For the Love of Chocolate-Dipped, Almond-Orange Biscotti

April 11, 2010 at 1:23 pm 50 comments

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My friend A- once said to me, “You know you’re in love when you know all the little quirks about someone, and you wouldn’t change a thing.” Somewhere between whipping my first egg whites and preheating my new oven, I realized that phrase rang truest for my kitchen.

I know exactly where to set chilled sticks of butter, since I’ve discovered my kitchen’s one warm spot (between the KitchenAid and the sink.) I could organize the knife drawer in the dark. I love this room, even though the shelves are all breaking and the paint is peeling and half of the lights have burned out.

It’s the little things. It’s the way the refrigerator door swings open with a sigh and gently refuses to shut. It’s the way the silver knobs on the cabinets sparkle when 10 AM light shines through. It’s the way the walls creak when the heater turns on, the way the dishwasher churns, the way each drawer has a distinct sound when rolled open. My kitchen has a life of its own.

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Only the kitchen has this magic. Our living room, painted sage-green and brightened with daffodil-yellow couches, is rarely touched. The office is simply a storage room for photocopied recipes in manila folders and staggering stacks of cookbooks. And my little blue bedroom is merely the place where I sleep, dreaming of Tahitian vanilla.

As an only child, I spend a great deal of time home alone. I get out of school before noon and my mother doesn’t get off work until six. I finish homework, I answer emails, I bake shortbread cookies and listen to This American Life. I like to throw open all the curtains and drink chocolate soymilk all by myself in our tiny house.

It could be lonely, but it isn’t. I like the peaceful stillness and quiet, and I like getting to know the place I call home.

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In the past, I might have been scared. I was the child who didn’t ride roller coasters, screamed at the sight of spiders, and needed a nightlight and soft background noise to sleep. I was frequently teased by my braver friends for preferring Shirley Temple to Goosebumps.

I’m getting better. I’ll ride a coaster if it doesn’t go upside down. I take half an hour to trap spiders and set them free (can’t bear to kill them.) And I’ve tried watching scary movies. But I always spend the entire film with my hands over my face, pressing into the people beside me, whispering, “Is it over?” After sitting through them, I can barely muster the courage to stand up and turn on the lights.

I don’t know what I was thinking one afternoon earlier this week, when I sat on the bed home alone and decided to watch a horror movie.

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It was free on our cable. I had just put a tray of biscotti dough in the oven, the timer set to half an hour. I watched the movie with the covers drawn up to my nose and both feet on the bed (you never know what’s lurking beneath the mattress.) The lights were off in the bedroom and the hallway, so the entrancing glow of the TV was all I could see.

The main character was about to be slaughtered. I could tell by the music and the lengthening shadows, the lamb-like expression of panic and horror on the heroine’s face. I began to sweat. I didn’t want to watch, but I couldn’t stick my arm out to grasp for the remote. The music swelled, her mouth stretched into a scream, and I was paralyzed, I – BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

The oven timer went off on the other side of the house and I nearly fell off the bed.

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But when I thought about the biscotti in the oven and the lovely scent of almond wafting through the walls, all terror faded. I didn’t linger on my fear or imagine monsters in the shadows. I leapt from the bed, ran down the unlit hallway and into the kitchen without a second thought.

The almond-orange biscotti needed to bake three times, and then get dipped in dark chocolate. That meant I had to get up and cross the cold, dusky hallway four times during the course of the movie. It was a mistake to watch that film, frightening enough to give me nightmares. But it was nowhere near as scary as the possibility of burning those light, crisp biscotti.

The things you do for love. Oh, how I adore that kitchen.

[PS: It’s been a week since I was rejected from my dream school. It still hurts, but I can’t tell you how many times I read through all 90+ comments on my last post and felt a little lighter. Thanks for your stories of rejection, heartbreak, success and hope. Every one of them helped.]

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This biscotti is worth the wait, the triple baking, for the smell that fills the house. My neighbor stopped by and smelled it from the doorway, eyes opening wide: “What’s cooking?” And the final biscotti is perfection. It’s light, crunchy without chipping a tooth in the process, and barely dipped in dark chocolate. On its own, it’s delicious. With coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, it’s something bordering on magic.

I made these for my mother’s friend, a biscotti fanatic, and I left out the nuts because she doesn’t like them. I think it would have been great with the almonds, though – your call.

