The Gluten-Free & Vegan Recipe Challenge

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20100920 IMG 8185   The Gluten Free & Vegan Recipe Challenge

I often like to attack vegan recipe challenges with gusto, spearing my spatula into the air while whisking a flax egg like a crazy person. However, as much as I like to consider myself a fearless vegan baker, there is one type of baking that makes me shake in my boots: Gluten-free baking.

I was recently asked to participate in a gluten-free and vegan recipe challenge with a group of bloggers, organized by Marly. The challenge is to create a gluten-free, vegan baked good, which will be appearing on our blogs on June 30th.

Fear set in.

Questions began to swirl through my mind.

Vegan…and gluten-free?…ahhhh! Would my oven burst into flames protesting the task? Would my husband disown me if I brought home one more ingredient from the grocery store?

Naturally, I hit reply and said I would love to participate. There would be no shaking in my apron allowed!

Given that the deadline is June 30th, I thought I would use the next few weeks to ‘get my toes wet’ with gluten-free baking. The recipe that I agreed to make for the challenge is a muffin recipe, but I decided to start with a cookie because it was ‘fail-proof’.

I think you know where this is going…heh.

I picked up Bob’s Red Mill All-purpose GF flour from the Superstore. I already had some Xanthan Gum, which has been collecting dust in my cupboard for about 2 years (it was originally purchased at Bulk Barn).

IMG 7191   The Gluten Free & Vegan Recipe Challenge

I was now armed to make GF and vegan baking magic happen! whohoo.

Mistake #1: Assuming that I could play around with a gluten-free and vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe….

Recipe called for too much oil.

Less oil, more applesauce, duh.

Too much sugar.

Less sugar, more…something, duh.

Uh oh, the batter is too wet.

More GF flour, duh.

As you can see, I’m a scientist in the kitchen.

IMG 7186   The Gluten Free & Vegan Recipe Challenge

Well, it wasn’t pretty. The batter- for lack of a better description- was like the coating on a worm. Glossy, and elastic. Not cool.

Mistake #2: I figured the oven could fix mistake #1.

The timer started to beep and I ran into the kitchen with nervous anticipation. I opened the door and saw a sight that no cookie lover should ever witness…

IMG 7195   The Gluten Free & Vegan Recipe Challenge

Mushy & puffy chocolate chip cookies that even Eric refused to touch. And this is coming from a man who would probably eat worms if they were covered in chocolate. I wouldn’t even go as far to say that they were ‘cake-like’ or ‘muffin-like’; they did not deserve such accolades.

‘Puffy cookie mush’ is all I can tell you.

IMG 7192   The Gluten Free & Vegan Recipe Challenge

And what the heck is going on with the cookie on the right? It looks like it exploded chocolate chips!

IMG 7194 2   The Gluten Free & Vegan Recipe Challenge

Alas, it might take me a few days to work up my GF and vegan baking courage again!

Fortunately, there’s always a vegan recipe that never lets me down. Ok, that was a lie.

It rarely lets me down…

IMG 7205   The Gluten Free & Vegan Recipe Challenge

That would be the Green Monster of course. A delight to the taste buds. A thank-you to the body. A reason why you should always check your teeth and green moustache before going out in public!

IMG 7201   The Gluten Free & Vegan Recipe Challenge

I knew today was going to be a hot one, so I set out for a 4-mile run just after sunrise. Before leaving for a morning run, I typically have 1/2 a banana for a bit of fuel. After the run, I did a sweaty 7-minute Whittle My Middle session (KILLER!) and then I made breakfast- a Cherry Banana Green Monster made up of 1 cup non-dairy milk, 1/2 cup frozen cherries, 1 frozen banana, 2 handfuls spinach, protein powder, and 1 tbsp chia seeds.

Perfecto!

Lately, I’ve been adding Nature’s Path Kamut puff cereal for fun. This is the good kind of puff. Those cookies were not.

IMG 7204   The Gluten Free & Vegan Recipe Challenge

[FYI- My Chilled No Bake Double Chocolate Torte is vegan and gluten-free if you are looking for a successful GF + vegan dessert recipe.]

