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RECIPES: Two Homemade Soft Pretzels ~ Pepperoni & Parmesan

If you’re looking for snack fare for the Super Bowl, or warm, aromatic soft pretzels anytime, here are two recipes for your consideration.

But first, here’s the history of pretzels.

We love all good bread, and a soft, doughy pretzel (with mustard, please) is one of our favorites.

If the pretzel is warm, it’s our idea of pretzel heaven. And for pepperoni lovers, pretzel heaven doesn’t get more welcoming than this recipe. It’s like a pepperoni pizza in pretzel form.

Thanks to Pampered Chef for this recipe. If you don’t have a pizza stone, here are five alternatives.

Here’s a video to help you with rolling the rope and twisting the pretzels (photo #3).
Ingredients For 8 Large Pretzels

  • Canola oil for spraying the stone
  • 1 package (11 ounces) refrigerated thin pizza crust, or a 13.8-ounce (283 g) package of refrigerated pizza crust
  • 4 mozzarella string cheese sticks (1 ounce/30 g each), unwrapped
  • 1/2 ounce (15 g) fresh parmesan cheese
  • 25 slices (about 1.5 oz/45 g) slices pepperoni, divided
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • Optional dipping sauces: marinara or pizza sauce, ranch salad dressing, or mustard

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425ºF (220ºC). Spray the pizza stone with oil. If you don’t have a spritzer, lightly brush with a pastry brush.

    2. UNROLL the pizza dough onto a pastry mat. Roll the dough into a 17” x 12” (43 cm x 30 cm) rectangle. Cut the dough in half lengthwise.

    3. SLICE the cheese sticks in half lengthwise to create 8 pieces. Grate the parmesan a fine grater. You should have at least 1 tablespoon (30 mL). Note: String cheese comes in several shapes and sizes; any one works. For the best results, no matter the string cheese size, line the slices up without overlapping, and make sure to trim any that hang over the edges of the dough.

    4. LIGHTLY BRUSH the upper edge of each dough half with the egg white. Arrange 8 slices pepperoni along the lower edge of each dough half, then top with cheese stick pieces. Trim any excess cheese that hangs over the dough.

    5. TIGHTLY ROLL each dough half and filling to create a rope, pinching the edges firmly to seal. Slightly stretch the dough ropes.

    6. MOVE the dough ropes to the center of the stone to begin making the pretzels. Form one long rope by pinching together one end of each small dough rope. Bring the free ends of the rope together to make an open circle. Twist the free ends of the dough one time, then bring the twisted end toward yourself and fold it down onto the base of the pretzel. SEE THE VIDEO.

    7. Brush the pretzels with egg white (some egg white may be left over) and top with the remaining pepperoni slices and grated parmesan cheese. Bake for 14–18 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Serve with optional dipping sauce(s).

    The dipping sauce for these pretzels (photo #3), from Wisconsin Cheese, is warm beer-cheese dip, similar to cheese fondue.


  • 1 tube (13.8 ounces) refrigerated pizza crust
  • 2-1/2 quarts water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 ounces parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup—use good cheese for best results)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Warm Beer-Cheese Dip Recipe or prepared mustard
    For the Warm Beer-Cheese Dip

  • 6 ounces lager or amber beer/ale
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 12 (3 cups) ounces roasted red pepper jack cheese* or substitute, shredded

    Pepperoni Pretzel
    [1] This pepperoni pretzel, with mozzarella and marinara dipping sauce, is a brother to pepperoni pizza (photo courtesy Pampered Chef).

    [2] Quality pepperoni from DeLallo.

    Soft Pretzels Parmesan
    [3] The dipping sauce is parmesan and beer (photo courtesy Wisconsin Cheese).

    [4] Pepper Jack for the Warm Beer-Cheese Dip that accompanies the Parmesan Pretzels (photo courtesy Eau Galle Cheese).

    Twisting Pretzel Dough
    [5] Rolling the dough into a pretzel (photo courtesy Pampered Chef).


