Best Biscuits: Taste Better Than They Look, I Promise!

Welcome to the 400th Metamorphosis Monday!

Wowza! Where have these last 400 weeks gone? I’ve enjoyed every single one of them with you! Here’s to the next 100! We’ll have to plan something fun for when we hit 500 around two years from now. πŸ™‚

Best Biscuits (A recipe from the book,Β Heart of the Home, by Susan Branch)

So you know those recipe blog posts you see in Blogland where the food looks absolutely amazing in the finished photos, like something right out of a magazine or a Martha Stewart book? This is not one of those posts! lol

I’ve been hoping to try a recipe from Susan Branch’s Heart of the Home book ever since I read her book, Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams, and learned that Heart of the Home was the very first book she ever wrote.

heart-of-the-home-by-susan-branch

 

The recipe I decided to try first was her “Best Biscuits” recipe. I’ve been hoping to find a home-made biscuit recipe that was easy because I really dislike the taste and texture of Β store-bought biscuits, canned or frozen.

biscuits-recipe

 

Here’s a close-up of the recipe in case you would like to give it a try. (Hit Ctrl + on your keyboard a few times for a closer view, then Ctrl 0 (zero) when you’re done.)

Just as Susan has done in all her books, she hand-wrote and hand-illustrated this delightful book. Oh, and when you see my biscuits, don’t judge the recipe by how mine look! lol Fluffy–they’re not, tasty–they are!

home-made-biscuits-recipe-by-susan-branch

 

These were the ingredients needed for this recipe: Unbleached Flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, heavy cream and butter. I was surprised to discover that the butter doesn’t actually go in the biscuits, you just use it for brushing on the bottoms and tops.

ingredients-for-home-made-biscuits

 

This is such an easy recipe! You start by dumping all the ingredients (except the cream and butter) into a bowl and stirring them with a fork. Below are the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder in their pre-stirred state.

biscuit-recipe-for-homemade-biscuits

 

Next, you add the 1 to 1-1/2 cups of cream a little at the time “stirring constantly” per the directions. This part made me a tad anxious since there’s a pretty big difference between 1 cup of cream and 1-1/2 cups of cream.

I instantly thought to myself, this is one of those “eyeball it” recipes where you add the ingredients a little at the time, eyeballing it as you go looking for that magic moment when you’ve hit the perfect consistency. Uh-oh. Since I’ve only made biscuits from scratch maybe once before a gazillion years ago, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to spot that perfect moment when it arrived.

I decided to not use my mixer since the recipe never mentioned a mixer (only a fork) and I was concerned a mixer would over-stir it. I quickly found I couldn’t really add the cream at the same time I was “stirring constantly,” so I settled for adding a little cream, sitting the cream down, stirring, adding a little more cream, sitting the cream back down, then stirring some more. Ummm, maybe I should use my dough-hook thingy that came with my mixer next time and add the milk as it stirs the dough for me.

Eventually the dough became way too thick for stirring, but still looked too dry to my neophyte, biscuit-making eyes. At that point I used my clean-hands to “stir” in the cream until the dough looked like this.

home-made-biscuits-from-scratch

 

This is how much cream I had left over in the end, having started with 1-1/2 cups. So I used a little shy of 1-1/4 cups of cream.

left-over-cream

 

I placed the dough on a floured-cutting board and kneaded it for approximately one minute, as stated in the directions. I added flour occasionally to the cutting board whenever the dough began to stick to the board.

biscuit-dough

 

Next, I patted the dough flat to about 3/4 inches thick. I was super tempted to get out my rolling-pin for this part but the directions said to pat, so I stuck with that. That’s one of the things I had liked about this recipe: besides having so few and such simple everyday ingredients, you didn’t need much of anything to make it, not even a mixer or a rolling-pin.

I think I may have left the dough a bit too tall in some places. The next time I make this recipe, I’ll probably break out the rolling-pin since the height of my biscuits varied quite a bit. A talented “patter,” I’m not! πŸ˜‰

Update: Just read online that you’re never supposed to use a rolling pin…scratch that idea!

making-home-made-biscuit

 

The first biscuits I cut out looked pretty uniform, but after squishing the left-over dough back together and patting it down once again, the next biscuits I cut out looked very uneven. I thought the unevenness would sort itself out during the baking process. Uhh–nope! That turned out to be a false hope as you’ll see in just a sec. That little guy on the top row was my left-over dough in the end.