Now, this whole challenge has me curious- do I have many gluten-free readers out there?

Have you ever tried gluten-free baking? Do you have any tips for me?

I have about 20 days to get my act together…or bust!

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{ 210 comments… read them below or add one }

Christa June 8, 2011

Cooking gluten free can be really fun and tasty once you get the hang of the ingredients :)

Check out Elena’s Pantry http://www.elanaspantry.com/ for some great recipes
or Spunky Coconut http://www.thespunkycoconut.com/

Good luck!

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KATE June 8, 2011

I am also quite intimidated by GF baking and im not a fan of the gluten free flours I prefer mixing my own. I did a GF challenge for a month and really had to get creative I have been successful with gluten free breads & muffins but have had my share of flops as well. I love brown rice flour as well as tapioca starch I think the two of those usually end up with good results

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Sara June 8, 2011

Gluten-free smoothies certainly are much easier. I just had an oatmeal cookie green monster myself. Yum!

Looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

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Chloe (Skinny on South Beach) June 8, 2011

Can’t wait to see what you come up with next! Practice definitely makes perfect, I think it would be very hard to cook gluten free, let alone attempt baking so bravo to you!
I might start my own little challenge of trying new vegan meals here and there, it’s always fun to mix things up in the kitchen :)

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Gabby @ Gabby's Gluten free June 8, 2011

Good luck! Gluten free vegan baking is hard – no structure from gluten and no structure from eggs is a challenge. Here are some tips just from my personal experience:
I recommend not using x-gum, you don’t really need it unless you’re making something that requires a lot of gluten (like bread).
Baking by weight is key for gluten free baking – especially if you make your own flour mix, all those flours have different weights and densities.
Vegan gluten free batter is much stickier than regular batter or vegan batter.

Other than that, it just takes a lot of research and experimentation! I hope those tips help!
Try a brownie or cupcake recipe – they do nicely when vegan and gluten free.

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Rebecca June 9, 2011

I agree completely with you on everything! Xantham gum really isn’t needed in most GF baking unless it’s something like bread (even leave it out of pizza crust if making that GF). And GF batter is absolutely much stickier than regular batter!
I’ll add another suggestion, while I absolutely love the Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Flour, it isn’t necessarily best to use in everything. For baking, you might be better off using the individual flours (rice, tapioca, potato starch, arrowroot, etc.). The ratio of the flours in the all-purpose might not be right for what you are making.

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Grace @ Healthy Dreaming June 8, 2011

I would love to experiment with GF cooking! Sounds daunting but a worthy challenge!

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Liv @ The Salty n' Sweet June 8, 2011

I’ve actually never tried gluten free or vegan baking yet, but I’m hoping to change that this weekend when I make your chocolate torte for a barbecue! Wish me luck ;)

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Leigh June 8, 2011

Hi! My BIG tip is to NOT use Bobs Red Mill All purpose. In a pinch or when you need quick gf goods, it will work. But if you want something to taste like it’s not gluten free, stick with making your own flour blend. I recommend 1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1 cup soy flour (can substitute garbanzo, fava, sorghum)
3/4 cup potato starch (can substitute corn, arrowroot)
3/4 cup tapioca starch (can substitute corn, arrowroot)
1/2 cup masa harina (can substitute almond meal

Bean flour also leaves an iffy taste, so for mose things I avoid it.

With Gf baking, you don’t often need to bake things as long. An overdone gf cookie has a whole different flavor than a wheat based one.
Good luck!!

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Jessica June 8, 2011

I have to second this one…I am gluten free as well as my 3 yr old and after lots of experience, I stay away from Bobs Red Mill. You could definitely make your own as suggested, or you could use Pamela’s baking mix. It is so good!! Everything by Pamelas is awesome! Good luck!!!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) June 8, 2011

heheh I KNEW someone was going to say that! Figures…it’s never as easy as a pre-made mix right?

