Wednesday Baking | Cheap, Cheap Bread (French Bread)

by Kristen on March 18, 2009 · 78 comments

in Recipes, Wednesday Baking, Yeast Bread

easy homemade french bread

This is probably the most inexpensive bread I make because of its simple, short ingredient list…water, salt, sugar, yeast, and flour. Water and salt are practically free, a tablespoon of sugar costs pennies, and flour isn’t very pricey either.

This recipe is not going to turn out artisanal loaves that rival what you’d get in a French bakery…this bread is more like a heartier version of what you’d buy in your local supermarket.

5 ingredient homemade french bread

If you’d like to make your loaves more nutritious, you can substitute whole wheat flour for part of the white flour (I wouldn’t sub more than 50% of it, personally).

I use this bread recipe quite often…we eat the loaves when they’re fresh and hot, I use the dough to make bread bowls, and I make panini sandwiches, French Bread pizzas, and garlic bread with extra loaves.

Because of this, I rarely make one loaf! It’s just as easy to make two, and then you can freeze one to use later.

Since the dough has very little sweetening and no added fat (both of which act as preservatives), you’ll want to use or freeze your bread within a few days to prevent mold.

super cheap homemade french bread

Easy French Bread

Easy French Bread Printable Recipe
Makes one loaf

2 1/4-2 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pkg (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (120°F)

In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine 1.5 cups flour with the salt, sugar, and yeast.

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Add water and beat for 3 minutes.

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Beat in enough additional flour to make a soft but kneadable dough.
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Turn dough out onto floured surface…

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and knead for 3-5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.

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Place in bowl, cover with tea towel, and let rise 45 minutes (an hour if your house is cold).
Punch dough down and roll into a long rectangular shape. Starting from the long end, roll up jelly-roll style.

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Place seam-side down on a greased baking sheet, cover with a wet tea towel, and let rise 30-45 minutes, or until doubled. How long this takes will depend on the climate of your house.

(The loaves below are obviously not risen yet).

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Preheat oven to 400 degrees. A hot, fully-preheated oven is key for a brown crust, so don’t be tempted to default to 350°F and do wait patiently for your oven to get to temperature.

This next stop is optional…it just makes for a shinier crust:

Whisk one egg white with one tablespoon of water until slightly foamy. Using a pastry brush, gently brush beaten egg white onto loaves.

Using a sharp knife, make 3-4 diagonal slashes on top of the loaf.

These loaves are a bit over-risen…I got busy doing something else and forgot about them. Oops.

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Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until nicely browned. Cool on a wire rack.

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Happy Baking!

Leave a Comment

{ 67 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Battra92 March 19, 2009 at 6:40 am

Yeah and if you snatch a few packets of sugar from work or the next time you’re at a restaurant it’s even cheaper. ;) (just kidding of course.)

I’ve been thinking of trying French Bread for a while. Part of the reason is that I love getting a sub at either Subway or the local place but I can’t justify the price. French bread like this is … well moderately priced (I can get two 18 inch loaves at BJs for $3) but I can see this being a heck of a lot cheaper.

I do want to try using more whole wheat for my bread. Of course I’m also trying to find something to match the quality of those multi-grain breads at Subway (yes I know that honey oat is really just wheat bread rolled in a honey/oat topping but it’s still delicious!)

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2 Cheryl March 19, 2009 at 7:36 am

This is probably a silly question, but do you ever cover the bread with plastic? I used a towel once to cover the dough and the dough got stuck to the towel.

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3 Frugal Liz March 19, 2009 at 7:51 am

When I make french bread, I substitute whole grain spelt flour for half of the bread flour. I also use spelt flour in pita bread, naan and bagels.

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4 EngineerMom March 19, 2009 at 8:09 am

I love French bread! There’s a picture of me at the age of 4 helping my dad make a few loaves – easiest recipe in the book. I never tried brushing the crust with egg white, though.

@Cheryl – Make sure you’re using a towel with a very low pile, like a flour sack style. If you still have a problem with the dough sticking, use a little oil to brush the surface of the dough instead of the egg white. I do that with my french loaves on days when it’s really humid (which is when the towel will be most likely to stick!).

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5 Jenna March 19, 2009 at 8:13 am

Thanks so much for this! I’ve been wanting to get a decent french bread recipe to start making and keeping fb pizzas and garlic bread in the freezer for a while now. I can’t make this before Sunday – but I have a feeling I know what my afternoon then will look like now.

