different orders; and archeological digs regularly reveal new information.

      

    Comments

    TIP: Easy Coffee Dessert (Adults Only)

    Years ago, at our first visit to The French Laundry in Napa Valley, we ordered a dessert called Coffee and Donuts.

    What we got: coffee mousse served in a coffee cup, topped with real milk foam and served with a side of beignets, deep fried choux paste (think small fritters). It was a delicious and memorable sight gag.

    Because we gave up deep frying for the New Year, we never got around to recreating the recipe. But recently, we made a simpler version of it, thanks to inspiration from Patrón XO Cafe liqueur, Ciao Bella’s Triple Espresso Gelato and the donut maker at our local farmers market.

    If you want a smaller dessert, use an espresso cup instead of a coffee cup. And if you want to serve this to kids…depending on their age, they can taste a bit of liqueur. If not, leave it out of their portions. They’ll still get a kick from “coffee and donuts.”

     

    Scoop coffee ice cream into coffee cup and top with coffee liqueur. Photo courtesy Ciao Bella Gelato.

    RECIPE: COFFEE & DONUTS, AFTER THOMAS KELLER

    Ingredients Per Serving

  • 1 cup coffee or espresso ice cream
  • Coffee liqueur
  • Optional: whipped cream
  • Miniature donuts or donut holes
  •  

    A less sweet and syrupy coffee liqueur. Photo courtesy The Patron Spirits Company.

     

    Preparation

    1. SOFTEN ice cream and swirl liqueur through it. If you’re going to add whipped cream, you can level the ice cream in the cup. Otherwise, return the softened ice cream to the freezer and then scoop it into the cup. Place ice cream-filled cup in freezer. (Alternative technique: Pour liqueur into the bottom of the cup, then add ice cream and pour more liqueur over the top.)

    When ready to serve…

    2. TOP with optional whipped cream and serve with a plate of donuts.

     

    PATRON CAFE LIQUEUR

    With the popularity of the Espresso Martini (and don‘t forget the White Russian and other coffee cocktails), more coffee liqueurs have hit the market. Patrón uses its famous silver tequila a base for Patrón XO Cafe, although there’s no discernible tequila taste—perhaps a bit of agave on the finish.

     
    Beyond cocktails and adding to a cup of coffee at brunch or after dinner (you can also sip it straight from a liqueur glass, with or without the coffee), the sweetened bitter coffee flavor makes a great topping for a plain dish of ice cream—coffee, coffee chip, chocolate, chocolate chip, vanilla or a ball of three choices.

    At 70 proof, it is higher in alcohol than most coffee liqueurs. To some people that in of itself is a selling point. We like that the higher proof makes it less sweet and syrupy than other coffee liqueurs.

    Patrón XO Cafe has a brother, Patrón XO Cafe Dark Cocoa, which marries the flavors of chocolate and chocolate.

    Discover more on the Patron website, which has 40 cocktail recipes using the liqueur.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Pumpkin Crème Brûlée

    An individual Pumpkin Crème Brûlée. Photo
    courtesy Spice Islands.

     

    While pumpkin can (and should) be enjoyed year-round, Pumpkin Crème Brûlée is a delicious Halloween dessert or Thanksgiving dessert.

    The recipe, for individual dishes of crème brûlée, is courtesy Spice Islands, which has been searching the world for the highest-quality, most flavorful herbs and spices since 1941.

    Prep time is 35 minutes, bake time 40 to 45 minutes, chill time 2 hours.

    RECIPE: PUMPKIN CRÈME BRÛLÉE

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1-3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 10 egg yolks*
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spices (recipe below)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped pecans
  •  

    *Uses for the leftover egg whites: Make an egg white omelet or egg drop soup (just drop the egg whites into chicken soup), or bake angel food cake, lemon meringue pie, macarons, meringues/pavlovas, nougat or seven-minute frosting.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 325°F.

    2. SPLIT vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape vanilla bean. Place in heavy saucepan. Add cream, pumpkin and syrup and whisk together; bring to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk egg yolks and pumpkin pie spice in a separate bowl.

    3. ADD the hot pumpkin mixture slowly to the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Add 1/4 cup pecans and 1 tablespoon crystallized ginger. Pour mixture into eight 6-ounce ramekins. Place ramekins in a hot water bath.

