Bread 911!


I get more emails about breadbaking disasters than anything else. I’ve been making bread since I was a kid, so sometimes I wonder if I’m the best person to ask about making bread, but I do like to talk to people about bread and teach people to make bread. My main thing is making bread from scratch, by hand, not using a bread machine or stand mixer. I got this email yesterday, and it was of the most entertaining emails about bread I’ve gotten lately. I thought this email was hilarious–NOT in a bad way. In a cute way. I get a lot of email, so I really appreciated the humor here. I decided to share it because I’m not a big stand mixer bread baker and maybe some of you have better advice than I do.


I was beside myself to stumble across your website! I am a stay at home mom of two, plus we homeschool. I am always looking for ways to reduce our amount we spend at the grocery store! So you can imagine my sweet surprise when I saw you making everything from scratch! I was first interested in the Grandmother Bread recipe. My son is allergic to milk so I thought, “I’m a decent baker, I should be able to do this….plus I have a KA mixer…….This has not worked for me! First, my dough was very sticky, so I added more flour….well it didn’t rise all that well and tasted somewhat watered down. No big deal, nobody dies from the first batch not turning out right?….so next day, I mixed it all together with hook, and let it go for about 4 mins….well it went from not sticking to the bowl to being really sticky and back to being really wet…(almost as though I beat the gluten out) this loaf was awful tasting… today I tried again….(After I went to the grocery store and had to buy bread… was mocking me….so now it is ON!!!!) I haven’t gotten mine to rise as nicely as yours yet and I am desperate to do this for my family as well as others that have the same allergy issues!

Do you happen to have a video of you making a single loaf ?

I have made bread before, but always use the dare I say….bread machine….

Please help me……

I have every intention of coming to your farm for a workshop one day….hubs has already said that would be a great gift! I agree!

Thanks for your help

in Mississippi

How cute is that? I just want to take away her stand mixer and hand her a bowl and a spoon.

I wrote Angel back:

Hello, Angel. I don’t have a video (yet). First, you need to just get rid of all the machinery. Learn to make bread by hand then you can use a machine (if you insist). You can find all my bread posts on my Grandmother Bread page:

Grandmother Bread

Have you see the How to Make Bread post?

How to Make Bread

I do have a post here about making bread with a stand mixer, though I don’t recommend it for starting out. You need to learn to feel dough and get to know it before you try to use a machine, which separates you too much from the breadmaking process.

Any more/better advice out there? Help Angel!


  1. StuckinMiami says:

    I agree. Don’t use the mixer. Also, remember you are in Mississippi, the humidity can play havoc on recipes. You need to feel the dough and possibly add more flour while kneading.

  2. Diane says:

    I do agree also. While I have used a bread machine when making Grandmother bread. It does come out much better when making it by hand. Sound like your mixer is working the dough too hard and that is why its so sticky. When mixing by hand you can feel the texture and know to all just a small amount of flour as you knee it.

    Good luck.

  3. Pam full of joy says:

    Angel, love your determination to figure it out. That insures success. I agree with the others, leave your beautiful mixer in the cabinet. I make this recipe in one bowl even….kneading it in the big bowl. Then I transfer it to a clean, oiled bowl to rise….I am not so much on cleaning up a bunch of dishes when I figure out how not to.

    Bless you for doing so much for your husband, your children, and for you. I’m looking forward to seeing you post a photo of your first successful Grandmother Bread. You can do it!

  4. Amerayl says:

    I’d check the yeast. Proof it to make sure it is alive & well in the warm water & sugar. Wait to add salt with the flour as salt might kill the yeast without the buffer of the flour. Temperature of the water might be the problem as well. Too cool and the yeast won’t wake up; too hot will kill the yeast. Generally, more mixing is what causes gluten to form. I have to use a KA mixer because my hands are very bad but I love to have fresh bread. I mix everything with the paddle, once it comes together then I switch to the dough hook to knead the dough for 10 mins. It helps to know what the dough is supposed to feel like, that is why your advice to make it by hand first is good. In humid environment, flour has a tendency to absorb moisture, so using less water at first can help. I usually add a little flour to the dough, mix/knead a few minutes to incorporate, if it still sticky add a little more flour and more kneading. Keep doing this until the dough starts to come off the walls of the bowl, then just knead a couple of minutes. If the dough has formed a ball and only sticks to the bowl when you stop mixing, then it is perfect. Too much flour makes for a heavy unappetizing loaf. Most bread recipes have a range for the amount of flour because of humidity; ie 4 to 6 cups. I hope this helps a little. I’m a visual learner myself so explaining it, I may have left out something.