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Julia June 8, 2011

I’ll third this one. My husband is GF and he has a reaction to the Bob’s Red Mill all purpose flour. We do a mix very similar to yours minus the masa harina. I do use xantham gum and usually add more if I am making a crust for pie etc. Pamelas is excellent-he loves the pancake waffle mix. A great cookie recipe that I started with to experiment with flour was from Vegetarian Times called The Heart-healthiest chocolate chip cookie, here’s the link, http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipes/10870.

Good Luck :o)

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Dana June 8, 2011

I find you can make less expensive and healthier mixes too! I try to use a flour like buckwheat in my mix (just grinding the groats in the Vita Mix) vs. brown rice because it has more nutrients. Sorghum is fantastic, as is teff (can find at Bulk Barn). I actually have GREAT results with muffins using teff flour…my teff blueberry muffins with coconut oil (really helps with moistness), coconut palm sugar among a few other things turn out awesome. Hope this helps!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) June 26, 2011

Hey Dana,

Do you suggest ivory or brown teff in the muffins? Tks!

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Dana June 26, 2011

My closest Bulk Barn only sells the brown teff flour, so that’s what I’ve used. Ivory would probably work well too though!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) June 26, 2011

thanks Dana!

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Gabby @ Gabby's Gluten free June 9, 2011

Pamela’s is the best gf mix I’ve found so far!

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Kendra June 8, 2011

Some good recipes that you can adapt from are in Erin Mckenna’s Babycakes vegan and mostly gluten free baking book, and the Flying Apron’s vegan and gluten free baking book by Jennnifer Katzinger. the first one still uses a lot of sugar and agave, which I’m not fond of, but the second focuses more on whole grains and sweetening with maple syrup. They are both good for ideas!

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Kelsey @ Clean Teen Kelsey June 8, 2011

I am so intimidated by GF baking! Vegan baking is second nature now, but I’m too afraid to work with GF flours. I commend you! :)

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Kayli (Running on Sunshine) June 8, 2011

I highly suggest you get your hands on the Babycakes cookbook by Erin McKenna! It is filled with vegan, mostly gluten-free, FABULOUS recipes from her famous NYC bakery. After baking my way through her cookbook, I am comfortable with concocting my own GF recipes. Her chocolate chip cookie recipe is over the moon amazing!

Good luck!!

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cassi June 8, 2011

i have celiac and am vegan–i’m super fun to cook for. i agree with leigh–stay away from Bob’s Red Mill GF All Purpose! makes things taste SOOOO gluten free, which is bad…

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Kristina June 8, 2011

Oh, I am so excited to see what things you make for this challenge. I discovered I had a severe wheat allergy about a year ago. Finding gluten free and vegan/vegetarian meals in a cookbook can be challenging but the internet has troves of good recipes!

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Kim June 8, 2011

My advice – stay away from Bob’s All Purpose GF for a baked good. It has too much garbanzo flour in it and often turns bitter in sweets. Took me a while to figure that out, but since then I have a rule in my kitchen – no garbanzo allowed in baked sweets. :) Almond meal (straight or mixed with lighter flours) will give you delicious results.

Good luck! Can’t wait to see what you come up with.

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JT June 8, 2011

The gf mixes generally have xanthan gum in them. I mostly use almond flour and coconut flour for my gf baking…rice flour mixes (in my opinion) can be bland and gritty. Also, gf products with rice flour mixes can be denser and sit heavier in the tummy. But….
Don’t be afraid!!! :)
Gf baking is like everything else, adopt a “can-do” attitude and try, try, try again.

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K June 8, 2011

I am with you on this one! I am not someone who needs to eat gluten free, but some of my favourite recipes happen to be free of wheat/gluten! Quite a few years ago, I tried out coconut and almond flour (after visiting the Elana’s Pantry website) and now I love to use the almond pulp leftover from making almond milk, regular almond flour, coconut flour, chickpea flour…you name it! I definitely prefer single-ingredient ground whole foods to mixes. That said, I have eaten some delicious GF mix-based baked goods! When all else fails, I say, just go flourless! Can’t go wrong with a rich, flourless chocolate cake!