    4. BAKE 40 to 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center of custard comes out clean. Transfer ramekins to a rack to cool completely. Chill, covered, until cold (at least 2 hours).

    5. COMBINE sugar, 1 teaspoon crystallized ginger and 1 tablespoon pecans. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons evenly over each ramekin. Broil until topping is caramelized. Serve.

     

    Pumpkin pie spice is a blend of cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg.

     

    RECIPE: PUMPKIN PIE SPICE

    Unless you use a lot of it and like the convenience, there’s no reason to buy pre-blended pumpkin pie spice. It’s easy to mix it from other spices you already have.

    Ingredients For 2 Teaspoons

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  •  
    Blend together.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Food Bar Part 3: Desserts

    A simple creation from a s’mores bar.
    Photo courtesy Tastefully Simple.

     

    Over the last two days, we’ve covered breakfast food bars and lunch/dinner food bars.

    Today: ideas for dessert food bars. We conclude tomorrow with snacks and drinks.

    FOOD BAR IDEAS: DESSERT & SNACKS

  • Cake Bar: Angel cake, bundts, cheesecake, or loaf cakes (easiest to slice—carrot cake, chocolate cake, pound cake) with dessert sauces (caramel sauce, fudge sauce, strawberry sauce), whipped cream and garnishes (berries, crushed oreos, nuts).
  • Caramel Apple Bar: see our separate article.
  • Cookie Bar: Offer large or small cookies (chocolate, oatmeal, sugar, etc.) with fillings and frosting, plus garnishes (candies, chocolate chips, chopped nuts, sprinkles)
  • Cupcake Bar: Set out frosted cupcakes, or have a frost-your-own option with different frostings. Garnishes: banana chips, berries, candied bacon, candies (chocolate curls, crushed toffee, mini chips, seasonal candy), edible flowers.
  •  

  • Pie Bar: A selection of pies—apple, berry, chocolate cream, custard, pumpkin, e.g.) with dessert sauces (caramel sauce, custard sauce), whipped cream and garnishes (crystallized ginger, fresh fruit).
  • S’mores Bar: Regular and chocolate-covered graham crackers, regular and flavored marshmallows, different chocolate (bittersweet, milk, white, flavored—like chipotle chocolate), marshmallow creme (here are more ideas for a s’mores party).
  • Sorbet Bar: A lighter way to go after a heavy main meal, sorbet is cholesterol-free, lactose free and vegan. Offer different flavors with berries, coconut chips, crushed pineapple, diced melon, fruit sauce (puréed berries, mango, etc.), gummies, granola, pistachios or slivered almonds.
  • Sundae Bar/Banana Split Bar: Different flavors of ice cream with your choices of everything above!
  •  
    Are you ready to throw a party? Follow up a lunch or dinner food bar with a dessert food bar, or simply do one. Either way, it will be memorable.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Ricotta & Honey

    Most people think of ricotta as a filling or topping for lasagne, manicotti, ravioli and white pizza. On the sweet side, it’s the base of cannoli cream and the base of Italian cheesecake.

    But you can use this fresh Italian cheese:

  • To make creamy sauces: Add a spoonful or more to tomato sauce, right before you take it from the stove.
  • Add it to frittatas, omelets and scrambled eggs.
  • Make ricotta pancakes—so fluffy!
  • Bread spread: Enjoy it on toast, English muffins or crostini with a pinch of salt and pepper, or paired with jam. Add herbs and spices for an appetizer spread, and sliced tomatoes for a sandwich.
  • As a dip, blended with anything from herbs to pureed pimento and lemon zest.
  • And many other recipes.
  •  

    A dessert of fresh ricotta, honeycomb and crostini. Photo courtesy Davanti Enoteca.

     

    Today’s tip, though, is to serve ricotta for dessert. It was inspired by Davanti Enoteca in Chicago’s Little Italy.

    The restaurant offers a dessert of ricotta and a piece honeycomb with toasts. You can drizzle liquid honey over the ricotta instead of serving a piece of honeycomb.