Chocolate-Dipped Almond-Orange Biscotti
Adapted from Bon Appetit via Smitten Kitchen
Makes 3-4 dozen biscotti

3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange liqueur
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 cup whole almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped or sliced almonds (optional)
1 large egg white
Tiny drop of almond extract (optional)
6 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into medium bowl. Mix sugar, melted butter, 3 eggs, vanilla extract, orange liqueur and zest in large bowl. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and stir with wooden spoon until well blended. Mix in almonds.

Divide dough in half. Using floured hands, shape each dough half into 13 1/2-inch-long, 2 1/2-inch-wide log. Transfer both logs to prepared baking sheet, spacing apart. Whisk egg white in small bowl until foamy; brush over top and sides of each dough log.

Bake logs until golden brown (logs will spread), about 30 minutes. Cool logs completely on sheet on rack, about 25 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.

Transfer logs to work surface; discard parchment paper. Using serrated knife, cut logs on diagonal into 1/2-inch-wide slices. Arrange slices, cut side down, on same baking sheet. Bake 12 minutes. Turn biscotti over; bake until just beginning to color, about 8 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool.

Once cool, melt the 6 oz of chocolate in a double boiler – set the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water and stir until melted. Stir in a small drop of almond extract. Dip the biscotti into the chocolate and leave to dry on a cooling rack. Biscotti will keep a week or more in an airtight container at room temperature.

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50 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lauren  |  April 11, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    I love how our kitchens have this amazing life of their own, yet they truly feel like home. These biscotti look perfect and delicious. I’m sure that they are a wonderful accompaniment to tea or even a scary movie.

    Reply
  • 2. Baking is Beast.  |  April 11, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    I think that the fact that you didn’t get into your college of choice is like the bacon brownies. I didnt really like the idea of bacon and chocolate at first, but then it turned out to be awesome……haha it sounds weird reading that over, but what I’m trying to get at is that it could actually be for the better. Just wait. I bet the college you decide to go to now is just as good PLUS has ovens for student use….. :]

    Reply
  • 3. Sis  |  April 11, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    lol. Your story was great! I love horror movies but still, I react the same way you did here. :D

    I am a biscotti fanatic like your mom’s friend, and I love citrus. I will SO be baking these soon. :)

    XO

    Reply
  • 4. Deanna  |  April 11, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    It has been so long since I have had a good biscotti. The only ones we have at my house my grandma made and taste like cardboard. And I got into my dream school then realized after I was there for 6 months it just wasn’t the right fit and dropped out. If after 4 years you still have your heart set on dream school, there is always grad school.

    Reply
  • 5. Danielle  |  April 11, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Love this story. The dark house, babysitting biscotti in the oven, watching a horror movie alone… The biggest horror would’ve been to burn those lovely biscotti, but the heroine pulls through.

    Reply
  • 6. luckytastebuds  |  April 11, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    I’m definitely one of them girls who can’t go on a roller coaster…ever. And recently graduated to the ones that won’t go upside down. :) We’re gettin’ there.

    I’m glad that the love the blogworld has given you has helped a little bit with the breakup with your dream school. Gotta remind yourself to stop calling it that okay? :) My best friend in college’s dream school was Harvard. Or so she thought. Her family even lived on harvard ave. in Irvine california. Turns out it was what her parents wanted for her. Turns out it was the reputation of the school Turns out, she fell in love with Northwesten, the people there, the professors, even the bitter cold chicago winter… and now she is in her 3rd year of medical school ready to graduate in a year and become an amazing physician. I’m so proud of her, and i know she knows that Northwestern was really the TRUE “right’ school for her. :) You will end up going to your true “dream” school Elissa. Don’t worry.

    Reply
  • 7. Joe @ Eden Kitchen  |  April 11, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    This is my first visit to your blog. I love your photos and writing. Very nice indeed :)

    Reply
  • 8. Mara  |  April 11, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    Those look delicious! I’m always in awe when I come to your blog: the pictures, the recipes, the writing… it’s all fabulous. Thank you so much for sharing so many wonderful recipes and stories with your readers, and I hope that your future is the best it can possibly be, because you more than deserve it!

    Reply
  • 9. wearsgoo  |  April 12, 2010 at 12:41 am

    nom nom nom. looks delish. got your email tonight and will be writing soon. just got home from a road trip, but now i can’t sleep. shucks!

    Reply
  • 10. Warm Vanilla Sugar  |  April 12, 2010 at 4:19 am

    I wish I loved my kitchen as much as you. I live in an apartment now, but my HOME kitchen is like that for me. This post brought back some great memories :)

    The biscotti looks fabulous!

    Reply
  • 11. Ana  |  April 12, 2010 at 6:40 am

    looks great!