Rather flour covered and smelling yeasty.

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6 Michelle March 19, 2009 at 9:21 am

I frequently make baguettes (I found a baguette pan for a quarter at a thrift store!), but how do you make bread bowls? For instance, how many bowls would this batch of dough make? How do you get it to stay spherical, rathern than sagging into a flat circle? How long do you bake them? Inquiring minds want to know!!!

Love your blog–I look forward to it every day. Some day I’m going to get brave enough to sand & paint my own furniture findings. :)

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7 Jaime November 9, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Thank you for this simple repcie. I made this tonight and it was delicious. I used 1 cup each of the sugar and it was sweet enough. This is coming from someone who loves sweets.

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8 Kristin March 19, 2009 at 1:54 pm

I’m going to make this right now! I love fresh made bread. Thanks, Kristen!

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9 Angela March 19, 2009 at 5:52 pm

Kristen, I just noticed you use a standing mixer. I don’t have one- can I use this recipe and mix it by hand?

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10 Kristen March 19, 2009 at 6:21 pm

Angela-yep, you sure can. Just mix up the dough as thoroughly as you can before adding the last bit of flour, and then you might want to knead it a bit longer by hand. It should be nice and elastic when you’re done. Poke it quickly with your finger, and if the indentation fills in quickly, then you can be done kneading.

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11 Angela March 19, 2009 at 8:14 pm

Thanks Kristen, and for post on the question. I bake a lot of “quick breads” like pumpkin, banana, gingerbread, etc. and those obviously don’t need the stand mixer. And I know you don’t actually NEED the stand mixer, because like you said, people have been baking bread for centuries. I always have to remind friends of that when they’re incredulous that I don’t own a food processer, because I bake so much, and do it all by hand. But I wondered what the difference would be with your recipes if you wanted to do it by hand, and you’ve answered that very thoroughly in the post. Thanks so much!

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12 Kristin March 20, 2009 at 5:23 am

I made the bread last night. It was awesome. Thanks for the recipe.

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13 Cate March 24, 2009 at 8:12 am

I made this Sunday night, and it was delicious!

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14 Desirae April 4, 2009 at 11:07 am

Can I double this, or am I better off making two loaves separately?

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15 Kristen April 4, 2009 at 11:32 am

Des, you can make as many loaves as you want at one time. I made four yesterday, in fact!

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16 Katy Wolk-Stanley June 11, 2009 at 11:17 pm

Kristen,

I am loving this super handy recipe, and was wondering if I could run it as a guest post on The Non-Consumer Advocate?

Thanks,

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

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17 BarbS June 23, 2009 at 8:42 am

Found this recipe at Katy’s blog, and made it for the first time on Sunday morning. By Sunday afternoon it was all gone! And I couldn’t believe how easy it was. Thanks soooooo much for sharing it.

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18 Angie August 4, 2009 at 2:26 pm

I’m going to try it. I made the grilled pizzas last night, and my crust didn’t rise while cooking. I discovered, after researching posts here, that I had too much flour. We still had the pizzas, though. They were just thin crust. Very thin crust!
Can you roll other things into the loaves like herbs and spices? Maybe butter? Will that affect the rising while cooking? Just wondering.

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19 Yuri Jmac November 18, 2009 at 12:30 am

I’m going to try it. its much more cheaper than our bread that we sell here in our bakery!

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20 hiptobeme December 13, 2009 at 1:09 pm

I love making this bread because it doesn’t require a loaf pan. I only have one loaf pan, I think I need more with all of these great bread recipes. Thanks.

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21 Mel January 9, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. It was delicious and easy enough to motivate me to make my own bread more often! I think I’m going to try your garlic bread next.

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22 Jenn C January 22, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Yay Kristen! I did it! I made my first yeast bread and broke my kneading virginity ;) I’m so happy and thanks to you and your blog, I did it. I followed your slideshow of photos dutifully and my french bread came out brillantly. I made two loaves and plan to use one tonight w/ a yummy vegetable soup and use the second tomorrow for your french bread pizza recipe. You rock, Kristen. Keep up the great work and especially, Wednesday baking :)

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23 Julia February 23, 2010 at 10:07 pm

My 8 year old son and I made this today. It was very easy, super fun, and so delicious. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

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24 Betty March 12, 2010 at 1:44 pm

I would loke to know how to make the bread bowls.