  5. PaulaClark says:

    I use my stand mixer for bread making. Usually I run it from more than 4 minutes. I start out with a slack, sticky dough, it firms up and then can relax again. So it usually takes 6-8 minutes at least depending on weather and recipe. It should clear the sides of the bowl but still stick to the bottom when it’s done. I add a few sprinkles of flour if it gets too sticky again. It has to have enough time to develop the gluten. I’m guilty of rushing that quite often. Then I dump it and just knead a few times to get it into a round shape to put in a bowl.
    As far as it tasting bad, that should not have anything to do with the kneading process. I would check out the four. Is it old? If anything it should not have any strong flavor since this recipe does not have a lengthy time to develop any off flavors.
    I’m certainly not an expert at bread baking so I don’t know if that helps at all. I’m still trying to find a while wheat recipe that my hubby will eat. He’s a bread snob and only likes store bought whole wheat. But at least it’s real whole wheat and not the pretend “wheat bread”.

  6. Amy says:

    I’d like to offer a little hope – it’s very possible to make a fabulous loaf of Grandmother Bread in the mixer! I’ve made this bread once a week for the last two and a half years in the mixer, and can now manage it in 15 minutes. And it always turns out fabulously!

    I put the salt and sugar in the mixing bowl, then add the water and sprinkle the yeast on top of that. (Make sure you’re using at least 2.5 tsp for the two loaf version of the bread.) And then – I’m sure all the purists out there will wince – I dump in 3 cups of the flour, stir it into the liquid using the dough hook, and then dump in 4 more cups and continue stirring until I have a goopy dough. I turn up the mixer, then continue sprinkling in flour until the dough clings more to the hook than to the walls. Sometimes this is as much as 8 cups. Maybe I’m just not as sensitive, but no matter how much flour I put in this bread seems to taste great.

    Next I slow down the mixer and drizzle a little oil around the sides of the mixing bowl, to oil the dough, and then I take the whole mixing bowl and set it to rise. This is the part that really transformed my bread-making process: I preheat the oven to 200, stick the mixing bowl in and turn the oven off. It *always* takes precisely 25 minutes to rise that way, because I’m controlling the environment.

    After 25 minutes, I pull out the mixing bowl and set the oven to heat back up to 200. Grease two loaf pans and – I’m sure everyone will wince again – punch down the dough and divide it into two portions, and just glob them into the pans. I don’t knead it again, or shape the loaves, or anything. No matter how sticky my dough is (depending on how much patience I had to keep adding flour), they still always taste great. 🙂

    I stick the loaf pans back in the re-heated over, turn it off again, and let them rise for 30 minutes. I then just leave the pans in the oven, turn it on to 350, and bake for 25 minutes.

    I realize some of this is specific to my oven – but I practiced making this bread until I figured out the quickest, most efficient, least dirty-dish involving process that works for me! So don’t give up – keep trying until you figure out a process that works for you, whether it’s making the bread by hand or figuring out how to incorporate your mixer. Grandmother bread is totally worth the effort – I honestly can’t stand store-bought bread anymore. I’m too spoiled! 🙂

  7. LisaAJB says:

    I’ve been making my familie’s bread for a few years now. First, I wouldn’t worry Bout it being too sticky. I’ve ready a lot of recipes lately and some bakers peer to have a very sticky loaf. I made bread by hand for a long time, but last month I w given a KA,and I have been using it. My method is first to mix the flour and salt (and I add flax meal to my dough), then I add the water/ yeast mixture and I let it mix just until the dugh starts to climb the hook. It’s not really about how long it takes, but how incorporated the mixture is. The dough also sounds different in the bowl at this point. I let it rise covered in the bowl until doubled, then I take it out and kneed it by hand for 5-10 minutes. You can add more flour if it is too sticky until you

