Hiatus

Hi everyone! In case you haven’t already noticed, things have been a little quiet around here. I wanted to let you know that I haven’t gone anywhere or given up on the blog, I’ve just been a little busy! We are moving into a new house (with a larger kitchen!) so I’ve been busy preparing and packing. Most of my kitchen is packed into boxes right now, so my baking has been very limited.

However, I do have some exciting things on the horizon! I will have time to post at least one recipe over the next couple of weeks, and then once we have settled into our new place, Sarah June Bakes will be getting a complete makeover and will be featuring new content! I have joined The Daring Bakers, so I will be posting about that once a month, as well as posting new recipes weekly. I also hope to post restaurant reviews (from my local area) and more!

To stay up to date on what’s happening, join me on Facebook at the Sarah June Bakes Facebook page. See you soon!

blueberry pie

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? I certainly have…. but what I have right now is a little different from that.

It just happens that the day that I actually bake something for you to post on the blog is also the day when I write an amazingly witty blog post to complement my delightful recipe…. in my head. I am in my kitchen, happily listening to the Florence + the Machine Pandora station, covered in flour, dishes flowing out of my sink, and composing the most amazing blog post in my mind.

And then by the end of the day, and certainly by the time I actually sit down to write, I forget it all.

I know I must sound crazy. That’s probably because it’s true.

The good thing is, even though my writing isn’t great, this pie is. I was very, very nervous about it given that for some irrational reason pie dough scares me. I am always afraid it won’t turn out. I am like the mother of a newborn in the way I fuss over it – but this time I tried to let all of my fears go and just follow the instructions in Dorie’s wonderful recipe. If there is anything I’ve learned yet as a baker, it’s to just trust Dorie.

Who is Dorie? Well, it is not who you might be thinking. Her name is Dorie Greenspan and she is a James Beard award-winning cookbook author and baking guru. She wrote Baking: From My Home to Yours, which is also where I got the blueberry muffin recipe in my last post, and like I said before, her recipes never, ever fail me. You really should buy a copy if you want to learn to bake or love to bake. It’s an essential in any cookbook collection.

Trust me when I tell you that you absolutely can make a beautiful, homemade pie from scratch that blows Sara-you-know-who’s out of the water. And, just so you know – I am not a pie crust person. I really could care less about it. In fact, most of the time I just eat the filling out of pies, leaving the crust behind, and then I hand it over to my husband. Who is a (weird) lover of pie crust. Not this time. This crust is the perfect balance of flakiness and buttery goodness.

I think this may be one of my most favorite things I have ever baked. It is just that good, people. And so summery. Did I also mention – blueberries are in season… and fresh ones are essential to making this pie as delicious as it can possibly be?

Because this recipe is somewhat long and Dorie does a wonderful job of explaining each step very thoroughly, instead of copying the recipe here I will just provide a link for you to read the recipe elsewhere. Please do not let the length intimidate you. It really is not difficult and the steps can be divided up. Make the crust the day before and then the next day make the filling, assemble, and bake the pie. The recipe can be found here.

Have I convinced you to make this yet? I hope so. Because you need this in your life. Live dangerously – go get in your kitchen and make a pie!

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how to use 5lbs of blueberries: lime scented blueberry muffins

If you follow me on my Facebook page, you might have seen that last Friday I made a trip to a local berry farm. I met some girlfriends and we spent the morning chatting and picking blueberries. Before I knew it, I had filled up my bucket and came home with 5 pounds of berries! The next challenge has been figuring out what to do with them all (other than the obvious choice of freezing them and putting them into smoothies).Over the next few blog posts, I will chronicle how I am putting my fresh blueberries to use.

One of the first things I did was consult my small collection of baking cookbooks. Time and time again, one of my favorite ones has been Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. Dorie’s recipes are always successful in my kitchen; she never lets me down. While flipping through, I found a lovely Orange Berry Muffin recipe. However, due to the lack of oranges in my kitchen, I thought it would be fun to substitute for the citrus I did have on hand – limes. I haven’t often seen that combination as orange-blueberry and lemon-blueberry seem to be much more popular. I decided to try it out.

The muffins (and Dorie) didn’t disappoint! Made with buttermilk, they come out very moist. I took Dorie’s suggestion (as any good baker would do) and sprinkled the tops with sugar, which gave them a little sparkle. I also dotted the tops with a few extra blueberries just to make them look a little prettier. The lime, although subtle, adds an unexpected touch with its floral citrus-y flavor. The bright bursts of blueberry make these a very delicious breakfast treat or snack.

