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Buckwheat Pancakes Secrets

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Successful buckwheat pancakes in 7 secrets. I make them with home milled buckwheat flour for extra taste but you can use bought flour. Probably the simplest dish on FXcuisine!

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Outside of Brittany and the Latin District in Paris you may find only one or two pancake joints in any French town, but they are always full. Most offer two types of pancakes: sweet pancakes from regular flour (crêpes au froment) and savory pancakes from buckwheat flour (crêpes au sarrasin). There are two styles of Breton buckwheat pancakes - thick and thin. Restaurants make them thin on large electric heaters. This is the style in the North of Brittany. Today I'll show you how to make them like in the South of Brittany - thick, and will give you the 4 secrets that will make your buckwheat pancakes a success.

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First grind your buckwheat flour. You could use bought buckwheat flour, but in most shops buckwheat flour is a slow seller and is invariably stale.

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Grinding your own is much tastier and it takes only a 5 minutes for a pound. All you need is a flour mills. Even better, the flour is very fine and does not require any sifting to remove the bran, since the buckwheat bran is like a nutshell removed when harvesting. This is definitely the easiest and nicest-looking flour you can grind at home.

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I used to be a buckwheat purist and made pancakes from 100% buckwheat flour and water. No eggs, no oil, no milk, no nothing. Well, not anymore. Buckwheat has no gluten, which may be the reason you are reading this article if you are allergic to gluten. But this means the dough is rather brittle unless you add a little regular flour. I recommend you use at least 1 cup regular white flour for every two cups buckwheat flour - that's the secret #1 to a successful buckwheat crepe. Sift the flours together, then add a cup water.

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Add two eggs. If mixing by hand you should beat the eggs before adding them to the flours.

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Whisk by hand. Why? Mr Hervé This, a prominent French food scientist every bit as serious as Harold McGee and the inventor of molecular gastronomy, has tested various ways of preparing pancakes and found that hand beaten pancake dough is more elastic and tastes better. That's the secret #2.

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Now you may have trouble dissolving every last flour clump in the liquid with a hand whisk. If you don't succeed, briefly use a plunging mixer while nobody is looking. Tell them you whisked by hand. Now you need to let the dough rest. Mr This tested various resting time and it makes an awful lot of difference on the dough - that's our secret #3. Cover and leave in the fridge for 12 hours. If you are in a hurry leave it at the very least for 1 hour.

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You need to cook crepes and pancakes on a cast iron or steel pan. No non-stick nonsense. That's barely a secret but we'll call it our secret #4. Then the pan must be as flat as possible, with only the smallest and flattest sides. That's our secret #5. It sounds very obvious but I've been offered a number of so-called 'pancake pans' at Mora, a very serious professional cookware shop in Paris, all deep as bathtubs. If you want to flip your pancakes like I show below, you need a flat pan. I must have spent 15 minutes discussing pancake pans with the guy at Mora, and finally he went down the cellar to fetch this humble iron pan that cost me only €10. When I moved to the checkout counter, another attendant tried to help me finalize the order but this guy pointed at me and said "Don't speak to him - he is a curmudgeon". Everybody in the shop looked at me. The two ladies standing next to me took a full step back. Then the guy added "I'm joking, serve him first!" . I knew that my keen interest for crêpes pans had won me the shopping attendant - Parisian style! Then you need to use a little oil as possible. When you begin cooking pancakes on cast iron pans, you fear the dough will stick and you douse the pan with oil or butter. I used to do this and it took me well over a tablespoon of butter for each crepe, the butter turning brown because of the heat. Don't do like I did then - do as I tell you now. Just lightly rub a piece of bacon on the hot pan or wet a towel with heat-resistant vegetable oil gently pad the pan. There should be no visible fat on the pan, just a shine. That's our secret #6.

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Using a ladle, pour the buckwheat dough in one go into the hot pan and move the pan about so that the dough covers the entire surface in a regular disc. You can use a wooden paddle to help but don't scratch the bottom where the dough starts to stick to the pan - just caress the liquid surface.