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25 Barbe March 12, 2010 at 6:38 pm

I will never buy French bread again! Thank you so much for a god recipe. I went on a baking frenzy last night. It turned out so good, I’ll think I will use it for steak sandwhiches next time.

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26 Jolyn@Budgets are the New Black March 16, 2010 at 12:19 pm

I haven’t been reading your blog for very long, so I’m so glad you linked to this in your “Beef au Jus” post. Making bread products from scratch and quickly making my short list of things to add to my kitchen repertoire, and this one sounds like a great place to start!

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27 Connie March 18, 2010 at 9:45 pm

This bread can even get cheaper yet. Instead of buying those small pkgs of active dry yeast, try buying a bulk pkg of yeast and freezing the extra for future use. I have done so for about the last ten years. My last yeast purchase was about three years ago with no poor performances to date.

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28 Dawn March 31, 2010 at 10:49 am

Another great recipe-and again thanks for sharing! Made it yesterday and it is delicious!! A little bit left over to go with tonights meal! (just two of us or it woulda been GONE) :-)

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29 Leah May 25, 2010 at 12:16 pm

I’ve made this a few times recently, and it’s so yummy. Kristen, if you double the recipe, do you also double all the ingredients (yeast and all?). Also, have you tried this in a bread machine?

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30 Lira June 25, 2010 at 8:54 am

This recipe is great! My roll ended up longer and skinner than yours though. I should have cooked for about 10 minutes only. It ended up so tasty! Thanks!

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31 Irina July 4, 2010 at 2:53 am

Kristen, thank you so much for this great recipe, i am making this bread every week now.So easy, tasty and cheap!!!! THANKS a bunch!!!
BTW:love your website and admire you too !!!

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32 Jill August 2, 2010 at 11:27 pm

Thank you for sharing this recipe! I had all but given up hope that I would ever be able to make a loaf of french bread where the crust wasn’t as hard as a rock! The very first time I made this recipe the bread came out golden brown, and I was so fearful that once it cooled the crust would be hard as always. But it was sooo soft and delicious! Thank you for this recipe!!

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33 Megan September 11, 2010 at 5:54 am

I made a few loaves of this recipe last weekend – it’s been my most successful bread yet! The first loaf came out a bit dry (probably because I don’t use the fancy flour) so we used it for French Toast on Saturday morning. The next go-round, I added more warm water and cut back on the mixing time, and the second loaf was perfect. Thanks for posting your recipe!!

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34 Erin December 9, 2010 at 11:55 am

So what’s the trick on how to make this into bread bowls?

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35 Sarah March 30, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Have you ever tried a starter instead of yeast? I’ve been using one I started last year for my weekly bread making.
Also if bread is still left over at the end of the week, I make croutons. Cut bread into cubes, fry with a little butter and seasonings of your choice, bake at 300 F for 10-20 minutes.

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36 Rebecca November 12, 2011 at 3:30 pm

I have made this twice and making it again tonight for french bread pizzas. My whole family loves it. I used to buy 4 loaves of french bread a week at 2.80 a loaf, so this will save us a lot of money. Thanks for the great, easy recipe.

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37 Gitu December 17, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Hi! Is it 1 cup of flour to start in the mixer or 2? The full-picture version says start with 1, but the printable version says start with 2. Thanks for clarifying. Can’t wait to try this!

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38 Kristen December 19, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Sorry about that! It doesn’t really matter a whole lot, but I usually start with somewhere around 2 cups.

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39 Kristin March 21, 2012 at 9:51 am

I made a double batch of this last night and it came out awesome! This was the first time I have made a successful and edible loaf of homemade bread. Thank you so much for the recipe and I love reading your blog, it is an inspiration to me as I try to live even more frugally than I have been.

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40 susan May 22, 2012 at 12:06 am

Thanks for the great recipe! We love it. I have made it twice. Doubled the second batch and used half whole wheat flour. My hubby actually prefers it that way. :)

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41 Blanche October 26, 2012 at 12:42 pm

This is excellent! Thanks so much!!

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42 Kelly February 11, 2013 at 8:32 pm

I made your bread! It was so so so so good! My new favorite bread!

http://happywifey.net/2013/02/french-bread/

Thanks <3

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43 Kristen February 11, 2013 at 9:41 pm

So glad to hear that!

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44 Kristina March 13, 2013 at 5:10 pm

I’m amazed that it turned out so well. Thank you very much!