I brushed melted butter on both sides of each biscuit and popped them into my preheated 425Β° oven.

biscuits

 

Okay, I know they look a little funny, but they taste delicious! I have a feeling I did something wrong though because “fluffy” isn’t an adjective I would use to describe these. My flour was brand new and my baking powder was nowhere near its expiration date.Β  So, all of you way-more-experienced, biscuit-making bakers out there: what did I do wrong? Did I knead a little too long? Use a little too much cream?

These biscuits are really good so don’t let my funny-looking results deter you from trying this recipe. I will definitely be making them again!

baked-biscuits-home-made

 

You’ll find Susan’s beautifully illustrated, hand-writtenΒ book available here: Heart of the Home: Notes from a Vineyard Kitchen

Since I plan to make these biscuits again, I’ll be experimenting with how much cream I use, how long I knead, etc… so appreciate any suggestions. I’ll share a photo each time I make these because I’m hoping they’ll get both prettier and fluffier as I work to decipher the art of biscuit making. πŸ™‚

heart-of-the-home-by-susan-branch

 

Update: A 30th anniversary edition of Heart of the Home, has been released recently and you’ll find it here: Heart of the Home, Notes From a Vineyard Kitchen

heart-of-the-home-30th-anniversary-edition-by-susan-branch

Looking forward to all the fabulous Before and Afters for this Met Monday!

Metamorphosis Monday

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Comments

  1. I just read Isle of Dreams last month. I may have to get the cookbook. I enjoy the illustrations as much as her stories. I’m quite sure your biscuits look better than mine would. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  2. Hi Susan, I’m not much of a baker but as long as your biscuits taste good, that’s what counts! I ordered SB’s 30th anniversary addition of Heart of the Home and looking forward to cooking along πŸ™‚

  3. Hi Susan,
    I think you over manipulated the dough. It’s meant to be just combined and patted out (or lightly rolled) the gluten gets formed and makes a tough biscuit. Check out any Southern Living recipe or King Arthur Flour recipe for technique. It’s really easy, the hard part is wanting to really” mix and roll”,which you don’t !

    Happy Monday

    • I bet you’re right. I wish there was a little magic bell that went off to warn you to stop. lol
      This morning right after this post went up, I googled to see if anyone had any ideas on how to make biscuits fluffier. One woman online was describing her biscuits as hockey pucks, so that made me feel better. These don’t quite quality for hockey puck status. Yet. πŸ˜‰
      I’ve never heard of/seen King Arthur Flour. Is it really good? I noticed on one site the folks leaving comments were saying good things about White Lily, describing it as “southern flour.” I never realized it was connected to the south. I think someone said it had less protein in it which was supposed to be better for making biscuits, apparently. Who knew there was so much science in making biscuits! πŸ™‚

      • Personally, I love King Arthur Flour and use it all the time. I think it is more consistently good than some other flours. My mom used White Lily but if I am baking more than just biscuits I love KAF.

  4. I suppose uniformity is a baker’s ideal, but I’d have no hesitation grabbing one of those “imperfect” ones. And huge congratulations on 400!!

  5. Thank you Susan! Have a wonderful week!

  6. I find it much too easy to buy the frozen ones and we have some really good ones at the local grocery. I think I have tried to make them from scratch in high school Home Economics and they didn’t turn out that great. But you can do this!

    • I like frozen better than canned. Jan, these were so fast to make, even stopping to take photos along the way, that I wouldn’t hesitate now to make them from scratch. I always thought making them from scratch would take forever and involve letting them rise, etc… but it’s really fast. This could be mixed up and in the oven in probably 1o minutes or less.
      Thanks, Jan! I love biscuits so I better not get too good at making them! lol

    • lol Thanks, Jan! Practice makes perfect, right? Probably also makes my hips wider!