  8. LisaAJB says:

    Ugh, stupid computer, I’ve been making my familie’s bread for a few years now. First, I wouldn’t worry about it being too sticky. I’ve read a lot of recipes lately and some bakers prefer to have a very sticky loaf. I made bread by hand for a long time, but last month I was given a KA, and I have been using it. My method is first to mix the flour and salt (and I add flax meal to my dough), then I add the water/ yeast mixture and I let it mix just until the dough starts to climb the hook. It’s not really about how long it takes, but how incorporated the mixture is. The dough also sounds different in the bowl at this point. I let it rise covered in the bowl until doubled, then I take it out and kneed it by hand for 5-10 minutes. You can add more flour if it is too sticky to work by hand. I let it rises until doubled again, then I transfer it to a loaf pan and let it rise for about 20 minutes just until it’s at the top of the loaf pan. If you let it over rise at this point it won’t have a good crumb and will be difficult to cut. Hope this is helpful!

  9. Faith says:

    I make bread with my stand mixer all the time (at least once every 2-3 days). Do you have a scale? That’s actually the easiest way to get the right ratio of flour to water. It’s clear that your dough is too wet. Yes, a moist and even sticky dough can still make a great loaf, but it sounds like yours looks like batter more than dough.

    Because you are in a humid area (I am too!) it’s hard to know when your measurements of flour are the same as someone else. IF you have a scale, you want 3 parts water to 5 parts flour. If not, here’s my advice: when you get to the stage where it’s looking wet and slack again, slowly add more flour. The slowly is important, because otherwise the mixer will toss the flour up-out of the bowl-and all over your kitchen. Aim to add about 1/8-1/4 cup at a time. Each time you add the flour let it fully mix into the dough. Stop adding more when the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and stays that way.

    As far as flavor. The number one issue from people I’ve known is that they wanted a bit more salt and/or sugar-especially when switching from store bought bread. Keep in mind that you can taste the dough! No, it’s not going to taste like bread, but if it tastes bland and only like flour, you aren’t going to like what it tastes like baked either.

    Final note-there’s another option to save that super wet dough. This won’t yield sandwich bread, but toss it in a large covered bowl and leave it in the fridge overnight. The next day, squish it down, and put it into a large baking vessel (like a large pot or casserole dish that you can cover). Preheat the oven to 400, once the oven comes to temperature bake it (cover the baking dish) for about 30 minutes, or until the exterior looks golden and it sounds hollow when tapped. This will have large holes in it, which make it non-ideal for sandwiches, but it will taste great. The overnight rise in the fridge really lets the yeast make some great flavors.

    Hope this helps!

  10. tsmith says:

    Don’t be discouraged. Even the best bakers have a failure every once in a while! Learn what the dough feels like and looks like and then move on to the shortcuts that make life a little easier. I still knead my bread even though I have a KA. I find it soothing to stand there kneading the dough. I always use a thermometer to check my water temperature so I don’t kill off my yeast because I don’t trust myself to know when the water is to hot. Be patient. You will be a bread baker!

  11. langela says:

    Having never made Grandmother bread, I hesitate to add anything in here. I have made our whole wheat bread from freshly ground wheat for years now. I never buy bread. I have rheumatoid arthritis and have to use my mixer (Bosch). I add all my ingredient but the flour to the mixer. Then I add half of the called for flour and mix until all is wet. Then I let it sit for 20 minutes. This allows time for the yeast to start growing. Then I mix in just enough flour until the dough “cleans” the sides of the bowl. I turn up the mixer to the next level and mix/ knead for 4-5 minutes. I dump it out onto an oiled counter and oil my hands really well. No more flour! I SLAM the dough onto the counter a few times (7) and cut into loaf balls. Then I take each ball and SLAM it down onto the counter again 7 times. The slamming removes the air as opposed to rolling it out. I’ve heard this is how professional bakers do it. Then I just take the dough and tuck under the sides to form a loaf. I let it rise until doubled. To test for that, take two fingers and make a slight indentation in the bread. If the dents stay, it’s ready. I turn on the oven to 350 and stick the loaves in while it preheats and bakes. They turn out perfectly every time. Also, spray the pans generously with oil, no flour! My loaves literally slide out of the pans. I make 6 loaves at a time and never have a problem. Keep at it. It is SOOOO worth it!

  12. Leah Beth says:

    Angel…Using your mixer to make bread is very easy. I would follow Suzanne’s advise and learn to make it by hand to get the feel for the dough.