    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Line two 15 x 10-inch baking pans with parchment paper.

    2. UNROLL the pizza crust on a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough widthwise into 12 strips, each about 1-inch wide. Carefully stretch each strip into a 24-inch rope.

    3. FORM each rope into a U shape. Overlap the ends, twisting once. Fold the ends down; press them tightly onto the bottom of U to secure the pretzel shape.

    4. BRING the water and baking soda to boil in a Dutch oven over high heat, stirring occasionally. Drop the pretzels, two at a time, into the boiling water. Boil for 30 seconds, submerging the pretzels in the water.

    5. REMOVE with a slotted spatula and drain on paper towels. Transfer to the prepared pans and brush then tops with egg wash. Bake for 10 minutes. Meanwhile…

    6. COMBINE the parmesan and garlic powder in a small bowl. Sprinkle each pretzel with about 1 tablespoon of the parmesan mixture. Bake for 2-3 minutes longer or until the pretzels are golden brown.

    7. MAKE the beer-cheese dip while the pretzels cool. Bring the beer just to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low; simmer for 2 minutes.

    8. WHISK in the cream cheese and cayenne pepper until smooth. Gradually stir in the pepper jack until melted. Serve warm with pretzels. Makes 2 cups.

    *Monterey Jack is a semi-soft cheese. When young, it resembles muenster; when aged, it resembles cheddar. Pepper Jack cheese is Monterey Jack with red and/or green jalapeño peppers added.


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    RECIPE: Beef Cacciatore

    Beef Cacciatore
    [1] Beef cacciatore: Hearty food for a cold day (photo courtesy Touchwood Editions).

    Fig Balsamic Vinegar Lucero
    [2] Fig is one of several flavors of Lucero fruit-infused balsamic vinegars.

    Italy Recipes For Olive Oil & Vinegar Lovers
    [3] The cookbook “Italy: Recipes For Olive Oil & Vinegar Lovers,” from which the Beef Cacciatore recipe is excerpted (photo courtesy Touchwood Editions).


    It’s freezing across 75% of the country today: a day for hearty fare like this braised rump roast (photo #1).

    That’s why we were glad that we already had the ingredients for this delicious roast, and didn’t have to set foot outdoors.

    The recipe is excerpted from Italy: Recipes for Olive Oil and Vinegar Lovers, by Emily Lycopolus, photography by D.L. Acken (photo #3). It was reprinted by Lucero Olive Oil with the permission of TouchWood Editions.

    If you can lay your hands on some fig balsamic vinegar for the recipe (photo #2), you get even more of a rich sweetness than with plain balsamic. You also need an ovenproof, flameproof roasting pan.

    Most of us know cacciatore only as chicken cacciatore. When you check out the history of chicken cacciatore, below, you’ll understand why there was no beef cacciatore until the affordable beef of the 20th century and beyond.

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 3–4 pounds beef rump roast
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 2 cups button mushrooms*
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, preferably robust style (e.g. Tuscan EVOO†)
  • 1 can (28 ounces) whole plum tomatoes
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 3/4 cup fig dark balsamic vinegar (substitute regular balsamic)

    Slow cooker instructions are below.

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Rinse the beef with hot water and pat it dry. Season with the rosemary and salt and pepper, and let sit for 5 minutes. Meanwhile…

    2. CHOP the onion, slice the mushrooms, and crush the garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife, keeping the cloves whole.

    3. HEAT the ovenproof, flame-proof pan over high heat on the stove top and drizzle in the olive oil. Sear the roast on all sides. Don’t rush the searing, but allow the meat to brown fully and evenly, including the ends. Remove the roast from the pan and turn the heat to medium.

    4. PLACE the onion and garlic in the pan and sauté them in the beef drippings. If the pan is dry, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté until just translucent, then add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms start to soften, 3–5 minutes.

