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Entries in bakeries (273)

Friday
May212010

Mother's Love: Delicious Sweets at Mother's Bistro and Bar, Portland OR

Sometimes, I don't even have to seek out sweetness: it finds me.

Case in point: on a recent trip to Portland, OR, I found myself out to dinner with friends Mary and Dave at Mother's, a bar and restaurant downtown. It was all extremely delicious--most notably the biscuits.

When it came time for dessert, something terrible happened: they declared themselves to be "too full".

Happily, our perceptive waiter could sense my sadness at passing back the dessert menu, and soon after appeared with a small tray of cookies--a crumbly, buttery shortbread, and a sort of cherry-nut-oat cookie. 

Needless to say, this prompted discussion with said waiter about said cookies, which then resulted in even more freebies: this time, a sweet lemon-coconut bar which was beautifully rich and decadent. 

Happily, Mother's has a bakery case by the entrance, making it easy to go in and pick up some sweets-to-go, including big versions of the cookies we sampled.

And, most importantly, they're all baked on premises:

Mother's Bistro and Bar, 212 SW Stark St, PortlandOR; mothersbistro.com.

Mother's Bistro & Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday
May202010

Oregon Sweetness: Cupcakes from Frills, Seaside OR

My friends Denise and Nick are delightful for oh, so many reasons. I mean, just look at them:

Yeah, adorable, right? And among other awesome traits, they both have the amazing ability to eat their own weight in cake, and they're the people who introduced me to Full Tilt Ice Cream.

But most recently, they've secured real estate in my heart by bringing me cupcakes from Frills in Seaside, Oregon.

Now, I didn't visit in person, so I can't attest to the decor, but I can say for sure that their website does not do these delicious cupcakes justice (they need more pictures!).

Their cupcakes go by pretty names, which makes it a little harder to tell you exactly what I ate. Specimen one was surely the "Violette", their red velvet with cream cheese frosting, which was rich, tangy, and moist just in the right places.

I have forgotten the name of cupcake #2, but it was chocolate cake topped with a rich, buttery frosting and what tasted vaguely like crumbled up Butterfingers on top. This chocolate cake was really something else: deep and dark, moist and fudgy, but not excessively so; the frosting was fairly light but very buttery, and extremely rich in flavor.

One thing that both flavors had in common? Upon reaching the empty cupcake cup, they both prompted the thought "how bad is it, really, to lick the wrapper?"

Frills Cupcakes and Frozen Yogurt, 200 Broadway, Seaside, OR; online at frillscupcakes.com.

Monday
May172010

Cake Byte: Discover Baked in Seattle

What does a professional cake gumshoe love more than anything? Discovering a new baking business. So when I came across a line of sweets called Baked In Seattle in Ralph's Grocery, I had to learn more.

Turns out, this local wholesale and custom-order bakery offers a vast array of baby cheesecakes and crumbles with flavors and names inspired by the northwest, and while the baked goods can most readily be found at Blue Willow Catering & Luncheonette in West Seattle, they are also available at a handful of other retail shops.

But most interesting of all? Their menu. Eat--er, read all about it:

5" Mini Cheesecakes @ $3.95 each:

Capitol Hill Classic Cheesecake---Anything but plain, this classic two-layer cheesecake sets the gold standard.

Seneca Strawberry Cheesecake---Creamy Northwest strawberry perfection swirls this taste of paradise.

Belltown Blueberry Cheesecake---Wonderfully dark bursts of whole blueberries popping throughout.

Madison Mocha Cheesecake---Creamy coffee and chocolate balance in a chocolate cookie crust.

Cascade Chocolate Chip Cheesecake---Semi-sweet bits of ecstasy in a sweet chocolate cookie crust.

Queen Anne Chocolate Cheesecake---Four layers of chocolate richness for premier indulgence.

Black &Tan Peanut Butter-Chocolate Cheesecake---Perfect combination of peanuts and chocolate sweetness.

Spanish Castle Orange-Spice Cheesecake---Delicate hints of orange balance cinnamon spice.

Pioneer Square Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake---Our seasonal delight swirled with sweet pumpkin.


5" Mini Crumblepies @ $3.95 each:

Empire Way Apple Crumblepie---Granny Smith apples kissed by brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon with a crunchy, crumbly sweet top.