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Ruth June 8, 2011

Good luck! I’m always trying to adapt recipes and it’s always so disappointing when something you really hoped was going to be delicious turns out to be a flop. I’m always trying to improve my recipe for challah and I’ve definitely had one or two bad outcomes. I’ve never tried gluten-free baking though. That’s a whole new challenge!

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Meredith June 8, 2011

Gluten free baking is definitely something I’m nervous about trying! My mom bought me the newest Babycakes cookbook for Easter, but I’m worried about spending my precious student dollars on gluten free ingredients and have the recipe be a dud. Good luck! I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

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Kathleen June 8, 2011

I’ve been gluten free for a year now, and baking is tricky! A few big things I’ve learned:

1. The pre-mixed flours are not very good for sweet baking. I’m thinking it’s the use of bean flours in most of them. They lend a strange spongey texture and odd flavor. Some of my family members don’t mind, but I’m not a fan.

2. If you mix your own flours, you have to go by weight due to all the different densities. A kitchen scale was the best investment I ever made.

3. The batter will ALWAYS be sticky! Don’t think you can overcome this by adding more flour – you will ALWAYS have wet, liquidy batter, and if you add too much flour you will just have an end product that crumbles to dust (I know this all-too-well from experience). I actually like making bread this way – no kneading required, just let the liquid batter rise, then bake!

4. A couple websites to go to for really great all-pupose GF flour recipes: glutenfreegirl.com, and noglutennoproblem.blogspot.com.

Good luck! I’m really looking forward to your recipe!!

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Jacklynn Walters June 8, 2011

It is not vegan but Pamela’s AP GF flour (x gum in mix) is the BEST, turns out the same (even better) than other baking. They might have a vegan option. Unlike another comment I think x gum is much needed as I left it out of some GF brownies and it was a flop! Might try other GF flours (check Whole Foods as they have a good selection). Best of luck in your Vegan GF baking! Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

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kaila @ healthy helper! June 8, 2011

You’ll make some thing GREAT ange!!! You always make the best stuff so I am sure you”ll think of something fabulous! Even though those cookies were a flop they actually look pretty yummy! :)

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Lungs June 8, 2011

Angela, is it just me, or does your second GM photo look like it’s …smiling? I’m seeing the kamut puffs as hair, and in the actual mason jar, what are probably actually little air bubbles seem like a smile and two eyes. Right below the screw part of the jar.

Could be just me, but I saw it right away and it struck me as cute as hell.

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J3nn (Jenn's Menu and Lifestyle Blog) June 8, 2011

My husband and I are currently reducing gluten and cow dairy in our diet, so this is right up my alley! Get this: i have even done grain-free baking! It’s possible, and quite tasty. I haven’t done too much gf baking, but I hear apple cider vinegar and flax are key ingredients. Good luck, I look forward to your experiments!

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Jessica@ Fruit and Veggie Tales June 8, 2011

We are gluten free! Baking GF is so much different than it is with gluten! I used to make wedding cakes before I found out we have Celiac Disease and now I would looooove to have a G Free cake shop but it’s a lot of work! Experiment with lots of different flour combinations, a heavy flour and a light flour are usually needed to bring the flavors together better, there are also medium grade flours. Sorghum, teff, coconut ( a fave!), millett, buckwheat, gluten free oat, brown rice…..be creative and you will be surprised!

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Apron Appeal June 8, 2011

I have all the gluten free fixin’s in my pantry too but I’ve yet to take the leap of faith. I did finally get around to making your cheesy cracker recipe. I was super worried, because the dough was not my favorite. But like you and your cookies here, I decided to see if the chemical reaction in the oven would be enough to make them delicious…IT WORKED!!! I have a cracker. yum.

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Amanda (Eating Up) June 8, 2011

My sister Ashley (from Sweet & Natural) and I decided to make three different gluten free cupcakes as the dessert for Christmas dinner two years ago. We never had tried gluten free baking, and we didn’t test the recipes. We tried to modify the cupcake recipes so they were gf and sadly, it was a mess. One of the cupcakes turned into impromptu bread pudding. One of them did work though! And the frosting was quite delicious on all of them.