    5. POUR the juice from the tomatoes into the pan and stir to gently scrape off any bits from the bottom of the pan. Gently crush the tomatoes in your hands before adding them to the onion-mushroom mixture. Continue to sauté the mixture for 3–5 minutes, just until the tomato juices begin to reduce and the sauce starts to thicken.

    6. REMOVE the pan from the stove. Nestle the roast into the mushroom mixture. Pour in the beef stock and the balsamic vinegar and cover tightly with a lid or foil.

    7. BAKE until the internal temperature of the roast reaches 160°F, about 1-1/2 hours. Let the roast sit for 10–15 minutes before carving. Serve with a spoonful of braised mushrooms on the side.

    For slow cookers: Place the roast in the bowl of the cooker, cover with the mushroom mixture, and pour in the balsamic and stock as directed. Cover and cook for 6–8 hours on low. Let sit for 15 minutes before carving.

    Most of us are familiar with Chicken Cacciatore (cah-cha-TAW-ray), which is an Italian country dish. Beef would have been a luxury.

    Cacciatore means hunter, so the dish is “hunter-style” (in Italian, it’s pollo alla cacciatora). The game that the hunter brought home was braised in olive oil with garden vegetables—a light tomato sauce with garlic, herbs, onions and bell peppers, plus wild mushrooms and a bit of wine (white wine in the north, red wine in the south).

    The family’s chickens got the same treatment as game. Chicken cacciatore had been called a “hunter’s solace,” with poultry from the yard or purchased at the market replacing the pheasant or hare that got away. The wild mushrooms were foraged in the forest by the hunter, so he didn’t come home empty-handed.

    The dish has its roots in in central Italy in the Renaissance, and has many variations, both there and throughout the country. One of the more unusual is salamino cacciatore, made with a small salame. Remember, back in the day, in most homes there wasn’t a kitchen stocked with more food than could be eaten short-term, or a market down the street loaded with options. If you had it, or found it, you used it.

    Here’s a classic recipe for Chicken Cacciatore.

    Beef has never been a major food source in Italy, and even today, it’s pricey (that is, even pricier than elsewhere). That’s why “Beef Cacciatore” never joined the standard culinary repertoire.


    *We love mushrooms, so doubled the amount and included a blend of cultivated wild mushrooms, so we had mushrooms enough for a “side.”
    †A robust olive oil, as opposed to a delicate or medium profile, has a bold flavor, a balanced bitterness, and a peppery finish. Tuscan varietals like Frantoio and Leccino—or Tuscan blends—tend to be robust in style.

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    FOOD FUN: Peanut Butter Sandwiches With Bacon & Banana For National Peanut Butter Day

    January 24th is National Peanut Butter Day; March 1st is National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day. April 2nd is National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day.

    We’re obviously a PB-loving nation.

    It won’t take you long to make this PB…and B…and B sandwich. That’s peanut butter, bacon and banana.

    The recipe comes from King’s Hawaiian, one of our favorite supermarket breads. It’s slightly sweet, a cousin to challah.

    The recipe was developed by Chef Neens from Ono Yum restaurant in Carlsbad, California.

    Here’s our review of King’s Hawaiian bread, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week.

    You can make a two-slice sandwich or a triple decker (photo #1). It’s even more fun if you have a large round cookie cutter, but you can make these sandwiches old style (just regular slices of bread).

    Prep time is 10 minutes, plus 5 minutes to cook the bacon.

    Ingredients Per Sandwich

  • 1 banana, mashed
  • Peanut butter to taste
  • 1 strip bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 2 or 3 slices King’s Hawaiian Original Sweet Sliced Bread or other choice
  • Optional: 1 circle cookie cutter

    1. CUT circles from each slice of bread. This de-crusts the bread for a great presentation, as well.

    2. SPREAD the peanut butter on the bottom slice, and add the chopped bacon.

    3. SPREAD the mashed banana evenly over the top slice. If you’d like a third layer, spread more peanut butter on the top slice, with any leftover bacon or banana. Stack and enjoy with a side of fresh berries.