Bainbridge Blueberry Crumblepie---Blueberry brown sugar heaven covered with a crunchy, crumbly sweet top.

Pike Street Peach Crumblepie---Freestone peaches melt into brown sugar bliss with a crunchy, crumbly sweet top.

Northwest Mixed Berry Crumblepie---Marionberries, blueberries, strawberries, and red raspberries in blended perfection with a crunchy, crumbly sweet top.

Georgetown Strawberry Rhubarb Crumblepie---Seasonal strawberry rhubarb country-sweet classic with a crunchy crumbly sweet top.

Rainier Roasted Sweet Potato Pie---Seasonal down-home buttery goodness and a hint of nutmeg.

Cheesecakes and Crumblepies also available in full 8" size for $13.95 by special order (after July 1st, 2010)

For more information, visit the Baked In Seattle website.

Tuesday
May042010

Take Your Pix: The Pixie from Pix Patisserie, Portland

Say Bonjour to the Pixie.

Quest-ce que c'est, this Pixie?

It's a sweet little treat from Pix Pâtisserie, the Frenchiest little spot in Portland, OR.

Now, settling on the Pixie wasn't easy--after reviewing a small but well curated collection of European-style pastries available, including an Opera Cake, Queen of Sheba Truffle Cake, a particularly fetching triangular Dobos Torte, and macarons a-plenty.

But the unassuming and small-ish Pixie was humming to me, and so it was what I chose. Per the website,

Pistachios, almond paste, and raspberry jam are the main ingredients making up this layered concoction people can’t seem to get enough of. One woman replied after her first taste, “Oh! This makes me wanna dance!” Enough said.

And while I'd like to say for the record that aforementioned customer was not me, it might as well have been. This little pastry may be small but it's mightily magical, buttery pastry layers spread with an incredibly rich pistachio and almond paste mixture which is given a bright dimention from the sweet jam. All of this awesome, of course, is sealed with a kiss of confectioners' sugar on top.

As Mr. Spy commented upon tasting, "It tastes like a Christmas cookie...only better."

You heard it here first--better than Christmas!

Of course, it would be remiss to not mention the pâte de fruit (we tried the blackberry). This gel-y candy is one of those confections, like marshmallows, which is really at its finest when homemade, and Pix's is the real deal, with a texture which is yielding but not too sticky or gelatinous, and full of natural fruit sweetness. A subtle and sweet little bite, and quite the steal at less than a dollar each!

Pix Patisserie has two locations in Portland; visit here for more information. They also ship a variety of their baked goods; visit here to learn more.

Thursday
Apr222010

Cream of the Crumb: Crumb Cake Cupcakes at Sugar Mommy Cupcakes, Denville NJ

Friends, I want to share with you what may be the most beautiful thing I've ever seen: the Crumb Cake Cupcake.

This beauty comes from what I consider the Crumb Cake Capitol of the world, New Jersey (Garden State, pshaw!). The crumb cupcake is on the menu at the newly-opened Sugar Mommy Cupcakes in Denville, and is described as "Yellow cake with cinnamon and sugar baked inside. Cream cheese frosting with crumbs on top." Of course, just to avoid any awkwardness later, I am admitting up front that I added the "i love you" motif to the back of the image. 

I learned of Sugar Mommy Cupcakes via trusted NJ Cake Gumshoe Steph (who also sells sweet stuff under the name SassyBelleWares), who unfortunately wasn't able to sample this particular variety, but did have good things to say about the cupcakes in general after her husband surprised her with a few: 

My husband said "this girl makes GOOD cupcakes" and he is not a cupcake lover like me. I tried the red velvet which was moist and I loved the frosting...usually I am not a huge cream cheese frostng fan but this one was more like a buttercream cream cheese. The other one I ate was a chocolate chocolate. I love chocolate bars but for some reason when it comes to cake & frosting I prefer vanilla vanilla. However, this chocolate cake was moist and the chocolate icing was light and fluffy and delicious. I will be going there to try everything else soon!

In the Denville area? Hit them up: Sugar Mommy Cupcakes, 60 Diamond Spring Road, Denville, NJ (Inside Cafe Metro); even if you're not in the area, you can get a virtual sugar rush online at sugarmommycupcakes.com.