  7. These biscuits look just like the ones my Mom and aunts used to make for homemade Strawberry and Peach cobblers! On my Must-Try list! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Nancy Corson says:

    Susan, I think you over-handled the dough. A light touch is the best when patting the dough. Also, kneading for a minute seems way too long to me. I just mix until the dough comes together. Then I turn out on a floured cutting board and lightly tap until the dough is about 1.5 inches, then cut with a floured biscuit cutter. Don’t twist the cutter; just press all the way down. Hope this helps! Biscuits should be fluffy as well as taste good. Oh, another thing, I bake in a biscuit pan so that the biscuits are slightly touching each other. This makes for a softer biscuit instead of a crispy one.

    • Yup, I think you’re right. This dough felt so thick and heavy as I was patting it. I almost couldn’t push it down in places. Good tip on not twisting, I definitely did that.
      I’ll have to Google to see what biscuit pan is, maybe it’s like a cake pan, although I do like for biscuits to be a little crispy on the bottom and on the top.

  9. Thanks so much for hosting!!
    Hugs,
    Deb

  10. Having watched my mother make “from scratch” biscuits my entire life, I think you overworked the dough. She never measured but went on appearance and touch. I remember her saying that you handle the dough until “everything is mixed” and roll out onto floured surface (and her dough would look sticky), sprinkle a little flour on top of dough and roll out quickly as you don’t want to roll it too much. Dough that is handled (stirred, mixed, rolled, patted, etc) too much will get tough. Her biscuits were to die for and I wish I had gotten her to make up 100 dozen for my freezer so I could still enjoy them now that she is gone. I hope I will get to try some of your biscuits on my visit. I bet they are yummy!!! Got any Orange Marmalade? Well, then, I will take at least 2 biscuits, please!! Can’t wait.

    • Oh, that helps knowing that because when mine was still sticky, I thought it needed more flour on the cutting board. I’ll definitely knead it for less time, next time.
      lol I bought orange marmalade today. πŸ™‚

  11. Julie Williams says:

    Possible Biscuit Tips:
    When using the fork, fluff the flour and cream together as tho’ you’re goal is to barely wet the dry stuff and as tho’ you’re not driven by your goal. Handle as tho’ it’s a delicate baby bunny you’re massaging, use finger tips and half the length of your fingers rather than palms. No matter what logic tells you, 1 minute is overworking the biscuits if you attack it like yeast bread making. 1 minute of the gentlest handling, barely bringing the dough together is better. The more you handle dough the tougher it gets, the less it rises. Also remember that each time you make them, the flour may have a different humidity content so the batch will take more or less cream depending on how dry the weather or inside of the house is. The last remaining dough-bit biscuits will not be very pretty so use those as the taste tester’s reward–hot out of the over with jam–just for you. πŸ™‚ jw

    • I’m going to use a much wider bowl next time. The one that came with my mixer is so deep, that the dough in the bottom wasn’t getting wet when I poured in the cream. I wouldn’t have to handle it so much in wider bowl, I think. Thanks for those tips, Julie! That makes a lot of sense.

  12. Susan Branch has a wonderful blog at her website http://www.susanbranch.com and she usually responds to questions. I have contacted her a number of times and met her two years ago, when she did a book signing near my home. She is so gracious and really a wonderful person. I bet if you got in touch with her, she would give you the definitive answer about making these biscuits “perfect.” Enjoy your blog, too. Best wishes, Nancye T.

    • Thanks so much, Nancye! Yes! I subscribe to her blog updates and have a lot of her books. She is a doll! Just love her! I think she’s in England right now. Wonder if she’ll write another fabulous book when she returns. One of these days I’m going to make it to England and see some of the wonderful places she wrote about in her book, A Fine Romance. She could definitely tell me what to do to make those biscuits more flakey/fluffy. πŸ™‚

  13. rattlebridge farm says:

    My first scratch biscuits were so heavy, we tossed them off a balcony and even the sea gulls wouldn’t swoop in. Your biscuits look delicious. I’m like you–canned are for emergencies only!

  14. Congrats on your 400th party Susan! That’s amazing. I am always on the hunt for more recipes and will have to give this one a try!!! Have a wonderful week!

  15. Your biscuits made me smile. Especially the little one. My Mom used to sneak it to me because it baked the quickest. It was always special when you have a house full of hungry kids.