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45 Erica J March 21, 2013 at 8:38 pm

Hi Kristen! Thanks for a great recipe! Do you think this would work with bread flour?

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46 Kristen March 21, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Yup! I’ve done that before and it works fine.

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47 Mary Hannah March 28, 2013 at 1:51 pm

I have traditionally bought take and bake loaves of French bread for our Sunday morning breakfast, because all I have to do is bake it for 15 minutes and I have fresh, hot from the oven bread. Is it possible to refrigerate the dough at any point in the process to cut down on the time of preparing in on a Sunday morning?

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48 Kristen March 28, 2013 at 3:02 pm

To replicate that kind of thing at home, you’d just want to underbake your loaves a bit. Use a 350 oven instead of 425, and take the loaves out when they’re still a bit on the blonde end of things rather than the dark brown end of things. Let them cool, wrap them in a plastic bag, and then take them out of the bag and bake them in the oven on Sunday morning until they’re hot and darker brown.

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49 KimH March 28, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Im curious why you didnt let your stand mixer do the kneeding in addition to the mixing.

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50 Kristen March 28, 2013 at 9:51 pm

I prefer to have a little more control over my kneading, and honestly, once the dough has been mixed for a few minutes in the mixer, not a whole lot of kneading is necessary!

You can certainly let the mixer knead the dough if you prefer, though.

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51 KimH March 28, 2013 at 11:04 pm

Thanks for the reply.. I was just curious.. I’ve been making bread by hand (no machine) for at least 30 years and I think the machines are great after getting one a couple years ago. ;)

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52 Lisa April 1, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Thanks! This is a delicious, simple, inexpensive recipe. I love it!

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53 Michele G April 5, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Thanks so much for a great recipe! I have tried several french bread recipes that have been total flops! We tried this last night and it was awesome!

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54 kari April 6, 2013 at 8:29 am

Can this be done in a bread machine?

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55 Rebekah April 11, 2013 at 12:59 pm

I just made this and it is so good. I can’t wait to try it with French
Bread pizzas! Thanks for the recipe!

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56 Patsy Watkins May 20, 2013 at 10:34 pm

I made the French Bread and served it with my homemade spaghetti sauce. It was so EASY to make and delicious!! Thanks so much for the detailed instructions…they were easy to follow and my family loved the bread.

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57 Jen August 5, 2013 at 9:44 am

I was wondering if you could use cling wrap to cover the dough instead of the towel? Also what is the best way to reheat this in the oven? Thanks for the recipe!

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58 Kristen August 5, 2013 at 10:40 am

Yes, you can use cling wrap-I just prefer a towel because it’s waste-free.

I haven’t reheated mine in the oven, but I imagine if you wrapped it in foil and baked it for 10 minutes or so, that would do the trick.

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59 Betsy Durand August 23, 2013 at 9:14 am

I am assuming to make the bread bowls, you simply shape into a round loaf? Would it make one big bowl and/or two smaller bowls? My son loves soup in bread bowls and would love to try this for him!

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60 Kristen August 23, 2013 at 11:26 am

It all depends how big you want your bowls to be…I’d think maybe three would be good from one loaf’s worth of dough, but you can play around and see what works best for you.

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61 Crystal September 12, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Looks like a great recipe and I can’t wait to make it to go along with soup this weekend. Just curious though … can this be made in a bread machine?

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62 Cathy November 4, 2013 at 8:28 am

Thanks, will try this it looks quite doable.

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63 Shelley January 22, 2014 at 12:06 pm

I made your Easy French Bread last night, and it turned out wonderfully! As a novice bread baker, I appreciated the easiness of the recipe and the detailed instructions. Thanks for a great recipe! I want to try whole wheat bread next.

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64 Lisa April 13, 2014 at 2:54 pm

I agree! I’m not very experienced with baking, and she made this recipe so easy to follow! Makes me feel like a pro!

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65 Andrea January 24, 2014 at 1:17 pm

THIS IS AWESOME!!! My picky husband said it was the best bread he has ever had. Thanks for the recipe!!!!!!!

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66 Kristen January 24, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Woohoo!

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67 Lisa April 13, 2014 at 2:53 pm

I just wanted to thank you again for this great recipe! I have some loaves in the oven right now. This is such a simple recipe, and makes such delicious bread! I love the short list of ingredients, and the use of the hand mixer. And, my family lives the fresh-from-the-oven taste! I’m going to underbake a few small loves, freeze them and heat them up when we’re ready for them. Thanks!

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