Sunday
Apr182010

Beyond a Baker's Dozen: A Roundup of Cake Truffle Companies

Cake bites made by Bakerella for CakeSpy!Whether they're on a stick or just rolled as truffles, one thing is for certain: Cake Balls are taking over the world (for which I credit, and thank, Bakerella!). Here's a collection of companies selling them online and in their stores:

(note: got one to add? leave a comment!)

Audrey Kate Rae cake truffles come in flavors like red velvet coated in Tiffany blue--yes! Read more here. (Thanks Suzette for the tip!)

Butterfly Cake Bites come in pina colada, banana split, and creamsicle-inspired flavors. Oh yes.

Cacao Sweets and Treats in the Chicago area makes sweet cake truffles in a variety of flavors, and will also provide custom packaging options. Oh, and their shop also features white chocolate bacon peanut butter cups, just FYI.

Cake Balls is probably my favorite company name ever. Of course, the fact that they sell a delectable-sounding Birthday Cake truffle makes me even more delighted!

Cake Bug provides custom truffles with build-your-own flavors--I think I could go for the lime-coconut combination!

Cake Pop Company in Springfield, MO features pops of all sorts, but their most exciting new item is the Askinosie Chocolate Cake Pop, which is described by the owner as "are a combination of my own Mother’s recipe for chocolate cake and Single Origin Natural Cocoa Powder-San Jose DeTambo, Ecuador from Askinosie Chocolate, covered in Askinosie 77% Davao, Philippines Dark Chocolate. It is a dense and rich cake."

Cocoa Bakery and Cafe in Jersey City, NJ makes cake truffles--including banana cake truffles.

Confection Concoctions in Spanaway features cake pops and cake truffles; read the CakeSpy interview with owner Laura here!

Crunchy Jewels is a cake truffle company in NYC, and they make something called a Vietnamese Coffee Cake Ball. Yum.

David Burke Cake Pops makes pops both sweet and savory of all types, but their Cheesecake pops have me intrigued.

Dessert.Net offers what they call "addictive cake balls"--in collections of complementary flavors.

Fab Favors offers traditional flavors and specialty flavors such as peanut butter banana and Key Lime.

Frosting Bake Shop in Mill Valley offers extremely delicious cake bites.

Honey and Bee in San Diego works by special order to create cake truffles in flavors like toffee, green tea, and an intriguing Imperial Chocolate Porter.

Just a Bite Cake Pops in Orange County, CA specializes in sweets on a stick, with the usual suspects (vanilla, chocolate, red velvet) and also a line of more gourmet flavors, including toasted coconut, carrot cake, and more.

Krissy's Cake Balls features a German Chocolate cake ball. They're in Kentucky, but they do mail order (whew).

Little Miss Sweet Tooth Dollies in Coral Gables, FL features cake truffles in flavors like the delicious-sounding "Drag Queen", comprised of pistachio cake, buttercream frosting, covered in vanilla coating.

Lollicake Bake Shop makes cute cake pops and truffles, sometimes in the shapes of characters like Elmo. Awww.

Lux Bakery and Cafe in Austin makes cake balls in flavors like chocolate chip and green tea. It's also worth noting that they have something on their menu called the "Nanaimo Cup" which sounds like the best kind of cup there is.

Mad Cravings from Oregon may not have the most user-friendly site, but they do have cake balls in flavors like peach champagne and key lime pie, and they also offer gluten-free versions.

Sarandipity Sweets in Georgia makes cute cake pops shaped like cupcakes, apples, and more.

Skipping Stones makes adorable cupcake-shaped cake truffles, and their online shop boasts a variety of other goodies like pie lollipops, homemade graham crackers, and more!

Stacy's Cakes of Irvine specializes in cake truffles in creative custom flavors.

Sweet E's in Los Angeles makes sweet pops covered in rainbow sprinkles--because everything tastes better with sprinkles.

Sweet Tooth Fairy in Provo, UT features something they call "CakeBites" which are a CakeSpy (and Rachael Ray!) favorite. 

Tart Bakery in Dallas has cake balls for sale in a variety of flavors.

Very Vera truffles are available at Saks Fifth Avenue, and are described as "Sweet two-bite decadences are rolled up into balls, then dipped in chocolate and various toppings including pecans, almonds, walnuts, coconut flakes and graham cracker crumbs; a festive dessert presentation."