    But when using your mixer…put the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl. Dissolve your yeast in warm to the touch water…warm not hot. Attach your dough hook and mix the dry ingredients. With your mixer running on the lowest speed slowly add the yeast and water mixture. When the liquid is incorporated with the flour mixture you may increase the speed of the mixer to where it is kneading your dough but not causing the mixer to jump or move on your counter. Knead the dough for about 4-5 minutes.

    Pour a bit of oil…I use olive oil…about 2 tablespoons into a large bowl. Pour your dough out of your mixer bowl into the bowl with the oil. Use a spatula to remove all of the dough from the sides of the bowl.

    With the spatula lift up the dough from around the sides of the large bowl pull it toward the center of the bowl. You will see the oil around the edges. Take your hands and gently roll the dough completely over in the bowl. The dough will be a bit sticky but the oil will keep it from sticking to your hands. Cover the bowl with a piece of wax paper and let it rise.

    Prepare your non-stick loaf pans by spraying with cooking spray.

    Remove the wax paper from the top of the dough…you can use a spatula to gently scrape any dough off the paper and add back to the dough in the bowl. Scrape the dough from the sides of the bowl with the spatula to make a neat mound in the bottom of the bowl and smooth it by kneading just a time or two with your hands.

    I cover my cutting board with wax paper for easy cleanup. Sprinkle a little flour…approx. 1/3 cup on a cutting board or your counter. Using a knife or pastry cutter…cut the dough in half and remove half to your cutting board. Sprinkle a little more flour on top of your dough and gently knead until smooth with your hands. The dough will be sticky but if you are gentle it will not stick to your hands. Shape into loaf and gently place the dough in your loaf pan. I like to make a rectangle and roll up the dough to fit my pan. Repeat with remaining dough. You can brush the top of your dough with butter or oil at this point for a pretty crust.

    Let rise and bake.

    Remember to be gentle…use your hands as little as possible…and add flour only a little at a time…just enough to make the dough workable. Your mixer has done all the work for you. Have fun and practice…it will get easier and you will have beautiful and delicious homemade bread!

  13. joycelorelle says:

    There is an excellent recipe in the book “Stocking Up” (which is my very favorite book for food preservation, and has a lot of great recipes), however it does use nonfat dry milk. Betty Crocker has a pretty good recipe for a milk-free white bread, but we like this version better. I use the recipe for Crusty Loaves every time, stand mixer and by hand, and have never had a problem. I have been making all our family’s bread for a few years now, tried LOTS of different recipes (, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, etc) and this is by far the best tasting and most-foolproof recipe I’ve found. Also makes great pizza dough, freezes well.

    6-1/4 to 6-1/2 cups flour (any kind or combination)
    1/4 cup honey
    2 tsp salt
    1/3 cup instant nonfat dry milk
    2 Tbsp dry yeast
    2 Tbsp veggie oil
    2 cups very warm water (120-130 degrees F)

    Mix 4 cups flour, honey, salt, nonfat dry milk, and undissolved yeast. After mixing well, add oil. Gradually add water and mix well. Stir in enough additional flour to make a stiff dough. Knead about 15 minutes (I do this all in the stand mixer — once it achieves stiff dough consistency, I knead with the hook for 8 minutes). Cover and let rest for 15 minutes. Divide dough into2 pieces and form into a smooth ball. If freezing, place on an oiled baking sheet, freeze, and wrap in plastic wrap/plastic bags. Keep frozen up to 4 weeks. To bake — thaw 4 hours, then shape into loaves (fold as for a jelly roll, make sure to pinch seams to seal.) Place in oiled pan seam side down and allow to rise until double, then bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes. You can also make round loaves, just don’t roll and place into pan. Bake same as for loaves.

    Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about grandmother bread…but I’ll add what I can where I can! Good luck!

  14. UlrikeDG says:

    I think the worst part about learning to make bread is that you have no idea what it should LOOK or FEEL like at the various stages.

    I’m not going to tell you not to use your stand mixer. I love mine, and I would make a lot less bread if I didn’t have it! However, you really don’t have to run it very long. Kneading isn’t as necessarily as we’ve been led to believe. I know, you don’t believe me! But it’s true.