ImageLime Scented Blueberry Muffins

  • Grated zest and juice of 2 limes
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup blueberries – fresh or frozen, not thawed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.

Pour lime juice into glass measuring cup or a bowl and pour in enough buttermilk to make 1 cup. Whisk in the eggs, honey and melted butter.

In a large bowl, rub the sugar and lime zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry mixture and a whisk or spatula, gently stirring until just combined. Gently fold in the blueberries. Using a ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup measure, divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Recipe says it yields 12, but I got 15.

Recipe Source: Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

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chocolate strawberry shortcakes

Recently, I was doing a study on gospel friendships through a theology training program I am in. It was challenging and refreshing, and reminded me of how blessed I am to have so many wonderful friends who remind me who I am in Christ and spur me on in my relationship with Him daily. This little gem from Proverbs stood out to me:

“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” (Proverbs 27:9 ESV)

Dictionary.com defines earnest as “serious in intention, purpose, or effort” and counsel most simply as “advice or instruction”. I think that definitely describes the sweet friend I made this dessert for and I hope the Lord continues to grow our friendship in this way! In fact, it was my friend who encouraged me to post this recipe even though I’d not had time to photograph it for you. She told me to use her picture and post it anyway, because people would still want to read it, even if it wasn’t perfect. How encouraging!

This is a wonderful twist on strawberry shortcake, perfect for spring strawberry season! Recently here we’ve had an unseasonably warm March, tricking us into thinking it was an early Spring, and just as soon as we’d gotten comfortable… here comes a cold snap in April. The one good thing to about this cold snap is that strawberries are going to be popping up at the farmers markets a little longer. There’s really nothing like a fresh, local strawberry – beats the ones in the grocery stores by miles!

The one change I’d make to this recipe is to use a lighter cocoa. My go-to cocoa powder is normally Hershey’s Special Dark, which I love. However, in this recipe, I felt it was too dark, making the biscuits a little less sweet and more bitter than I wanted them to be. In this recipe, I’d definitely go for a classic cocoa instead of a darker or Dutch process one.

Make this soon before strawberries are out of season. Don’t forget to sprinkle the biscuits with sugar – and, if you can – share it with friends. I can tell you it definitely tastes much better when paired with good conversation and a cool Spring evening outside on the porch.

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcakes

makes 10-12 servings

For the shortcakes:

  • 1 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 3 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (you can also use chocolate chips)
  • 1½ sticks (12 tbsp.) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the strawberries:

  • 1½ lbs. strawberries, hulled and sliced or quartered
  • 3-4 tbsp. sugar
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

For the whipped cream (Please make this – it is worth it. Do not sub Cool Whip if you can!):

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2-3 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
  • Dash vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 425˚ F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

In a liquid measuring cup, combine the milk, vanilla and egg, and whisk to blend.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ½ cup of sugar. Whisk to combine.  Working quickly quickly with a pastry blender or your a fork, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the pieces of butter are no larger than small peas.  Mix in the chopped chocolate or chocolate chips and toss to combine.

Pour the milk mixture over the dry ingredients and stir gently until a sticky dough forms.  Very gently knead the dough just until most of the dry ingredients are incorporated, being careful not to overwork the dough.

Scoop the dough in about 1/3 cup mounds onto the baking sheets, leaving a few inches in between.  Gently pat the mounds to about 1-inch thickness.  Sprinkle the tops with sugar.  Bake, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the shortcakes are puff and give just slightly when lightly pressed, about 15-18 minutes total. Make sure you watch them closely. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

While the shortcakes are baking, combine the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a medium bowl.  Toss the berries in the mixture and let them set for at least 30-60 minutes.

Just before serving, make the whipped cream.  Place the chilled cream and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Whip on high speed until medium-stiff peaks form, being careful not to overbeat.  Blend in the vanilla.

To serve, split each shortcake horizontally.  Top the bottom half of each shortcake with a dollop of whipped cream, spoon some of the berry mixture over the top, and replace the top half of the shortcake.  Serve immediately.

Recipe source: Annie’s Eats, who adapted it from the book Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan (both of which are excellent, by the way).