With Love Bakery in Plano offers cake balls in a delectable array of flavors like s'mores, candy bar, and coconut cake. This makes me love them.

Saturday
Apr172010

Flash in the Pain: Pain au Chocolat from Bakery Nouveau, West Seattle

You just try and tell me that isn't the loveliest and most hypnotic thing you've ever seen.

Oh, ok, we can look at it from another angle. If you insist.

OK. One more.

This buttery stunner is the pain au chocolat from Bakery Nouveau (you know, the one owned by the guy who won the thing), and it tastes every bit as good as it looks.

Now, usually I'm not a fan of croissants that have a crispy, shardlike texture on the outside--my greedy nature is saddened by the thought that I might lose a crumb of the outer croissant while eating. But happily, this one wasn't so much shardlike as it was lightly crispy yet yielding to a soft center--it felt almost like you could taste every ethereal layer of light pastry at once, and they were all very buttery. And then there was the chocolate, lightly bitter and a dark, rich complement to the lightness of the pastry.

Nothing pain-ful about this sweet treat. Well, except for the name, which I suggest they change to pleasure au chocolat, toute suite. 

Oh, and speaking of chocolate, according to Lorna Yee, next on the list to try at Nouveau is the chocolate cake.

Pain au chocolat from Bakery Nouveau, 4737 California Ave. SW, West Seattle; online at bakerynouveau.com.

Monday
Apr122010

Sublime: The Lime Cornmeal Cookie from Amy's Bread, NYC

Today I'd like to tell you about the subtle but sublime pleasure that is the Lime Cornmeal Cookie from Amy's Bread in NYC.

This cookie isn't flashy in appearance--it's actually rather unassuming. It would be easy to pass it up for something more classic like chocolate chip or oatmeal, or for something sexier like the double chocolate pecan.

But if you do opt for it, you're in for a sweet reward.

The crumb is lightly coarse and gritty-textured from the cornmeal, but a healthy amount of butter somehow keeps it tender and cohesive (happily, it doesn't crumble apart like its cousin cornbread likes to), and the sugar and lime add sweet and tart hints that perhaps don't sing, but definitely hum, in a very pleasing way. 

A lightly sweet cookie like this is refreshing and hearty all at once--and the cornbread almost makes it feel healthy. At least healthy enough that I'd consider it a completely appropriate breakfast cookie.

Amy's Bread has three NYC locations; visit their website, amysbread.com, to find out more. If you're not in NYC, the recipe for this cookie can be found in the book The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread: Cakes, Cookies, Bars, Pastries and More from New York City's Favorite Bakery.

Saturday
Apr102010

Simple Pleasures: Simply Desserts in Fremont, Seattle

Something I always love is hearing what other people's favorite bakeries are--it gives me a unique perspective on a place, including sometimes steering me toward trying particular flavors or pastries I might not have tried otherwise. According to CakeSpy reader Anne, who you can follow on twitter, Fremont's Simply Desserts is her go-to source:

Tucked in Fremont by the Fremont Bridge and Adobe, this tiny shop cooks up an amazing variety of delicious cakes with high quality ingredients. What sets them apart in my opinion is that they don’t ruin their cakes with refrigeration and it makes a big difference. Rich frosting stays soft. Cake stays moist. My personal favorites are Bittersweet Hazelnut and White Chocolate Strawberry. I usually buy it to go because the place seats around 14 and it is always jam-packed, even at 10 PM on a Friday night. The bakers/cutters are sweet girls and it must be a pretty good job because a couple of them have worked there as long as I’ve been patronizing the shop, around 5 years. 

Simply Desserts, 3421 Fremont Ave North Seattle, WA 98103 206.633.2671; online at simplydessertsseattle.com.

Thursday
Apr082010

Cakewalk: A Tour de Cookie in Phoenix from Cake Gumshoe Janelle

 

CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from Janelle, a freelance lifestyle and food writer living in Phoenix, Arizona.  She also is the face behind the newly born blog The Deutsch Girl.