    Peanut Butter, Banana & Bacon Sandwich [1] Have you made a PB & B & B sandwich before? It’s easy…and so yummy (photo courtesy Kings Hawaiian).

    [2] This slightly sweet bread adds a lift to your PB sandwich (photo courtesy King’s Hawaiian).



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    RECIPE: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

    Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake
    [1] Sink your teeth into this chocolate peanut butter cheesecake (photo courtesy Plugra).

    [2] Use your favorite creamy peanut butter (photo courtesy Jif).

    Chopped Chocolate
    [3] The better the chocolate you use, the better-tasting the outcome will be (photo courtesy Nothin’ But Foods).


    National Peanut Butter Day is January 24th. We’ve had many flavors of cheesecake in our time, but never one with peanut butter. There’s a first time for everything.

    And this cheesecake is not just peanut butter: It’s “peanut butter cup,” with a layer of chocolate.

    The recipe is from Jack McDavid, Chef/Owner of Jack’s Firehouse in Philadelphia (located in a 19th-century firehouse).

    Prep time is 45 minutes, bake time is 1 hour plus cooling and refrigeration for 12 hours or overnight.


    For The Crust

  • 2 cups breadcrumbs or crust of choice (graham cracker, e.g.)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
    For The Filling

  • 2-1/2 pounds cream cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1-2/3 cups bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature

    1. MAKE the crust. Place the crust ingredients in food processor until smooth. Press into a 9″ springform pan and refrigerate until ready to use. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

    2. MAKE the filling: Place chocolate and butter in double boiler over simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.

    3. PLACE the cream cheese, sugar and eggs in a bowl and beat until creamy. Separate the cheese mixture into 2 equal parts. Add the peanut butter to one half and blend well. Add the chocolate to the other half and blend well.

    4. POUR the chocolate mixture into springform pan. Pour the peanut butter mixture on top.

    5. BAKE for 1 hour. To tell if your cheesecake is done, gently shake the cheesecake. If it looks nearly set and only a small circle in the center jiggles slightly, it is done. The center will firm up as it cools. Do not use a knife to check doneness.

    6. TURN OFF the oven off and allow to cool for 1 our in the oven, with the door cracked open. Then remove it from the oven and let the cake cool completely on the counter, to room temperature.

    7. COVER and chill the cheesecake in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours, but serve it at room temperature. Remove it from the fridge about 1 hour before serving. If you like, slice the cheesecake while it’s still cold, to make slicing easier. Use a knife dipped in hot water.

  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Fried Ice Cream
  • Easy Peanut Butter Fudge
  • Easy Peanut Butter Ice Cream
  • Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies
  • Fun Peanut Butter Sandwich Recipes
  • Gourmet Ants On A Log
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly Rice Krispie Treats
  • Peanut Butter Cake With Malted Peanut Butter Ice Cream & Candied Bacon
  • Peanut Butter Dessert Ravioli
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly Oatmeal
  • Peanut Butter Freezer Fudge With Chocolate Chips
  • Triple Peanut Butter Cookies
  • Spicy Peanut Butter Sauce & Marinade
  • Waffle PB&J Ice Cream Sandwich


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    FOOD 101: The Different Types Of Pastry

    January 23rd is National Pie Day, and we’ve been fielding questions about the difference between pies and tarts, and the difference between pie and pastry.

    To start, we refer you to one of our most popular articles, The Difference Between Pie and Pastry.

    Now on to pastry.

    Pastry is a broad category that includes pies and tarts as well as smaller pastries: baklava, bear claws, cannoli, cinnamon rolls, cream puffs, danish, éclairs, napoleons, turnovers, and on and on through the celestial realm of pastry.

    The word can refer to the finished pastry, or the dough from which it is made.

    The key identifier of pastry is the crust (or shell). Pastry dough is made from flour, water and/or other liquid (e.g. milk), and shortening, which comprises solid fats (butter, lard, shortening, etc.) and and fillings/flavorings (chocolate, fruit, spices, extracts, etc.).