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green eggs & “ham” with whole wheat biscuits

Hi everyone! I apologize for another picture-less post, but I am having some issues getting the Instagram photo I took of this meal to upload here. However, I still wanted to post the recipes for you, because they are just that good!

Like I told you in my last post, my husband and I are making an effort to eat more whole, real food and less processed food. These recipes came from one of my new favorite blogs, 100 Days of Real Food. I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting much, but this was so easy to do and so delicious I think it will make it into our regular rotation. We like have breakfast for dinner – or, “brinner” as we call it – about once a week. I admit that starting out on this recipe, I felt a little like Sam I Am from the Dr. Suess classic – I really wasn’t sure that I would like it. However, with one taste, I was delighted. This is really, really delicious!

The eggs are made green by the addition of kale. This is a great way to get some more leafy greens into your diet, and you can barely taste them in the eggs. I am sure this recipe would be great for kids as well. If you do make it for kids, go easy on the onion. This dish had a distinct onion flavor. I didn’t think it was overpowering or anything. In fact, I quite enjoyed it. However, if even the slightest hint of onion will be off putting to your kids, I’d leave them out.

I served this with bacon (I buy organic bacon without nitrates, such as Applegate Farms brand from Publix, or local bacon from a local farmer when I can get it) as the ham component and whole wheat biscuits also from 100 Days of Real Food. Let me tell you, the biscuits were melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I didn’t miss the white flour at all!

Green Eggs

makes 2-3 servings

  • 6 eggs (preferably local and/or organic)
  • 1 tablespoon organic whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup fresh kale, washed, stems removed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp organic butter

Put first 5 ingredients into a blender, and blend until kale is in very tiny pieces. Melt the butter in a medium to large skillet over medium-low heat and pour the mixture into the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally (I use a figure-8 motion) until eggs are set. Serve immediately.

Simple Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

makes 6-7 large biscuits

  • 2 cups King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour (organic preferred)
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I made my own by adding a splash of vinegar to whole milk)
  • 1/2 stick cold organic butter, cut into small pieces.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl until well combined. Cut in the butter with a fork or pastry blender, until it resembles small peas. Add the milk, and stir until the dough just comes together. Turn the dough out onto a flat, floured surface. I put a big piece of parchment paper on my counter, flour it, and turn the dough out onto it. Knead the dough 6-8 times, and then pat it out until it’s 3/4 inch thick. Using a large, round, biscuit cutter, cut out rounds. Place them onto a silicone baking mat lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until puffy and golden.

Recipe Tips:

This dinner probably took me thirty minutes to prepare, start to finish. I was able to do this largely because of my freestanding range with double oven. But, you could also use the stovetop for the bacon and do it in the same amount of time. Here is how I did it:

1. I preheated my top oven for the biscuits.

2. I prepared the biscuit dough using the recipe and instructions below. Once the biscuits were cut out, I dusted off the excess flour and placed them on a plate. I put the plate in the refrigerator until I was ready for them.

3. Next, I made up the egg mixture in the blender and set it aside until I was ready for it.

4. I placed the bacon slices on a rimmed baking sheet that had been lined with foil, and placed it in my bottom oven. Then, I turned the oven on to 375 and set the timer for fifteen minutes. (Or, you could begin cooking them in a pan on the stovetop).

5. When the time said 12 minutes remaining, I pulled the biscuits out of the fridge, put them on a Silpat lined baking sheet, and put them in the top oven.

6. I poured the egg mixture into a pan after the butter melted and cooked them as the bacon and biscuits finished cooking. I even had time to slice up some local strawberries for dessert!

Recipe Source: 100 Days of Real Food

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reconciling baking with a healthy lifestyle

You may or may not have noticed, but things have been a little quiet around here at Sarah June Bakes. Part of the reason for that is overall life busy-ness; it’s been a little crazy around here. Another reason is I’ve been doing a little soul searching lately in regards to food and wasn’t sure what it might mean for the blog, so I’ve been hesitant to post.

Healthy eating is something that’s been on my mind for quite some time. It’s something that I’ve always struggled with because I love food so, so much. However, after watching the documentary Food, Inc. a couple of years ago, my eyes were opened to all kinds of new information, and ever since then, I’ve been processing that and slowly changing the way I eat.