    The thing that really helped me make Grandmother Bread was actually an article in Mother Earth News about Five Minute Artisan Bread. I ended up buying the book, but everything I really needed (kneaded LOL) to know was in the article. After making a few batches of “The Master Recipe” I was able to come back and make Suzanne’s recipe and it made sense! I had a much better idea of what texture I should be looking for, what it should feel like, what it should look like… less sticky, than The Master Recipe, but stickier/looser than playdoh. (Too wet is better than too dry, if you’re going to err, err to the side of “too sticky”.) And, the best tip I got was to double the recipe and store the excess dough in the fridge (I use gallon ice cream buckets). For almost the exact same effort (plus the time it takes to bake the second loaf), I get two batches of fresh bread!

    Here’s that article:

  15. UlrikeDG says:

    Oops. One more thing: don’t double Suzanne’s two-loaf recipe. That’s too much dough for your mixer to handle at once. The two-loaf recipe is already “doubled” for you.

  16. VikingMiss says:

    I also don’t worry about it being sticky. I use my KA mixer with hook for the one loaf version. Water first, yeast, stir a little, sugar, salt. At this point, if I want to add herbs or garlic, I add that too. Then the flour. Depending on what season it is, it could be more or less flour depending on the time of year.

    When using the mixer, I wait until I see that the sides of the bowl are pretty clean, and then I know it is done with being mixed. Overly wet, and I add about a 1/4c of flour at a time and just watch for what the dough should look like. One thing, you can add flour successfully, but adding water to a dough is more difficult. Perhaps start with a little less water and go from there.

    I know King Arthur Flour’s site has some great posts about making bread (and seeing the stages if you want to know). For me, it has been trial and error. I used to do a lot of sourdoughs, so I got a feel for what it should look like at each stage. My advice is to keep practicing! If it flops, feed it to some nearby ducks 🙂

  17. Miss Judy says:

    I remember watching my grandmother make bread and she never worried about the dough being I don’t either. And she never measured the ingredients… after so many years I guess she had a good eye. When I complained about my bread not being as pretty or tasting as good as hers she chuckled “Lands, child you’ve got plenty of years to learn how to make a passable loaf of bread.” She was right.
    Enjoy the learning 🙂

  18. Lajoda says:

    If you make it through all these hints, here are my 2 cents.
    First I learned to make excellent bread here on CITR, so you will learn! : )

    I make Suzannes Grandmother Bread one loaf recipe at a time by hand because stirring a double recipe is hard on my wrists. Here are a few things I did not see mentioned.

    1)Stir up your flour with a fork before measuring, then spoon it until level into your meas. cup. (don’t pack)

    2) Make sure you are using fresh yeast and store it in the fridge.

    3) Do a search on Youtube and watch somebody knead bread.

    4) heat a cup of water for 1 1/2 the microwave and place your bread in there along with it to rise.

    Last but not least, I find using a very large fork (half of the salad serv. set) is less strenuous to work with than a spoon for stirring the dough.

    Best of luck…… For me it was the third try before I “got” it.

  19. Canner Joann says:

    Famous words from Suzanne at last year’s retreat, “It WANTS to be bread!”

  20. christiewahlert says:

    That is super cute! I have used your sourdough starter AND grandmother bread recipe a lot over the last three months or so, and I love it. The bread is often different from baking to baking… but it’s always yum!

  21. utroukx says:

    wow, i could have written that email! i never managed to make a successful loaf of grandmother bread until i stopped using my mixer. i save it for when i make pizza/naan bread, cakes and cookies. to make a beautiful loaf (or two) of grandmother bread, i find making it the way suzanne suggests the best and easiest route. it’s also a great way to get rid of stres. 😆

  22. sbranard says:

    I also make Grandmother Bread using a KA stand mixer. I use more flour than what is called for in the recipe. In addition, Suzanne’s recipe for Homemade Dough Enhancer is great!

    Keep trying; it’s well worth the effort!

  23. Katharina says:

    Dear Angel, As they say in the south, “Bless your heart.” I have been baking bread for the last 35 years and I have used stand mixers, bread machines (no shame there) and have mixed by hand. I do admit to always, always forming my own loaves and baking them in my own oven (NOT the bread machine). What most people do not realize is that sticky dough makes very wonderful moist bread. So do NOT be tempted to keep adding flour. Also, I like to use very high quality flour, stone ground and fresh. King Arthur makes great flours that a lot of supermarkets are now stocking on their shelves.