  16. Hi Susan, I think your biscuits look great and probably tasted great too, but I know you think they should have raised more. Like others have commented, you may have worked the dough too much, but that’s probably it. I have to admit that I am a Bisquick user and even with that you’re not supposed to over work it. I can remember Mom always putting butter on the tops of her biscuits before baking, helps them brown up.
    Susan Branch would probably get back to you if you posted the question on her blog, or got in touch, she’s very nice and good to answer questions . Currently she’s busy in England touring the English countryside, blogging and tweeting about it as she goes. Your blog and hers are my two top blogs I love to visit every week, and I thank you so much for all the informative things you post on here!

    • Thanks so much, Barb! Appreciate those kind words so much!
      I love Susan’s blog and all the things she posts about, definitely one of my faves.
      Yup, I think you’re right about the biscuits. I’m going to try to use a wider bowl next time so I can get the cream all into the dough without having to work it so much.
      Wouldn’t you love to be traveling the English countryside right now! Hope Susan writes another book about her trip when she returns, I will definitely buy it if she does!

  17. Lord knows, I could go for one or two of those biscuits. I’m on a low carb plan to lose my butt. LOL. Thanks for hosting! Have a great week! Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

  18. The biscuits look really nice! Have a great weak, Susan β™₯

    summerdaisycottage.blogspot.com

  19. Susan Eliabeth says:

    Susan
    I absolutely love your sense of humor and that little biscuit πŸ™‚ lol

  20. Anne Shaheen says:

    Check out the Blue Jean Chef from QVC….her biscuits are heavenly, and the technique is like none I have ever tried. BUT they are unbelievable…..so light and fluffy, its definitely the technique. I was a simple Bisquick biscuit maker, but these recipe is worth the effort. If you can’t find it, let me know.

  21. Elizabeth Roderick says:

    I believe making biscuits is a gift. My mother threw bisquick and a glug or two of milk in a bowl, dropped them on the pan in shoved them in the oven. They were all different sizes and great, unless she burned them, which she always blamed on the oven. She used whomp biscuits, I call them, cause you whomp them on the counter to open them, for her ‘dumplin’s’. They were also very good. It’s all in the broth, I’m sure. Giving up the carbs isn’t easy. I miss those lumpy biscuits. I don’t know how Susan Branch does everything so perfectly. She is a great lady and like you, one of my favorites!

  22. Happy 400th Met Monday, Susan, wowee! I’d be just like you making those biscuits. I am not one of those ad lib kind of cooks or bakers, either, but they look easy enough and I certainly trust your word.
    Oh my gosh, I was in Atlanta this past weekend for a family wedding – so hot and SO.MUCH.TRAFFIC. However, I made the best of it, thanks to your shopping tips. πŸ˜‰ Thanks for hosting us and have a great week!

    • Tell me about it! The traffic in my suburb/city is almost as bad as Atlanta now and getting worse every day. It was a lot cooler the week before, then it turned hot again. That’s our weather, always changing by the minute! Hope you had fun, though! Did you make it to the Atlanta Botanical Garden?

  23. Nancy Elizabeth says:

    Both of my parents are from Virginia. Every Sunday morning as long as I can remember my mother made (high and flakey biscuits). She would start by making “Fried Apples” green skin on in butter with a touch of brown sugar. If I lived close by we could make a batch of Grandma Reeds Biscuits.
    I will send you her recipe which includes: baking powder and cream of tarter. This post is so much fun:)

  24. It sounds just like my mothers recipe!

  25. Love Susan Branch! So great that you decided to give her recipe a try. My mom always used to say “practice makes perfect’. Handle dough as little as possible. So happy your biscuits were a success and tasted yummy.

  26. Those biscuits look yummy! Love your cute biscuit cutter. Thanks for the inspiration to make something. Since it has been raining for two days it feels like the perfect time to bake anything!

  27. I use a biscuit recipe I got out of a Southern Living book years ago. It calls for 2 cups self-rising flour and 1 cup whipping cream. That’s all. A stiff dough but they are so easy and delicious. Thanks for keeping us informed on all the pertinent stuff! Look forward to your post each day.

    • Bobbie, I just checked and it was whipping cream that I used. It was the only kind of “heavy cream” I could find. I wonder if there’s a heavy cream that isn’t whipping cream. Love Southern Living cookbooks!