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Sarah Dean June 8, 2011

I have a friend who is gluten intolerant….and Ive learned from her, NEVER USED PRE MIXED FLOUR!!! Potato and tapioca I hear is great-she even make perogies with no problems!!!:) Good luck angela!! gluten free baking scares the bejeebers out of me!!!;)

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Julie @ Shining From Within June 8, 2011

I am just as lost as you are with GF baking.. seems like a whole other planet to me! Good luck though, I’m sure you’ll be able to figure out a delicious recipe :)

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Michelle | Gold-Hearted Girl June 8, 2011

Gluten free, here!

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Evan Thomas June 8, 2011

Gluten-free/vegan baking is a challenge, but if you stick with it you start to get some great go-to recipes from it. If I were you I’d start with anything BUT cookies. Cookies are the hardest thing to make since there’s no protein structure to stop them from spreading everywhere. Simple gluten-free starter recipes are cakes and cupcakes because the form helps them to keep their shape until they’re cooked.

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Jen @newellnd June 8, 2011

I have been baking Gluten-free for ages now….best advice I can pass on is to mix your own flour combo. Bob’s Red Mill isn’t amazing and has only led to failure for me. I am hooked on the flour mix created by the blogger “Hey That Tastes Good” though I mix that one up by adding millet flour occasionally. Feel free to drop me a line if you need any help (I’m pretty local and more than willing to sit down and chat about baking gluten-free)

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Andrea B. @ Vegvacious June 8, 2011

I went gluten free for 3 weeks during a cleanse and now that I’m back to eating foods with gluten, I’m pretty sure I don’t have any issues in that department. Savoury main dishes are so much easier to make GF than baked goods! I tried my hand at a couple of things and they were edible but not fantastic. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

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Gen June 8, 2011

I’m currently trying to reduce the gluten in my diet…..will definitely be looking forward to your baking adventures! :D

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Mary June 8, 2011

Coconut flour, coconut oil, bananas, & applesauce are common ingredients I use =)

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Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga June 8, 2011

Angela, vegan AND Gf baking is hard! Very hard for me at least! I think that some people get a knack for it over time, and it becomes more second nature, they can cook more “by feel” and know what to add more of, reduce, fold in, etc but for me, I am not skillful enough that way and so the things I make that are baked + vegan + gf are not works of art…they taste good but they aren’t “pretty”…like my muffins are ok but they wouldnt get on FG or TS. Or my cookies taste great but again, not pretty. It’s an art to make it all come together I think!

One reason I gravitate toward raw/nobake things is that they are vegan and GF and the chances for flops are wayyyy less for me.

You will do wonderfully and can’t wait to see what you come up with!

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Joanna June 8, 2011

I’ve been gluten free for years and usually avoid sweets because of it. It’s hard to find good gluten free recipes. I’ve used almond flour and oat flour and they seem to work well. Best of luck!

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Katie @ Healthy Heddleston June 8, 2011

Man, I wish I were in this challenge!!! I GF bake all the time!!

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Rhona June 8, 2011

I have never made anything gluten free and I am really scared to. It just looks too complicated and too much work. I have eaten gluten free cookies and muffins, but that is about it. Good luck.

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Emily @ Savory and Savage June 8, 2011

I used to make gluten free dog treats but since they were made with liver I doubt that will be much help :-)

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Julia June 8, 2011

Vegan baking is do-able, but I never tried vegan and gluten free! I’m sure you will have no problem coming up with delicious recipes, though. That GM looks so refreshing on this killer hot day.

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Jen June 8, 2011

I’m recently gluten-free! After testing my sensitivity, I’m pretty sure I have an intolerance. (I have an official appointment with a gastroenterologist next week.) I’ve only baked one batch of cupcakes thus far, and they came out great! They were not vegan though. One thing I’ve noticed about most gluten-free recipes for baked goods is that they consist of a lot of eggs. I’m talking three or four eggs for about a dozen cupcakes. As for tips, I’ve heard that combining gluten-free flours yields the best results. You should look up different gluten-free flour combinations if that all-purpose GF isn’t impressing you. (By the way, I just bought that same flour, but still haven’t used it. I’ll let you know if I make any successful recipes with it.)

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