    It can also have a leavening to make it rise. Types of leavening include baking powder, baking soda, beaten eggs, steam and yeast (but baking powder, baking soda and yeast are not used in pastry).

    Pastries can be sweet or savory.

  • While most people think of pastry as sweet, savory pastries include pies (meat pies, vegetable pies, hand pies, pockets (including empanadas and stromboli), pot pies, quiches (a type of tart), vegetable and/or meat tarts and turnovers.
  • “Pizza pie” is not a pie, i.e., not a pastry. It is a flatbread with toppings.
    Some history: The French word pâtisserie originally referred to anything made with pastry dough (originally called a paste, and later, pâte [pronounced pot]). It was not sweet. By the 20th century, the term came to be associated with sweets.

    The difference between pastry and bread is in the process as well as ingredients. While there are common ingredients (flour, water, salt), pastry has a high fat content, typically butter or shortening. Sweet pastries have sugar and other flavorings (vanilla, spices) as well as eggs and milk.

    Here are a few of the other general differences:

  • Bread is made with flour, water and salt with yeast as a leavener (flatbreads do not use yeast). Yeast produces the small holes in the bread.
  • Pastry is made with flour and fat, usually with a little water. In some types of rich bread, like brioche, butter, eggs and milk are added.
  • In pastry, the dough is worked minimally, to avoid the development of gluten. In bread, the dough is mixed and kneaded to develop lots of gluten.
  • Pastry dough is not kneaded but is mixed just to the point where the fat and flour come together. Overworking the dough results in hard/tough pastry.
  • Pastry dough is not leavened and does not rise. Bread dough is leavened with yeast, and can take hours to rise. Since pastry dough is not leavened, it doesn’t rise.
  • Pastry dough is rolled out thinly and used as a base for for fillings or flavorings. Bread dough is molded into a loaf. It may have inclusions, e.g. nuts, olives, raisins, spices).

    Choux (pronounced shoo) pastry is a very light pastry that is often filled with cream.

    Unlike other types of pastry dough, choux can be be piped into various shapes—the round cream puff and profiterole, and the elongated éclairs.

    (The difference between cream puffs and profiteroles is that the latter are filled with ice cream and frozen.)

    The high percentage of water in the dough causes the pastry to expand into a light, hollow shell when baking. The water turns to steam and causes the pastry to rise.

    Once the choux dough has expanded, it is taken out of the oven; a hole is made in it to let the steam out. The pastry is then placed back in the oven to dry out and become crisp.

    In addition to cream puffs and other sweet choux, there are savory choux pastries, filled with cheese, chicken, tuna, etc.

    Here’s a recipe for choux pastry and gougères.
    Flaky Pastry & Puff Pastry

    Flaky pastry is a light and [as its name indicates] flaky. It is also known as quick puff pastry and blitz puff pastry.

    Flaky pastry is similar to puff pastry, with this key difference:

    With flaky pastry, large lumps of butter or shortening are mixed into the dough. With puff pastry (see below), large rectangles (shards) of butter or shortening are inserted between layers of pastry.

    Flaky pastry is heavier than puff pastry, but easier to make. The layers expand when baked, yielding a crisp, buttery pastry. It is most often use for savory pies and wraps (e.g. sausage rolls).
    Hot Water Crust Pastry

    Hot water crust pastry is primarily used for meat pies. The combination of flour, hot water, eggs and lard produces a rich, crisp pastry.

    The ingredients create a sticky paste that is shaped by hand, molded in a bowl or other container. As the crust cools, it is filled, covered with a top crust and baked.
    Phyllo (Filo)

    Phyllo is a paper-thin pastry dough that has many paper-thin layers. The name means leaf in Greek.

    The dough is typically wrapped around a filling—sweet or savory—and brushed with butter before baking. Examples are baklava (photo #4) and spanakopita, spinach pie.