  28. Happy 400 Susan! Wow that’s a lot of metamorphises! I love a good excuse for a party, and a biscuit for that matter! I think homemade stuff is better if it looks a little wonky, that means it came from love πŸ™‚ Thanks for the party-

  29. your biscuits look delish, thanks for hosting, Susan!

  30. As long as the biscuits tasted good, I would call that success, Susan! Have a wonderful week and thanks for hosting…400 wow! Pam @ Everyday Living

  31. My husband loves my biscuits, and I make them frequently. My recipe has butter in them, not on top. It looks to me as if the dough was too dry, I would have added more cream, as once you pat them on the floured board, they take on more flour. My dough is sticky when I pat them out. But for your first try, as long as they taste good, who cares how they look! I have that cookbook but have never tried the biscuits, my recipe is from the red check BH&G. And I always use heaping spoonfuls of baking powder, so they raise higher.

    • Yeah, I think it got dry because I kept adding flour to the cutting board. Next time I won’t knead the dough as much so I shouldn’t have the issue with it sticking to cutting board and adding more flour.
      I love that red checked cook book. My sister gave me one when I first got married and I’ve used it for several recipes over the years. One recipe I’ve use a lot from it is the one for deviled eggs. I may sneak in another spoonful of baking powder next time. Can’t hurt, right? πŸ˜‰

  32. Susan Branch is so talented! I enjoy her blog and, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, she has your blog listed on her blog site as one of her favorites. That’s how a friend of mine and I found your blog!
    Her recipes are very good! You would like her Christmas from the Heart of the Home book also.

    • Lee, I’m so glad you two are here reading, thanks for that!
      Awww, that is so nice of her, it’s definitely an honor to be part of that list. I just love Susan, she is a treasure! I’ve so enjoyed her last three books, couldn’t put them down once I started them. She has me craving a trip to England! I can’t wait to hear about her and Joe’s latest adventures there!

      Lee, I’m so glad you mentioned Susan’s Christmas book. I do have that one, bought it a couple of years back, but I’ve never tried any of the recipes. Have you tried any in that book? Do you have a favorite or one you recommend I try? I just pulled it off the shelf here in my office, definitely want to make something from it this year!

  33. Wow, congrats on your 400th! Thanks so much for hosting such an awesome party every week. Hope you have a great week!

  34. The wonderful Nathalie DuPree represented White Lily Flour for years while she had a cooking show on Public TV. She also taught cooking classes at Atlanta’s Rich’s department store. If you use her technique in this video, especially folding the dough, you will have light and fluffy biscuits. It works for the allusive delicious gluten free biscuits, too, using more cream to accommodate the gf flour blend. Definitely a go to recipe for a Southern Classic!
    http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/05/how-to-make-cream-biscuits-two-ingredient-southern-easy-recipe.html

    • Thanks, Nan…will definitely check that out. I’ve made these biscuits twice more and the second time they were better but the third time, they looked more like pancakes. lol So I will check out the video! πŸ™‚

  35. Wow, yet another coincidence: last night I was straightening up all my favorite “gal books.” I found a nice basket and started re-arranging them…and I saw Susan Branch’s one on the English countryside and sat down for a break and started reading it. I can’t even remember the last time I read one of her books, they’re great. Your biscuits sounds yummy – now thatit is finally cooling off I want to do more baking, too!

    Thanks for the party. I am SO excited to be part of the fun today.

  36. Katherine G says:

    Congratulations on 400 weeks – that’s a real accomplishment! Great suggestions above, but I didn’t see this one – After patting the dough, instead of cutting out circles, cut into squares with a knife, and transfer them all to baking sheet, separating just enough so they can just touch when they bake. This avoids the leftover pieces from cutting circles, that would have to be repatted together.

  37. I love Susan Branch and buy her products, but as a Southern gal, I diverge on the biscuit issue. My family–get ready for this–uses White Lily self-rising flour, lard and buttermilk–that’s all. That is also the way the Pioneer Woman makes biscuits. See her site:
    http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/self-rising-biscuits/
    And of course, there is the cut or roll debate. After thoroughly cleaning (like in surgery prep) I’m a roller. AND some say that these are not as bad as first believed–the lard label states O grams trans fat. The buttermilk even has an enzyme that is beneficial. My grandparents ate biscuits every day and lived to be 90+ (Of course they worked on a farm and did their own exercise program!)