Here in the Valley of the Sun, we have all the things any fifth largest city should have: sports teams, fabulous restaurants, golf courses galore, and great weather for most of the year please both locals and tourists alike. But one thing that is rarely talked about is our sweet shops. Sure, we don’t have a Magnolia Bakery, Tartine, or even a Milk Bar putting Phoenix on the map.  But just because we don’t have any (yet) famous spots doesn’t mean we are lacking in promise.

 

I set out to find a few hidden gems in the Central Phoenix area and was not disappointed.  Focusing on the always comforting bakery item, the cookie, I toured four locations and ate way too many cookies in my quest for the best.  

Stop 1: Barb's Bakery

The first of my four stops was the one closest to my house.  In a small unassuming building between a Mexican food restaurant and an old check-cashing store sits Barb’s Bakery. When I walked in at 11 a.m., I noticed the large display case was lacking in the cookie department.  Cakes and petit-fours still remained, but there were very few trays of cookies left.  At first I was mad at myself for not arriving earlier, but I was glad their cookies were popular and I’d selected the right place.  Greeted by a rotund and very jolly man behind the counter, I was relieved to see that both their frosted cookies and butter cookies were still available.  I chose one frosted and three butter cookies rolled in sprinkles.  My total came to $2.  Nice to know my first purchase wasn’t going to break the bank!   

The frosted cookie was the perfect combination of cookie and frosting.  The thick cookie was firm enough to hold up to an equally thick layer of icing, but still had a soft center.  Unlike some other frosted cookies, these will not break anyone’s two front teeth.  The icing was the perfect amount of sweet -- I easily could have made it through the entire cookie without feeling like I was on a sugar roller coaster. The butter cookies were the primo mix of crunch minus crumbs.  The butter flavor was prominent without the fake taste that comes with some commercial bakeries.  The sheer sight of the sprinkles excited my stomach so much that one poor cookie soul didn’t quite make it home. Overall Score: 4 out of 5 cookies 

Barb’s Bakery, 2929 N. 24th St., Phoenix  602.957.4422; online at barbsbakery.com.    

Barb's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Stop 2: Tammie Coe Cakes

My next stop was in an upper section of newly revitalized downtown Phoenix.  Located in a new complex with shops on the bottom and living space above sits Tammie Coe Cakes.  You may have heard this name before, as she’s quite famous for her fondant draped wedding cakes.  However, this small café, which is an outlet for their much larger permanent bakery, focuses on tasty bite-sized treats instead of larger cakes. While there is no seating inside, there are quite a few tables just outside the door with large umbrellas to shade customers from the bright Phoenix sun.  After staring at the small but stuffed and beautifully decorated display cases, I chose a double chocolate and a snickerdoodle.  At $2.50 each, they were on the pricey side, but each cookie could have been a small meal. On the way out, I took notice of the Half Price Happy Hour sign.  Half price bakery goods after 4 p.m. every day: how can one go wrong?

When I got home, I was eager to try both of the cookies.  I consider Tammie Coe to be the most famous baker in town, so I had high hopes as I dug the monstrous cookies out of their precious logo-stamped brown bags.  Alas, I was a bit disappointed.  Something wasn’t quite right with the double chocolate. The edges were too hard, almost as if an inattentive baker left them in a minute too long. The flavor was good, not too sweet for a double chocolate cookie, which is often the case. Once I got to the inside, it was much softer. For those who like a crispy edge, and a soft center, this might be the place for you. Next, the snickerdoodle.  I chose it because it was the oddest snickerdoodle I’d ever seen.  Instead of being rolled in cinnamon and sugar, as I think all snickerdoodles should be, it had only a light dusting of refined sugar.  The cookie appeared to have bits of crumble topping baked into the cookie.  While flavorful, it did not have that traditional cinnamon sugar flavor. Do I think that Tammie Coe should be passing it off as a snickerdoodle? Definitely not. Would I buy it again? Probably, yes. Overall Score: 3 out of 5 cookies  

Tammie Coe Cakes, 610 East Roosevelt #145, Phoenix,   602.253.082; online at tammiecoecakes.com.