Now for our secret #7. Do not touch the pancake until the top has set and the pancake is almost cooked through. This is totally counterintuitive, so let me explain why. You will worry that the pancake might stick to the pan and want to slide a wooden spatula between the pancake and the pan as soon as you can. Seeing that the dough somewhat sticks to the pan, you will feel a sense of urgency and try to put your spatula all around and below the pancake, sensing that this may be the last opportunity to save your pancake - and your pan. Doing this will do precisely the opposite. The pancake is still brittle and weak as only the part closest to the pan will have set. You will tear your pancake and the parts where the pancake has stuck to the pan will stick for good. Don't do this.

The way to go is to let the pancake set, so that when you finally use your spatula to move it, the crepe will have a much stronger structure that will resist to tearing both from the spatula and from the tiny bits that stuck to the pan.

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And now for the fun part - pancake flipping! Actually you don't really need to flip pancakes, you could do everything with one of them large flat spatulas. But you and your guests would be missing something. Just make sure the pancake is rigid enough not to fold when being flipped. Start by moving the crepe about on the pan held firmly in your strong hand. Move it to the side furthest from the handle and quickly raise that side in one sharp move. The crepe will start flying and slowly turn in the air, allowing you to catch it back. Make your your have enough clearance above the pan, these things fly high.

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I had this one with freshly grated Gruyère cheese and a pinch of Espelette chili. Some days I add a few strips of crispy bacon, others I top it with caramelized onions or an egg. But you could make this a dish fit for the worthiest monk by serving it with chives and a spoonful of sour cream. No doubt you'll find your favorite toppings.

Please consider that this is one way of making great buckwheat pancakes and not the one you see in most restaurants. I'll post another article in the future for super thin pancakes!