    Reply
  • 12. Avril  |  April 12, 2010 at 7:44 am

    Oh I just love how you have written your above post. Full of beauty and warmth and happiness too of familiarity. I totally get this. I REALLY do.
    I adore your blog. I LOVE your pictures and I cherish your recipes!!! BIG hugs!!! =)

    Reply
  • 13. Carolyn  |  April 12, 2010 at 9:28 am

    These look so yummy. I think these might by super fantastic with browned butter instead of just melted butter?

    Reply
  • 14. Starting to Cook  |  April 12, 2010 at 9:31 am

    First of all – great story about the life of your house. I relate to that story and understand the way being alone in a house can be both a mix of scary and peaceful bliss.

    I didn’t get to comment last week on the college thing but a few things to consider:

    Only 66% of all seniors will go to ANY college. Roughly half of those are enrolled in a community college and of the remaining 33%, less than 1/2 will complete a bachelor’s degree.

    This means that by attending a 4 year college and getting a degree (ANY non CC) you will be in the very small 15% or so minority. Wherever you end up is going to be VERY lucky to have you. If I had the direction, the blog and the desires you have I think I’d be at Le Cordon Bleu next year anyways. lol

    G’luck!

    Reply
  • 15. Annalise  |  April 12, 2010 at 9:39 am

    I can’t watch scary movies either! I get totally freaked out.

    And I’ve been wanting to try making biscotti for a long time now and seeing these makes me want to skip out of work early and preheat the oven. Soon, very soon!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
  • 16. Katy  |  April 12, 2010 at 10:31 am

    I absolutely love my kitchen at home. I miss it so much when I’m at school, so I make the most of every opportunity I’m back. (I went home for the weekend and made two batches of brownies, one caramel pecan brownies and one plain ol’ brownies with chocolate chunks, a cheesecake, a big pan of apple crisp, and a coffee cake. Yummm.)
    But I feel the same way about scary movies. I can’t watch them, and I refuse to every time somebody wants to watch one with me. I don’t like horror movies haha.

    Reply
  • 17. Leanne  |  April 12, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Glad to hear your days are getting a little easier! I, also, am not a fan of horror flix :0)

    Reply
  • 18. cupcakeswin=]  |  April 12, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    when i watch scary movies i try to laugh “that is so fake”

    But at night i get nightmares! eck! “Mommie! I had a bad dream!”

    Reply
  • 19. Lauchlan :-)  |  April 12, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    I absolutely love your blog!!! I find it amazing how much I can relate to them! You are awesome!!! That dream college will be sorry they rejected you!

    Reply
  • 20. SeattleDee  |  April 13, 2010 at 8:32 am

    Yummy biscotti – and I agree that nuts would have made them perfect. Lately I’m loving pistachios in biscotti… and sprinkled over poached mascarpone-filled apricots, or topping chocolate-covered ice cream balls, or, or, or.

    I also love my kitchens; one is a large, light-filled space with miles of countertop and a view of the lake, and the other is a cozy, limited-storage galley on the boat. Any kitchen can be a place of joy, comfort, creativity, peace, even a ton of frustration – but in the end, it’s really all about the cook. YOU bring the magic to the place (and Elissa, you do).

    Reply
  • 21. Sarah  |  April 13, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    I know the feeling exactly. I love being alone in my house, or at least the only one still awake. Alone in my room, with a good book, surrounded by all that silence, it feels like anything can happen.

    You have to be careful though. Last night I had trouble sleeping and decided it would be a good idea to read And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie) at 11:00pm. Two hours later I had finished the book and was lying stock still in my bed, absolutely terrified but too ashamed too wake my dad and get him to comfort me. Lesson learned: no murder mysteries after sunset.

    Reply
  • 22. kamran siddiqi  |  April 13, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    Chocolate-Dipped, Almond-Orange Biscotti!! Elissa, we’re getting married. That’s it! You’ve got my heart with this great combination of flavors!

    Great post and your photos look great!

    Reply
  • 23. flory  |  April 14, 2010 at 7:47 am

    mmmm i’d bake these just for the fragrance alone. it’s like instant christmas! and you’ll be happy at the school you’re going to, i know it. Brown doesn’t want me and NYU waitlisted me, but i’ll be studying in London which is a-okay with me (though it’s no liberal arts curriculum, i’ll grant). i’m not much a commenter (except on the last post, really) but wanted to say that this blog is super fun to read. if you’re ever in London, feel free to invade my kitchen!