    Serving the ricotta in a mini mason jar adds to the charm (see photo above), but consider rocks glasses, goblets and whatever you own. (Here’s another use for those sherbet Champagne glasses, which should never be used for Champagne).

     

    Honeycomb. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE
    NIBBLE.

     

    Recipe Variations

  • Jam and nuts: a spoonful of jam (try apricot or fig) with slivered almonds, chopped walnuts or pistachios.
  • Dried fruits and nuts: blueberries, cherries, raisins or a mixture.
  • Fresh berries, also with honey. For an adult treat, marinate the berries in Grand Marnier or other fruit liqueur.
  • Almondina or Nonni’s ThinAddictives Biscotti.
  • Toasted raisin bread, raisin-walnut or any nutted bread is a match made in heaven.
  •  
    It’s a simple cheese course that also provides sweetness. We like it for dessert, as well as for breakfast, brunch or snacking.

    TIP: Use the best ricotta you can find. While average brands are fine to mix into recipes, here the ricotta is the main event. If you live in the northeast, look for Calabro ricotta: It’s terrific.
     

     
    FAVORITE RICOTTA DIET FOOD

    We love cannoli: the crunch of the fried shell against the rich, sweet ricotta filling.

    One of our diet treat recipes is to take lowfat ricotta, sweeten to taste with a noncaloric sweetener, and blend until smooth.

    Add a few mini chocolate chips, and you’ve got cannoli without the shell.
     
    WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT RICOTTA CHEESE.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Fruit Sushi Rolls

    Mango-tuna is one of the three mango sushi
    rolls at Whole Foods Markets. Photo courtesy
    Genjiweb.com.

     

    If you patronize a more creative sushi bar, you’ve probably seen mango in a couple of orientations: within a roll or as a wrap.

    While most sweet fruits don’t pair seamlessly with sushi, mango is an exception. Pineapple, which might seem a match in theory, is too acidic and at best complements a heavy flavored fish like mackerel. Others, like kiwi and strawberry, often don’t assert themselves enough.

    But the exotic flavors of mango seem to blend with all raw fish, as well as cooked items like shrimp and lobster; and the meaty mango texture has a similar consistency.

    If you’re near a Whole Foods Market, check out the sushi bar for three new mango-based rolls:

  • California Mango Fresh Roll, a piece of mango added to a California roll instead of tamago (egg custard); ours also included avocado and shredded carrot
  • Coconut Shrimp Mango Roll
  • Tuna Mango Roll
  •  
    The rolls are wrapped in rice paper and lettuce instead of nori, and served with a Thai-style peanut dipping sauce.

    Whole Foods’ in-store sushi bars are operated by Genji Sushi. The company started as a sushi bar in Philadelphia then expanded to Genji Express, a chain of grab-and-go sushi shops. Over time, the company developed partnerships with upmarket food chains, and are currently in 165 Whole Foods Markets nationwide.

    The menu includes raw, cooked, vegetarian and vegan-friendly sushi. The current executive chef, Takao Iinuma, is a protégé of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. The creativity filters down: Sushi chefs at different locations create their own specialties. So drop in and take a look.

     

    FRUIT SUSHI

    Fruit sushi is not a conventional Japanese preparation; it’s American fusion. Beyond combining it with seafood, enthusiasts have turned it into dessert.

    Anything goes in the fruit department. Some fruits—kiwis, mangoes, peaches, strawberries—are pliant enough to be sliced and draped over nigiri-style rice pads. Others, like apple and pineapple, need to be cut into sticks or diced and added to rolls.

    Check out this recipe from Food-Like.com, which cooks the rice in coconut milk for an even richer effect.

    Purée fruit as a dipping sauce, and have fun with it.

     

    Dessert sushi. Photo courtesy Food-Life.com.

     

    If you’ve always wanted to make sushi, why not start with dessert sushi? You don’t have to worry about the freshness of the fish—or the expense.

    If you’re not the dextrous type, check out the Sushezi, which makes no-fail sushi rolls in a mold—no mat required. While we haven’t tried Sushi Magic, it provides molds for nigiri-style sushi in addition to rolls.
     
    WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT SUSHI?

    Check out our Sushi Glossary: the different types of sushi, related foods and beautiful photos.

      

    Comments

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