Published 10/03/2008
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63 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by Thuan
  • on: 10/03/2008
"Don't speak to him - he is a curmudgeon".I liked that.  A lot.  Hilarious!
Very interesting.  I wouldn't normally consider having buckwheat pancakes with anything other than blueberries, maple syrup, and a little bacon on the side.  But the gruyere and chilies bit intrigues me.  This will have to be investigated further on my next day off...- Farmer
You also make Bellini like this, right?
  • #4
  • Comment by joel
  • on: 10/03/2008
I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your web page.  I am a Chef in the USA who has worked for Alain Ducasse for 4 years in the past.  I go to your page daily, anxiously awaiting your next entry.  I find myself truly inspired after reading your recipes.  As I mature as a cook I gravitate toward the rustic rather that the refined which I think you capture so well in all of your recipes.  The photography is beautiful as well.  Keep up the great work.  
  • #5
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 10/03/2008
In French the guy said "Non, pas Monsieur, il est désagréable". Then he waited to see the effect, and laughed and placed me in front of everybody else. I think I hooked up real good with this guy. They sell such specialized equipment they just have to respect the guy who looks at every pan and explains them politely why they don't work for the intented use.
  • #6
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 10/03/2008
Farmer, buckwheat in France is used mostly for savories, it goes really well with bacon! Or perhaps spinach and a melted blue cheese.
  • #7
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 10/03/2008
Jonathan, isn't the Bellini a cocktail? I don't understand the reference in the context of the buckwheat crepes - sorry.
  • #8
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 10/03/2008
Joel, thank you so much for your appreciation! I really like Ducasse's cooking and I know he only hires the best cooks. In which restaurant did you work? What station? My articles are a very modest tributes to things of the past mostly and I couldn't create such fine dishes by myself. Let me know if there is something you'd like to see on the blog!
  • #9
  • Comment by Lyle Gordon
  • on: 10/03/2008
I think Jonathan meant blini the small Russian buckwheat pancakes often served with caviar.
Francois, how did you take the picture when you flip the pancake? It's amazing!!I think Jonathan was talking about blini. :) Alain Ducasse has the best blini ever, period. The version I had used a yeast based batter with beer and dried currants. Correct me if I am wrong, Joel~ ( I didn't get the chinese wall reference--I don't think chinese walls are taller. The Great Wall is just very very long)As always, I LOVE your food, writing and pics!!
I love your flour mill and also Buckwheat crepes. Having made a poor attempt at soba, I learned the hard way about no-gluten! Good tips. About being callipygian, this is not literal merely a metaphor.
My mind is wandering. I'm sorry. I meant Blini, or blinz, those sweet, thin, east-European delights. Would you use buckwheat flour for them too? Also, let me use this opportunity to say I'm a long time reader and a big fan of both your recipes and your pictures.
  • #13
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 11/03/2008
Ah, blini, not Bellini. No, I make blinis with live yeast and egg whites beaten stiff for a lighter texture.
  • #14
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 11/03/2008
Cheese puff, I had to make many pictures to get these and I am still not happy. Basically the usual black velvet background and large light and a camera with high ISO, high shutter speed and spot metering. You need to put the camera on a tripod and manually set the focus. Then shoot at 6 fps. I will try again with a flash for sharper details on the pancakes.
  • #15
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 11/03/2008
Callipygia, no gluten is definitely best let to those who are allergic to it. Hope you have better luck with the buckwheat pancakes than with the soba noodles!
  • #16
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 11/03/2008
Jonathan, thanks for your clarification, no harm done. If you use buckwheat for the blinis add least the same weight in regular flour. I'll try to post a blini recipe and look it up in my russian cookbooks. Thanks for visiting!
  • #17
  • Comment by leila karlslund
  • on: 16/03/2008
Yes, please post the recipe for the super thin buckwheat crepes. I have tried in vain to make them like the ones they serve in Aarhus, Denmark at the Marina. I have had them with a thin slice of ham, cheese and a dollop of strong aioli where they were folded over like an envelope, but open at one side.
I love buckwheat flour, I'll try these pancakes.Chocolat of Cookinginrome
  • #19
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 24/03/2008
Alessandra, sei brava di visitare il mio blog, ti auguro successo con le crepe al grano saraceno!
  • #20
  • Comment by WC Wood
  • on: 31/03/2008
Francois, love the buckwheat pancake tips. My paternal grandparents were farmers, and my grandmother made pancakes much more often with buckwheat flour than with wheat flour. How delicious they were! It was always a breakfast item, topped with local buckwheat honey or maple syrup, and served with slab-cut bacon or sage-seasoned sausage. (Never a nonstick pan in the Grandma's farm kitchen. I'll have to find a pan like yours.) Great article!WCW
  • #21
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 03/04/2008
WC Wood, I'm glad my article reminded you of these beloved memories of eating your grandparent's buckwheat pancakes! The maple syrup with sausage and bacon sounds like a great idea. I'll soon make the paper-thin buckwheat pancakes, watch out for them.
  • #22
  • Comment by Betty
  • on: 06/04/2008
I have a question about the recipe: what is the flour to liquid ratio? I just made the batter and ended up using 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup water, and 2 eggs. Is this what you did? Thanks a lot!
  • #23
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 06/04/2008
Betty, the liquid used in pancakes batter depends on the way you want to cook them. I just made a trial batch yesterday for super thin pancakes - it was a success - and used 2 cups for half a pound flour.
  • #24
  • Comment by TZ
  • on: 29/04/2008
I can't wait for the thin crepe recipe.  I made some today that turned out gummy--yuck!  I need help.
  • #25
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 29/04/2008
TZ, I'll try to shoot pictures of the thin crepes, but know that you'll need a large cast iron crepe pan, much larger than this one, and a couple tools to spread the batter and slide a paddle below the crepe. It's a very technical thing, but not overly hard if you get the proper gear.
  • #26
  • Comment by Dave
  • on: 02/05/2008
What if I had biochemical concerns about using regular wheat flour but wanted the adhesiveness/non-brittleness that adding the white flour would provide. Could I instead add some small amount of glutin and achieve the same result? The same question applies to making bread with buckwheat flour.
Thanks in advance ... just discovered your site and intend to return often.
Dave
  • #27
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 04/05/2008
Dave, you could consider milling your own flour, there are many very good and affordable home flour mills out there. You'd need to run it through a sieve aftewards to remove some of the bran, and it wouldn't really be all that white. I am not aware of gluten you could purchase separately, and if it did exist it would probably raise the same biochemical concerns as regular flour would.
  • #28
  • Comment by Mary Jane
  • on: 08/05/2008
Hi I work in Australia as a chef and just wanted to tell you that i stumbled across your website by accident,I also love art so for two hours I have been in awe at your wonderful presentation of food and recipes....and you are right, it does bring heaps of happiness....its hard to explain to someone who doesnt see a brussel sprout as a "Sculpture"!!!! Colour, tone , shape, they all are important and thats even before it reaches the mouth....thank you for this 'visual feast' you have created! By the way do you photagraph other things as well? MJ
  • #29
  • Comment by Pol
  • on: 08/05/2008
Just curious... why not a non-stick pan? Don't hate me, I just want to know how badly I need to go out and buy one. If it's HIGHLY recommended for good reason, I most certainly will get one... I remember my aunt telling me that she has ONE pan for palascintas (Hungarian pancakes) only. But I just don't understand why.