Most recently, I have had some health issues pop up that have made me delve into this topic a little more. Over the course of the past few months, I’ve been researching all kinds of diets and gathering lots of information. The conclusion / philosophy I’ve finally landed on is the one on Lisa Leake’s popular blog – 100 Days of Real Food. I find this approach refreshing, achievable, and it makes a lot of sense to me.

I had a hard time, however, reconciling this with my love of baking. After all, white flour and white sugar are pretty much the building blocks of traditional baking. This is what has held me back from fully committing to a “real food” (unprocessed diet) for so long. I didn’t want to give up the hobby that had become a true passion of mine. It just didn’t make since to me. I believe that it’s a God-given thing and it didn’t seem right to just quit.

So, I’ve decided to keep on doing what I love. Life is all about balance. The conclusion that I arrived at is that it is okay to treat yourself every once in a while as long as you’re doing it in moderation. I still believe in the power of a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie – white flour, white sugar, and all.

Also, after reading this article and learning all of the downright scary ingredients that are in store-bought cakes, I believe it is ever more important that people learn to bake from scratch. Yes, you may be using refined ingredients like sugar and flour; but it is far, far better to make a dessert as an occasional treat at home than to purchase one from a supermarket. Even places like Fresh Market, Earth Fare, or Whole Foods, in a lot of cases. The same goes for boxed cake mixes and canned frostings.

So, I will continue to feature classic baking recipes on my blog, but also hope to feature others that also cater to a more healthy lifestyle and that are more for every day. I may also write some posts about my experience with trying to switch over to a diet completely free of unprocessed foods (which is harder than it sounds!) if you, my readers, are interested in that. I hope to make baking from scratch easier for you so that you will feel empowered to bake at home.

Thank you for your patience and be ready for some delicious things coming up soon! Please let me know your thoughts on this topic – whether you agree or disagree, or what your own story is. As always, I love hearing from you.

Love,

Sarah

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sarah june bakes is now on facebook!

Sarah June Bakes now has its own page on facebook! “Like” it to join in on all the fun food conversation.

www.facebook.com/sarahjunebakes

I look forward to chatting with you there!

Love,

Sarah

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peanut butter cookie pie

Sometimes in life, the simplest things are best.

A glass of ice water on a hot summer day. The sound of rain falling on your roof when you’re falling asleep.

A simple, straightforward peanut butter cookie pie.

A basic pie crust filled with peanut butter cookie dough. Straight up gooey peanut butter heaven.

It’s like a giant peanut butter cookie in pie form. Simplicity for peanut butter lovers at its finest.

Sometimes, though, simple won’t do.

You need to mix it up a bit.

How about some vanilla bean gelato?

There. That’s better. What’s a pie without ice cream?

But wait….. something’s missing…

Chocolate sauce.

Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Sometimes, in life, a little excess is okay. Sometimes, a little more chocolate sauce is all we need.

This pie is impossibly easy, incredibly delicious, and as equally as impressive. Perfect for these last, lingering winter days since it’s served warm. Make it today – you won’t be sorry!

Peanut Butter Cookie Pie

Makes 8 servings

  • 1 prepared pie crust (I used Marie Calender’s)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup Reese’s peanut butter chips

Preheat your oven to 35o degrees. In the bowl of your stand mixer (or a medium bowl if using a hand mixer), combine the sugar, flour, peanut butter, and butter, starting on a slow speed and increasing to medium speed, until mixed well. Next, add the eggs, vanilla, and peanut butter chips, and mix to combine. Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake for 45 minutes or until the pie is firm in the middle.

Serve with vanilla ice cream (I used my favorite Talenti Vanilla Bean gelato) and chocolate sauce, warm from the oven.

Recipe source: Loosely adapted from this recipe at Culinary Concoctions by Peabody.
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rice krispie treats: two ways

Some of my fondest childhood memories were getting to stay over at my Memaw and Pepaw’s house (that’s Southern for Grandma and Grandpa). Whenever I stayed the night there, my Memaw would cook me one of my favorite childhood dinners. It was Tyson chicken nuggets with plenty of ketchup, crinkle cut french fries, baked beans, and a dinner roll spread with Parkay margarine. If I close my eyes, I still remember it exactly how it looked on her blue floral scalloped plates, and exactly how it tasted.  While that meal isn’t the epitome of culinary greatness or gourmet by any means, it was made with so much love – and that’s what I remember most.

On the other hand, my Memaw is a fantastic cook – I adore her cornbread dressing, potato salad, and especially her macaroni and cheese. She has shared many of her recipes (the few that were written down anyway) with me and I am looking forward to sharing them with you on the blog!