    Reply
  • 24. Lucy  |  April 14, 2010 at 11:50 am

    I was entranced just by the name of these – beautiful and delicious. We nearly moved house a couple of years ago and I was gutted about losing all the little nuances and ways of my home. I was very relieved when we stayed, and can totally understand everything you wrote. Although, I refuse to watch horror movies ;)

    Reply
  • 25. Joy  |  April 14, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    We live across the street from the house that your Grandma just moved out of. I love to cook and bake and like to think I’m pretty good at both. I once had my kids take your Grandma one of my homemade cupcakes, but after I found out about your abilities… well suffice to say I never shared after that. She is so proud of you!! Wherever you end up going to school will be the “right” place for you. Our oldest daughter looked at all kinds of schools and was avoiding the one at home because she wanted to go somewhere new. She finally realized that the school that was HER school was right here and even though she finally applied too late and last minute they let her in. (It’s not any easy school to get into either) Never fear it will work out in the end and you’ll love it.
    I love my kitchen too even with half of my cupboard doors falling off and the warm spot is the same as in your kitchen… between the Kitchenaid mixer and the sink.

    Reply
  • 26. jessie  |  April 14, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    so uh, what kind of school lets you get out before noon?!

    glad to hear that you’re moving on. i think it’s one of those things that you know that you’re going to get over, but it just takes time. and truthfully, it’s not going to be the last time you get rejected, but it sure gets easier each time.

    Reply
  • 27. Janet  |  April 14, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    I know how you feel about the kitchen. We bought our condo pretty much based on the kitchen alone! I love my kitchen…it’s huge, tons of counter and cabinent space, white cupboards, and opens into both living rooms, so I don’t feel out of the loop when I am cooking.

    Reply
  • 28. Zoe  |  April 14, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Those look delicious! I’ll be making those this weekend.

    Is it too late to ask questions for your FAQ? If not:

    1. What piping tips are best for general use? Basic shell, star, etc etc.

    2. How would you suggest one improve their fiction writing?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  • 29. Susan  |  April 15, 2010 at 6:08 am

    I feel that time stands still when I read your posts and recipes. I am entranced by your writing skills. I make a grocery list while reading your recipes, and can’t wait to bake your next creation. You are simply the best. Thank you for sharing your life and recipes with us!

    Reply
  • 30. Maria  |  April 15, 2010 at 8:13 am

    I love the chocolate addition! Great snack for anytime of the day.

    Reply
  • 31. Andre  |  April 15, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    I love chocolates and almonds. I think the key for this recipe is the chocolate-dipped. Nice post.

    Reply
  • 32. Preston Mui  |  April 15, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    This made me literally laugh out loud. Miss you.

    Reply
  • 33. Michelle  |  April 16, 2010 at 12:53 am

    I think I am thoroughly addicted to your blog.
    I check it on a daily basis waiting for your next post.

    Keep up the good work! (:

    Reply
  • 34. Rachel  |  April 17, 2010 at 11:26 am

    i made these last night! I doubled the orange zest and left out the liquor and almonds! My house smelled amazing!!! They were so yummy! Thanks for sharing this amazing recipe!

    xoxoxo
    Rachel

    Reply
  • 35. Sophie  |  April 17, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    Elissa,
    You really are an inspiration for me! I absolutely love baking but never have the right ingredients or supplies. I was wondering where a good place to get ingredients is? Like should I try a world market or something? I also need help with getting into serious baking like you. I just need advice on a good way to start in that. You’re AWESOME! You inspire me everyday to bake! You are soo talented and will go very far with your creativity. Thanks for being idol-worthy haha =)

    Reply
    • 36. Elissa  |  April 18, 2010 at 8:56 pm

      Sophie – Thanks! Since I bake a *lot*, I buy a lot of ingredients in bulk from Costco, like sugar, flour, eggs, and butter. Those 4 are the staples, and I also try to have milk, heavy whipping cream, good vanilla extract, cocoa powder and dark chocolate on hand – with those, you can make a lot of things! I really like Whole Foods, but it’s just too pricey for the amount of ingredients I need.
      I get supplies from all over, but I almost never get them new or full price (too expensive). You can find some great steals at Goodwill (I once found a set of 4 brand new non stick springform pans for only $5), and a lot of marked-down supplies at places like Tuesday Morning, Ross, Kohls and Marshall’s. If you want to get into serious baking, just start doing it! Make something whenever the urge strikes. If you keep at it, you’ll start to slowly do more difficult things and acquire more tools until you can make anything whenever you feel like it. Good luck! :)

  • 37. sippitysup  |  April 18, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    very, very impressive! GREG

    Reply
  • 38. Cousin Sharon  |  April 18, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    When Iwas 12 my class went on a trip to Washington DC. It was my first time away from home and I was a nervous wreck. I shared a room with two of my friends. The room was in a dark alley inthe corner of the motel. As if that was not scary enough, they insisted on watching Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. I spent the entire night under the blanket, afraid to come out. To this day I cannot watch horror films. Totally understand. And Happy Birthday – wishing you a lifetime of happiness!