Tammie Coe Cakes on Urbanspoon

Stop 3: Urban Cookies

After my brief stop downtown, I headed north to Urban Cookies, housed in a very small freestanding building. This makes sense because they used to be a mail order company, owned by a husband and wife team.  The great thing about Urban Cookies is that they still have a huge mail-order clientele, so anyone who’s not in the Phoenix area can enjoy these sweet treats too!  As soon as I stepped foot in the door, my nose became overwhelmed with the smell of brown sugar and chocolate.  In addition to the four kinds of cookies, Urban Cookies has a special cookie of the month, as well as Ollie Cakes, cupcakes that can only be enjoyed in-store.  Personal experience has shown me cupcakes are not an easily mailed item, so really, I don’t blame them for using them to entice people to their store.   The biggest thing that sets Urban Cookies apart is that they use lots of organic ingredients. They say that on average, 85 percent of each cookie’s ingredients are organic, and they use only local eggs.

The one and only time I was here prior, I tried the Simple Urban cookie.  I couldn’t get it out of my head for weeks, so I had to try it again.  This particular cookie is 76 percent organic, made with milk chocolate chunks instead of the usual semi-sweet.  I can honestly say this cookie was just as good the second time as it was the first.  I gave some to my dad, who’s a chocolate chip cookie connoisseur, and he said it might have been the best he’d ever had.  It doesn’t look like anything special on paper, nothing unusual sticks out when you read the ingredient list, but somehow they turn those ingredients into a masterpiece.  The second cookie I bought was the Urban Tropic.  I had wanted to try this one last time, but decided for my first trip, the cookie they were best known for was the better choice.  This cookie is 94 percent organic and includes sun-dried pineapple and toasted unsweetened coconut, both organic, of course.  For a non-chocolate cookie, this one really hit the spot.  It was sweet, but not overly sweet, and reminded me of being on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Another great thing about both cookies, besides being perfectly chewy and baked just right, is the price. Normally $1.99 each, they were  on sale for $1.79 a piece. It’s a relief to find a large organic cookie that’s not outrageously expensive. Overall Score: 5 out of 5 cookies

Urban Cookies, 4711 N. 7th St., Phoenix  602. 451.4335; online at urbancookies.com.

Urban Cookies on Urbanspoon

Stop 4: Karsh's Bakery

The last stop on my tour de bakeries was Karsh’s Bakery.  I was excited to try this place, because it’s known in the Phoenix area as the premiere Jewish bakery. Unlike the other three bakeries, this one doesn’t have any curb appeal.  In fact, it sits in the corner of a retail shopping center with a simple, unassuming corner sign.  This must not be a deterrent, because Karsh’s has been around since the 1960’s and most certainly knows its stuff.  In addition to being certified Kosher by the Phoenix Vaad HaKashruth Kא, Karsh’s offers a huge selection of both pareve (non-dairy) and dairy goods. My eyes, and stomach, were immediately drawn to an entire case dedicated to cookies.  Because they offer both non-dairy and dairy items, I couldn’t truly rate anything unless I tried at least one of each. 

It took me at least five minutes to make a decision, but I never felt rushed by the pleasant gentlemen behind the counter.  I decided to go with a small black and white cookie, as well as a Chinese almond cookie that was labeled pareve.  The black and white was an obvious choice, especially at $1.50, but the thought of a Chinese cookie in a Jewish bakery made me grin so I went with it.  The black and white was hands down one of the best I’ve ever had.  The cookie was the classic cake-like texture, and the frosting was superb.  The only thing that I didn’t like was my own poor decision to get the smaller version!  The Chinese almond cookie was a simple almond with all the right flavors, including a nice half-dollar size drop of chocolate on top.  It measured at least 5 inches across, which made the price of $2.95 more than acceptable, and I kept breaking off small pieces until it was gone. I didn’t even notice the lack of dairy, so kudos to them for winning over a gallon-a-week milk drinker.  I’ll be going back soon to try the breads, and to grab the larger black and white. Overall Score: 4 out of 5 cookies

Karsh’s Bakery,  5555 North 7th St., #116 Cinema Park Plaza, Phoenix  602.264.4874; online at karshsbakery.com.

Karsh's Bakery on Urbanspoon

The Final Word? In the end I really enjoyed all of the different shops.  There is nothing cookie cutter (pun intended) about any of them. Perhaps next time I’ll go for cakes, or even the ever-popular cupcakes.  In the meantime, I’m delighted to see for myself that while our bakeries might not be world-renowned, they more than satisfy and deserve some local, and even national, recognition.  

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