Oh, yeah, and no baking soda or baking powder?
  • #30
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 08/05/2008
Mary Jane, thanks a lot for your comment, I am glad you have understood the way I see things! Indeed you could look at a vegetable for an hour, and if you look close enough, you'll see the entire Universe. I like to do reportage, shooting the world as it is, but since my main focus is food, I mostly end up people cooking or eating or making things related to cookery. Tomorrow I'll visit a prestigious maker of fancy pots and pans - check back soon!
  • #31
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 08/05/2008
Pol, if you can find a non-stick pan that has a copper or aluminum or cast iron base, it may spread the heat evenly enough for your pancake to turn out OK. Otherwise you'll just burn it above the hotspots and rip it elsewhere. What you want is a very heavy pan. I suppose non-stick could be feasible, but the only serious pans I've seen personally are made of iron. More on this later!
  • #32
  • Comment by leane
  • on: 28/06/2008
Waaauuuw!  I looove your website.  You are neither a chef, nor cook, you're an artist.  In this age of rehashed info on the internet, your website is a+ quality.  The recipes and background stories are delightful and the added photos make fxcuisine.com that much more inspiring.  We are lacking more blogs and sites like yours.  I've already bookmarked this.  Please keep up the great work.  If I were not already married, I'd make a proposal!  Thanks.
  • #33
  • Comment by Zofia
  • on: 29/08/2008
Hi
I like your 7 secrets (I didn't know that the dough needs resting time) and funny style, but the recipe, with all the details included, lacks the vital one - the amount of the ingredients, or the ratio of flour to eggs to water - to assure the right consistency of the dough. And how many pancakes it will make. Could you add it, please, or kindly email it to me.
Thanks
Zofia
PS. I avoid wheat, will adding spelt flour instead do any good? Or any other flour?
  • #34
  • Comment by katy
  • on: 02/09/2008
I just made buckwheat flour pancakes with spelt this morning (before I found this site) - and that they were "OK" - but now that I know the "secrets" - esp. resting the dough I know they'll turn out much better. I'm amazed that no leavening or fat was required, the more simplicity the better, esp. regarding emergency preparedness - eating what you have on hand.thanks for this wonderful site.
  • #35
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 02/09/2008
Katy thanks for your visit and good luck with your next batch of buckwheat pancakes!
  • #36
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 02/09/2008
Zofia you need to use two eggs for the quantities indicated, you can see them in the picture in fact. The yield will depend on how big you make the pancakes, I'm sorry but I don't remember exactly how many it resulted for me. Spelt is not so cool as you need a lot of gluten to compensate for the lack thereof in the buckwheat flour.
  • #37
  • Comment by leila karlslund
  • on: 03/09/2008
Dear Francois,
When are you going to publish the recipe for paperthin buckwheat crepes, you once promised?
It's been a long time since we were in contact - hope you are well. I am. Leila
  • #38
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 04/09/2008
Leila, thanks for visiting back! I plan to do it for la Chandeleur, february 2nd 2009. Sorry for the long wait, but all you need really is to get one of them crepe pans from Le Creuset with the wooden scraper and the big flat paddle. Then make a very liquid dough and spread it quickly in one sharp movement. They really get thin that way!
  • #39
  • Comment by Clémence
  • on: 24/11/2008
I was thrilled to discover a whole buckwheat category on this website, which is growing into a favourite: many thanks.
As a Breton person and buckwheat maniac I feel compelled to contribute my favourite filling for a buckwheat 'galette', which is rhubarb jam. The two flavours complement each other to perfection. Don't be tempted to make it frilly by adding chantilly or creamy stuff, though.
And I thought it was in the West of Brittany that pancakes were thin, as opposed to the East. I'm from the north coast and our local pancakes are definitely thick in comparison to those you eat in, say, Finistere.
  • FX's answer→ Clémence thanks a lot for visiting, I will publish a recipe for paper-thin West-Brittany-style 100%-buckwheat pancakes for the next Chandeleur!