    Never omit the salt. It took me many flat bricks to learn that one.

  24. gaea303 says:

    Angel, I’m wondering what kinds of flour you are using…I get vastly different results with different flours, and the amount needed and the kneading time will also differ depending on what kind of flours. For best results especially when just starting out, I would recommend a cup of bread flour, and the rest unbleached all purpose flour and perhaps some WHITE whole wheat flour. This is a whole wheat flour but has a finer texture. I know King Arthur Flour makes it along with others, but it is more expensive and also hard to find, at least for me in Knoxville. More stores are carrying it these days, though. However, this white whole wheat has a lower gluten content and so the dough needs the bread flour to make up for that, to ensure a good rising. With this white whole wheat you can still use wheat gluten or dough enhancer, or not, as you wish. Good luck!

  25. OCHousewife says:

    Poor Angel–are you feeling totally overwhelmed by all this information? My humble suggestion is, find a recipe you like (I can’t get Grandmother bread to turn out and I bake other breads all the time), make it by hand a few times, and then if you feel like it, use your stand mixer. For me, if it’s a choice between making bread less often with hand-kneading, or making it more often and letting the mixer do the work, I let the mixer do the work. I like to delegate. 🙂

    Good luck and keep baking!

  26. CarrieJ says:

    Angel-I use a stand mixer always. First I proof my yeast, then dump everything in there and mix for maybe 2 minutes. Then I scrape it out on the counter and start kneading. Keep kneading and adding just small amounts of flour at a time until it is just barely not sticky. It’s kind of tacky but doesn’t completely stick to the counter. You don’t want it too smooth and unsticky or it will turn out like a brick. Just barely sticky is how I would describe it. And I raise my bread 3 times. Twice in the bowl and once in the bread pan. Good luck! Carrie

  27. KarenAnne says:


    I made several attempts at Grandmother bread and never got it to work.

    After some comments back and forth here, it may be that the recipe does not work at certain altitudes.

  28. twoturkey says:

    Good morning….I use my KA big stand mixer to mix up my bread. I started making bread years ago…being taught by my mother-in-law to use a hand cranked bread pail mixing type method. Did that for years and now having a few health ailments that require me to change to using KA stand mixer. It takes a few tries to get it down pat for you. It does seem sticky at the end of kneading by the mixer…but you have to guess at the feel of it……which feels right to you. I use Robin Hood flour and a thermometer for accuracy for heat temperature of liquid ingredient.. It works for me. Good luck…and keep trying. It’ll all come together for you.
    Mrs. Twoturkey :airkiss:

  29. VictorianGirl says:

    I love baking bread but don’t make it as often as I would like to. For me mixing and kneading by hand is the fun part and also very rewarding, not to mention the mouth watering aroma as it bakes. All I can say is hang in there, keep trying and before you know you’ll have that perfect loaf of bread. Good luck!

  30. mamaraby says:

    Two words, Peter Reinhart. I could never get a decent loaf of bread when I tried it by hand. I picked up Peter’s whole grain bread book from the library, used my mixer, and got a fabulous loaf the first time. Next I got his artisan bread book and made the most amazing loaf of crusty, chewy, wonderful bread.

    Now, I take what I learned from him and apply to any recipe. Roughly…add all dry ingredients including the yeast(!) into my stand mixer. Use the paddle attachment and run the machine briefly to combine. With machine running, add the liquids and run on the slowest speed for 2 minutes (dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl and form a rough ball of dough, if it seems to be too dry, add some more water). Turn it off, let it sit for 5 minutes (this will help make sure the flour is hydrated). Switch to the dough hook and turn the machine back on for 2 min. At this point your dough should be done. You can let it sit for a bit, do a window pane test, and knead briefly by hand to finish up. Proceed with rising times as directed in the recipe.

    Works every time. I use it for bread dough, cinnamon rolls, sun bread, pizza crust, etc. I have loaves where the crust isn’t as I’d like or the crumb is too fine. I go back to Peter’s books and figure out where I went wrong. As for complexities in flavor…delayed fermentation can’t be beat. Get thee Peter’s books, dear woman! Get thee to Peter. :0)

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