    Reply
  • 39. Dinners & Dreams  |  April 18, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    Love those biscotti. They look delicious!

    Reply
  • 40. baking&love  |  April 19, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Hey Elissa, I love biscotti and I totally agree that these make the entire house smells good! :D Anyway, I am truly envious of how you write so well. Take care, I’ll be back regularly!

    P.S.
    It’s your birthday soon right? Haha. Happy Birthday in advance!!=D

    Reply
  • 41. Michelle  |  April 19, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Elissa!!

    Oh my gosh! Your blog is everything I anticipated and more. I really admire your writing style and passion for cooking. Not to mention, your pictures look amazing too, haha. I hope your college decisions are all figured out now. Let me know through facebook or something!
    Keep up the amazing work! This blog is incredible!

    Michelle from the Emerson program (haha, what a weird title)..

    Reply
  • 42. Coffee Machine  |  April 19, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    I love your blog. I’m amazed by how your passions in life interrelate and how you manage to do them all at the same time. I was once like you; i wanted to bake, sing and have a business of my own. But I decided to focus on one which is my SEO business. It was hard to do it all at the same time. But I’m definitely sure, if I have more time, I would go back to baking.

    Reply
  • 43. Adriana  |  April 20, 2010 at 5:51 am

    Hi Elissa,

    I know I’m a little late, but happy birthday!
    I was reading one of your older posts and realized your birthday was a couple days ago. I hope you had a great day!

    Adriana

    Reply
  • 44. Kayla  |  April 21, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    I just wanted to let you know that I just found your blog via Life On The Green Line (http://annakristina28.blogspot.com) and I have already become a follower. My blog – at this moment – is tracing my foray into cake decorating and I have been looking for more ‘foodie’ blogs like this one. Your writing is very inspiring and something about it just seems to take me back. Maybe it’s just the way that you write out – with such wonderful description and and clarity – that is drawing me in. I honestly expected to read all about the food and nothing but the food in your posts, but you make it so much more interesting that I can’t stop reading! I was reading that you were wanting to become a journalist and, not that I have any expertise in the matter, I think you would be a great journalist or possibly novelist. Your writing is very enjoyable to me and I will keep visiting for both the recipes and the writing. You go girl!!!

    ♥kayla

    http://www.themindwandering.blogspot.com

    Reply
  • 45. Niki  |  April 22, 2010 at 5:45 am

    I love making these cookies, and I’ve always wanted to try and make them with the chocolate, now that I’m drooling, i am gonna have to try it!

    Reply
  • 46. Laura  |  April 28, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Hi!
    I made these biscottis on Monday, and they were delicious! I used egg replacer instead of the eggs and margarine instead of butter.
    I also swapped the orange zest for tangerine. They were absolute perfection!
    Thanks for the recipe! your photography is stunning.

    Reply
  • 47. Farnoosh  |  April 30, 2010 at 2:12 am

    No baking here but I love photography and I am very impressed by your photos. And oh yes “It could be lonely but it is not” – very insightful. Good job!

    Reply
  • 48. Cheery  |  May 18, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    I just found your blog today, and I think your creativity is just fabulous!

    I stumbled upon this post, and even thought it’s a little late, I just wanted to say that I’m sorry you got rejected from your dream school – I was rejected from mine this year too, so I completely empathise!

    All I can say is that it only means that there are better things in store somewhere else in your life, and this seemingly awful rejection is just one step closer to that place. :D

    Reply
  • 49. sadie  |  February 19, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    I love This American Life . And I love almond-orange biscotti and chocolate this is just right for me.
    love your posts!:)

    Reply
  • 50. fetebar  |  July 10, 2012 at 12:12 am

    lovely post and blog! I shall be making these gems soon!! thank you for sharing!!

    Reply

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Elissa Bernstein



I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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I want to read everything. #TheStrand Mmmmm... Green tea chocolate lava cake! #spotdessertbar Last night I sat in @StephenColbert's chair. My life is now complete. AHHHHHHHHH! #ColbertAudience Yay! Spontaneous mid afternoon macaron break. @bouchonbakeryrc Ohmygosh! Strawberry and tarragon gelato! FAO Schwartz is equal parts chaos, commercialization, and crazy happy joy About to eat my first Pink Lady apple! (More like Red Red Red Lady.)

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