  • #41
  • Comment by Lumpy Dough
  • on: 30/11/2008
Using 3 cups flour (2 buckwheat + 1 wheat) and 1 cup of water + 2 eggs I get a solid clum of a dough, not even a paste.

Maybe the ratio of mixing flours is 2/1 but this recipe does not work with 3 cups flour 1 cup water 2 egss no no no no it doesn't, unless cooking at the bottom of a lake.
  • FX's answer→ You need to add liquid until the dough is smooth enough, but start with one cup, mix, then add more until it is as liquid as you want. Good luck!

  • #43
  • Comment by Lumpy Dough
  • on: 30/11/2008
Ah, it worked for me with 3 cups flour + 3 cups water + 2 eggs.  They were thick & hearty & dense and the buckwheat so fragrant.  Maybe next time I'll try more eggs (or just less flour) for a lighter body.  

Thank you for the awesome tip of letting them cook through before flipping, and your precise explanation as to why: that had always been my Achiles heel when making any kind of pancakes--but no more!
  • FX's answer→ Lumpy Dough, thanks and I will post for the next Chandeleur a recipe showing how to make paper-thin buckwheat crepes. Glad it worked for you in the end!

  • #45
  • Comment by jill
  • on: 09/09/2009
hey thanks for your super article
great tips
and bacon ideas!
need to go buy some right now.
and the gruyere
perfect
think that will be y breakfast today
cant wait to read more of your recipes.


  • #46
  • Comment by shilla
  • on: 16/04/2010
wish I had these buckwheat recipes years ago. For a decade I have eaten pancakes with only buckwheat flour and water, they were very thick. A few months ago made them with buckwheat flour, two to three eggs and four to five tbs of olive oil and water. Sorry, but I bought a non stick crepe pan. I now am able to make very thin buckwheat crepes. I am looking forward to trying your buckwheat pasta, however I can not afford to use any wheat flour so will no doubt need to improvise. Would love more recipes with buckwheat and other non gluten grains. would also like recipes with none of the nightshade family and no lactose and no sugar.  Cook books never allow for people who have all these food sensativitys.
  • FX's answer→ Yes modern pastry makes much use of the very same gluten some people are allergic to, and it is rather difficult to make regular recipes work without any gluten at all. But buckwheat tastes so nice, even if your crepes are a bit brittle, it should be worth it!

  • #48
  • Comment by Ivan
  • on: 03/05/2010
   Interesante, yo cotización en mi sitio más tarde.