Rice krispie treats are an iconic childhood food, and one I remember making quite a few times myself as a kid. I am hoping these fun treats will bring back some fond food memories for you! Even if you never ate rice krispie treats as a kid, you can be any age to appreciate them – they are delicious and completely addictive.

The iconic recipe is made a little more exciting by the addition of Oreos in one variation and cake batter in the other. I made them both for a football party and sliced them really big. They were devoured pretty quickly!

I guess we are all kids at heart. Please share some of your favorite childhood food memories in the comments. I’d love to read about them!

Cookies & Cream Rice Krispie Treats

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
  • 4 cups mini marshmallows
  • 10 Oreos, chopped

Spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a large pot over low heat, melt the butter. Add the marshmallows, and stir until melted. Stir in the cereal and Oreos, and then press into the prepared pan and let cool.

Cake Batter Rice Krispie Treats

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
  • 4 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup yellow cake mix
  • 1 1.75 oz container of sprinkles

Spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a large pot over low heat, melt the butter. Add the marshmallows, and stir until melted. Stir in the cake mix and sprinkles, and then press into the prepared pan, and let cool.

Recipe Tips:

  • When pressing the treats into the pan, do it gently. Don’t pack it down or it’ll make for dry treats!
  • If you want your treats thicker, use a smaller pan.
  • A knife sprayed with nonstick spray makes for clean cuts.
  • When mixing in the sprinkles, be gentle or the colors of the sprinkles will run. But if you’re not as type A about baking as I am, it is probably no big deal.

Recipe Source: Both recipes are from one of my very favorite food blogs, How Sweet It Is. How Sweet It Is got the Oreo Rice Krispie recipe from Picky Palate, and the Cake Batter treats are an original creation from How Sweet It is.

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product review: plan to eat

plan to eat

plan to eat

Does this sound familiar?

After a long day at work  or taking care of your children, you rush into the kitchen at 6:00PM. You forgot to take something out of the freezer to thaw. Or maybe you did, but you have no idea what to do with that package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or pork chops thawing on your counter. What sides do you pair with it? You stare blankly into your pantry as your spice and condiment bottles stare blankly back. Sometimes, the question “what’s for dinner?” is such a pain!

Even though I love both baking and cooking dearly, meal planning is often stressful for me, too. There are many, many times after a long day of work that I come home to an evening full of activities, and cooking is not something I feel like doing. Since I desire to cook healthy meals for my husband and I while minimizing stress and eating out, I have often turned to meal planning tools to help.

After trying many, I finally feel like I have found one that I can stick with that works really well for me. It’s called Plan to Eat (www.plantoeat.com). The wonderful thing about Plan to Eat is that it’s completely custom. Instead of generating meal plans for you, you input your own recipes and then you can drag and drop them onto a calendar that will also generate a grocery list for you. You can plan meals for the week, two weeks, month, or even the whole year if you are so inclined! I love that it gives me total control. I have tried other services in the past, but was frustrated with only being able to eat what they told me to eat. I realize that for some, that works perfectly and I totally get it. But for me, those types of meal/menu planning services did not offer me the flexibility and utility I desired.

Plan to Eat is very user friendly and it doesn’t take long to get used to the interface. They also provide detailed instructions on how to use it if you need help. It is also very affordable – $39 for 1 year or $4.95 per month.

I love that it gives me one, central place to store all my recipes. If I try something from a cookbook or blog, I quickly load it into Plan to Eat for future use. You can also add ratings and comments to your recipes, so you can easily reference the ones that you enjoyed most later. Not to mention, you can share recipes with your friends on the website as well.

Sure, there are many weeks where I fall down on my menu planning and we end up eating PB&Js or Chik-Fil-A, but overall, Plan to Eat has been an invaluable tool that has helped me greatly! They offer a free seven day trial, so you have nothing to lose!

Disclaimer:

Plan to Eat has no idea who I am, nor do they know of my blog. I wrote this post simply because I love their website and wanted to pass my find along to you in the hope that it may make your life a little less stressed. I gladly pay for my Plan to Eat subscription with my own money because I love it and am in no way being compensated by them for writing this. If you do decide to join Plan to Eat and would like to list me as your referral or share recipes with me there, that would be lovely! My username is sarahjunebakes.

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