    The result is a very delicate and very flaky pastry. Wear a napkin: There will be plenty of tiny shards flaking off with each forkful.

    This is not an easy pastry to make, so some people prefer to purchase ready-made filo pastry, which is typically sold frozen.

    Even ready-made phyllo is not easy to use: Each layer must be brushed with a liquid fat (melted butter, oil) and covered with a cloth so it doesn’t dry out before baking.
    Puff Pastry

    Puff pastry, a tender flaked pastry dough, is made with many layers of dough that puff up when baked.

    The pastry rises as a result of the fat and air trapped between the layers, abetted by the water in the dough, which turns into steam.

    This type of pastry is time-consuming and often left to professionals. It is used for savory pies and vol-au-vents, as well as popular pastries like cream horns and mille feuilles.
    Rough Puff Pastry

    Rough puff pastry is a cross between puff pastry and flaky pastry. It is easier to make than puff pastry, and still yields a light and flaky pastry.

    It’s largely used for savoury pie and tarts and wraps.
    Shortcrust Pastry

    Shortcrust pastry is the simplest and most common pastry, commonly called “pie dough.” It is used for one- or two-crust pies and quiches; some people use it for tarts.

    Shortcrust pastry is made with flour, fat, butter, salt, and water to bind the dough.

    The term shortcrust refers to the cutting of the fat into the flour, which inhibits gluten formation by coating the gluten strands. The result is a flaky, tender pastry that can be used for sweet or savory pies, tarts and flans.

    Here’s a recipe for a classic two-crust shortcrust.
    Pâte Sucrée (Sweet Crust Pastry or Sweet Tart Pastry)

    We make all of our tarts with pâte sucrée (pot sue-CRAY). A tart is is a shallow pastry with only a bottom crust. It is typically made in a fluted pan with a removable bottom.

    Tart crusts are traditionally made with butter to achieve a buttery pastry flavor and a firm texture. A tart taken out of its pan can stand independently.

    Savory tarts are usually made with shortcrust pastry, but some people find pâte sucrée essential for a sweet tart.

    As opposed to shortcrust pastry/pie dough, which is typically made without sugar, pâte sucrée is a sweet dough that incorporates sugar and egg yolks. The sugar and egg yolks are used instead of water to bind the pastry.

    The result is a rich, sweet shell for a tart. The crust is reminiscent of a shortbread cookie.

    While both pie and tart crusts use the same ingredients (flour, shortening, cold water, salt), they are in different proportions for different purposes. See The Difference Between Pie and Pastry.


    Lattice Apple Pie
    [1] An apple pie with a surprise—salted caramel—and a lattice crust. Here’s the recipe from Williams-Sonoma.

    Chocolate Mousse Tart
    [2] A chocolate mousse tart with berries. Here’s the recipe from Rainbow Nourishments.

    Cinnamon Rolls
    [3] Cinnamon rolls. Here’s the recipe from Baker Chick.

    [4] Baklava, a Mediterranean pastry made with phyllo dough, filled with with nuts and honey.

    Peach Galette
    [5] A galette is a rustic pie, shaped by hand without a pie pan. It’s how pies were made in the centuries before pie pans became affordable to the rank and file (photo courtesy Frog Hollow Farm).

    Cheese Straws
    [6] Cheese straws are made from pastry dough (photo courtesy

    Savory Cream Puffs
    [7] Cream puffs can be savory, like these made with savory herb and mustard cream and pork, from The Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland.

    [7] These savory gougères—made with pancetta, thyme and fontina cheese—are from Chef Aida Mollenkamp. Here’s the recipe. All gougères are savory: They are made with cheese, often gruyère, and anything else the chef wishes to add. Smoked salmon and chives is a popular addition.

    Ready to bake? If you aren’t baking as much as you like, consider inviting a friend to join you. Make a double batch, so you each have a pastry to enjoy.

    Or, if the friend doesn’t want to take home a pastry, just let the one cool, and enjoy it together with coffee.


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