Ivan
  • #49
  • Comment by Brystal
  • on: 21/05/2010
I didn't have time to read all the comments, so I'm not sure if anyone has asked this, but where did you get your grain mill?  I love it and would like to find one just like it.  Thanks!
  • #50
  • Comment by Terrence Boring
  • on: 06/07/2010
I enjoyed this article very much, the only one so far that tells very much.  What about toasted buckwheat??  Mine never turn out crispy, don't especially taste of buckwheat either.  You might try, in a future article, to describe the texture, etc of your crepes.  Great photos.
  • FX's answer→ Have you seen my video of making crepes?

Loved the site and reminds me of a visit I made to Brittany and came across a hay-making festival in which there was a stall selling thin buckwheat crepes wrapped around large sausages and you could help yourself to various relises.  Real peasant food and I saw the stall holder making this thin lacy crepes.  Magical!

Thank you for the recipe.  I am gluten intolerant and have trouble finding suitable recipes.  The shop sold varieties of gluten free never seem to taste right sadly.

  • FX's answer→ Have fun with the buckwheat crepes!

  • #54
  • Comment by Pam
  • on: 29/07/2010
I have just started gluten free cooking and my first attempt at buckwheat pancakes was dismal, so thanks for all the tips - I shall try again, starting with the pan.
  • FX's answer→ Pam, if you get the pan and other tools right, this will work for you as it did for me. For more advanced cookery, alas not entirely gluten-free, have a look at the my Soba Noodles class article.

  • #56
  • Comment by Hayley-jay
  • on: 03/11/2010
I have been making these buckwheat pancakes, with various sweet or savory fillings for the last six months, and they are gorgeous.  Both myself and a good friend cannot eat wheat so these are perfect, plus I live in the South west of France and have a local organic supplier of freshly ground buckwheat flour.  How lucky am I!  Thank you all so much for the tips and advice.  Hayley

  • #57
  • Comment by Sheena
  • on: 06/11/2010
My friend who is gluten intolerant just bought a gluten free buckwheat and tapioca flour pancake mix. They were wonderful. Perfect texture. You don't need glutenous flour to make great pancakes!!
  • FX's answer→ Sheena glad this worked for you!

  • #59
  • Comment by patricia Amodeo
  • on: 31/12/2010
Wonderful presentation and humour...I'll try them tonight for a very RELAXED New Year's EVe dinner...will let you know,
Till then have a wonderful New Year...Patzi
  • #60
  • Comment by Claude Parent
  • on: 06/02/2011
I enjoyed your article immensely, and looked all over for your "thin" recipe. When I was growing up, every Sunday morning dad would make thin buckwheat cakes for us (5 kids), he would cook and flip and we would eat (roll ups), thin pancakes stuffed and rolled with anything we had eg. fruits, jams, cooked chicken, ham, (my favorite roast pork) and virtually any left-overs in the fridge. My dad has since passed on, and I can find no mention of this type of pancake anywhere, I have tried myself and can't seem to get the right texture. I mussed have watched him make thousands of these, and (didn't pay attention). After reading your blog, it's given me a few more ideas. Did I mention that he used to rub the griddle with a piece of pork fat before each pancake?  Thank you again for the wonderful blog.
Claude
  • #61
  • Comment by nameEmma
  • on: 21/02/2011
I really appreciate your buckwheat pancake recipe, I can sense your skill and 'good taste' thanks!
  • #62
  • Comment by Nichol
  • on: 22/02/2011
Great! The most important things are, indeed, letting the dough stand a bit, and being patient while the pancake cooks till its whole top is dry, and the edges start to curl up, without any help from any fidgeting cook.

Pure buckweat works fine for me, though I always add egg and some oil, and just water, never milk, as I think it makes the pancakes stick more.

Pure buckweat flower makes for an interestingly gluey texture, and if you just stir in the egg with some of the water, slowly incorporating all the flour, after which all the flour clumps will be pulled apart easily while stirring. Here the trick is start it out rather more thick, and only dilute it to the right consistency after the clumps are out.
  • #63
  • Comment by SueSea
  • on: 22/08/2011
What kind of grinder is this?

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