    • All that fresh air and exercise keeps you going. Thanks, Shelia, I’ll have to check out Pioneer Woman’s biscuit recipe. As fast as I’m going through these biscuits I made, I probably should wait a bit before I make them again. lol

  38. My new year’s resolution was to learn to make my grandmother’s biscuits. It’s harder than it looks. We must keep persevering, my dear!

  39. Those biscuits look yummy Susan!

    Thanks for hosting another amazing party! Can’t wait to blow hop.

    Rebeca

  40. Keep trying on the biscuits, they’ll be better each time. I learned to make them from my mother-in-law MANY years ago, and I could just about make them with my eyes closed. I use unbleached self-rising flour (about 2 cups), cut in a chunk of shortening “about the size of a hen’s egg”, (I use a pastry blender to work it into the flour but a fork will work, too), and buttermilk. Pour some in the middle of the flour and stir it together to form a stiff dough, don’t overwork it, no kneading required, just put it on a floured surface, pat down, and cut out. A fairly “wet” dough makes lighter biscuits. All 3 of my children learned to make them, too, and my son actually makes the best ones. When we are all together for a meal, he always makes the biscuits. Anyway, as long as they taste good, that’s the most important part. Enjoy!

  41. Susan Stone says:

    I agree with most everyone…”don’t judge a book by its cover!” Your biscuits look wonderful. I’d love to grab one and sit down with a cup of coffee. My grandma used to make beautiful, yummy biscuits. I have her biscuit cutter. I’ll be trying this recipe and using my Grandma’s biscuit cutter. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. By the way…I love, Love, LOVE your blog. If I lived close, I’m certain we’d be friends!

  42. Catherine Gibbs says:

    I didn’t read every comment, but another helpful baking hintt (for anything) is to sprinkle the flour into the measuring cup and then scrape the excess off the top with the flat of a knife. If you scoop out of the canister, you can add an ounce or more than the recipe calls for. In this recipe especially , that would make a big difference. You would need to add more liquid and it would also throw off the ratio of flour to leavening agent. I like the King Arthur Flour website. Great recipes, lots of pictures and explanations of techniques. They also includes the weight of ingredients. A food scale can be a bit of an investment, but once you start using one, especially for baking, it really speeds up the process and cuts out a lot of guess work. Cheers and happy baking!

  43. Deena Salvatore says:

    Hi Susan, wow, lots of comments! Just wanted to add mine…yes, I believe you overworked the dough. Everyone does it the first few times till you get the hang of it. Also, I don’t know if anyone else mentioned this, but the heat from your hand can also be a factor in developing the gluten. I think the next time around I would try use the mixer with the dough hook (gently) just until combined. I know what you mean about the flour in the bottom of the bowl. The larger bowls have a broader base without the cone in the center. I also wanted to add something to the King Arthur Flour followers. I don’t use anything except KAF these days. They have the most amazing variety of flours for everything from pastry flour to extra fine flour for pasta. My fav is their Italian Blend for pasta. Just yesterday I bought KAF White Whole Wheat Flour. Their Bread Flour is excellent. Anyway the point I wanted to make is that you can call them anytime (I have a few times in the past) and a resident chef will answer any questions you may have. They’re wonderful! Also, I had to a get a supply of White Lily flour because indeed some southern pasty chefs prefer it. It’s not easy to come by in NJ, but I was able to get a bag when visiting Williamsburg, VA a while back. I love Susan Branch and have all her books. I get her calendar very year. I just love everything she does. Good luck Susan and don’t give up! ❀️ Deena

  44. I am a little late to comment on this post but wanted to add to the other comments about the King Arthur Flour website. They have great information and in August they started doing a bakealong. Once each month they provide a recipe and detailed instructions under their ‘blog’ tab and invite their readers to bake the recipe and submit their instagram photos to their websites. The August recipe was a fancy bread and the September recipe was a pumpkin muffin. It is fun. My thoughts about the biscuit has been raised by other commenters in the measuring of flour and the humidity or other environmental factors affecting how much flour is required. I am not a biscuit maker but I know that it affects other things that I bake. Thanks for 400 mm posts.

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