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Classic Sourdough Bread Machine Recipe with No Yeast

Preview: Make this Classic Sourdough Bread Machine Recipe (with no yeast added) using the DOUGH cycle of your bread machine. All the hard work of mixing and kneading happens in the machine, but you do the folding, shaping, and baking (in a conventional oven) for a superior crust. This recipe is for a traditional naturally-leavened sourdough bread with only four ingredients: starter, water, flour, and salt.

Have you ever wondered if it was possible to make sourdough bread without yeast in your bread machine? What if you could use the DOUGH cycle to accomplish the mixing and kneading phases instead of using your hands?

You can! Use the bread machine as a mixer instead of using your hands.

When the kneading portion completes, remove the dough to a separate container for the bulk rise. You still need to do a few folds to build strength.

When the dough has risen sufficiently, shape the dough and refrigerate it overnight. Bake dough the following day. No one will ever guess you used a bread machine to mix this light and airy sourdough bread.

sourdough bread machine with no yeast--baked but unsliced.

When I first googled the idea of using a bread machine, some people said it was impossible to produce a high-hydration sourdough loaf using a bread machine. Perhaps they are thinking about making a traditional sourdough loaf from beginning to end in the machine, including the baking. I agree that you cannot make an excellent loaf of sourdough bread without any commercial yeast from beginning to end with a bread maker.

WHY? Every naturally-leavened sourdough loaf is slightly different. Putting the whole process on a timer would be almost impossible. Besides, a bread machine oven doesn’t get hot enough to produce a good oven spring or a crisp crust that many people like and expect with naturally-leavened sourdough bread.

The few bread machine sourdough recipes I’ve seen were not the simple traditional recipe. Instead, they call for extra ingredients such as sugar or butter and often, a small amount of instant yeast thrown in for good measure. That is a hybrid sourdough. Not the same!

My mission?–Make a simple sourdough bread with only starter, water, flour, and salt in a traditional shape with a classic texture and a hydration level of at least 65% or higher. Of course, it had to taste and look fabulous.


Recipe Inspiration:

Making sourdough without yeast is a lot like making yogurt. There are as many ways to make a loaf of good sourdough bread as there are to make homemade yogurt. After a lot of experimentation, this is the best way I’ve found, so far. I will update this recipe if my method changes.


What makes this sourdough recipe different from other bread machine sourdough recipes?

  1. Only 4 ingredients (no fat, sugar, or commercial yeast added)
  2. This recipe yields a 1.5 lb. loaf that is easily mixed in most home bread machines.
  3. Bread can be made from start to finish in less than 24 hours – including an overnight final rise in the fridge.
  4. Only a bread machine and a conventional oven are required. I’m particular about the crust on my bread, so I always bake it in my oven. Why? A bread machine barely heats to 300˚F. There is no way you can get a thin, blistered, and crispy crust, much less the boule or batard shape with an ear and big cracks on top that we all enjoy.
  5. I like a blistered crust that’s crunchy but tender and golden brown in color. To that end, I don’t use any flour on my work surface or when shaping the dough. A handy spray bottle full of water keeps my hands, bench knife, and work surface damp and stick-free.
  6. No custom bread machine cycles are required for this recipe. If your machine has the capability, you can use them to make the whole process more convenient.
  7. Although not required, digital scales, a bench knife, and a quick-read thermometer are extremely helpful.
  8. Hydration is a common topic in sourdough circles. The hydration of this recipe is 68%: 272 gr of water divided by 400 gr of flour = 68% hydration. I’ve also had success using 280 grams of water which translates to 70% hydration.
sliced sourdough bread machine bread

Ingredients and substitutions:

  • STARTER: If you don’t have a starter yet, your first step is to get one. The most basic starter contains flour and water. Because I’m a yogurt maker, I used a little yogurt whey to make my starter. The process can take 10 days or longer to create a starter strong enough to make bread.

    If you are impatient, I recommend buying the fresh starter offered by King Arthur Flour. Once you receive it in the mail, follow the directions. You’ll have a starter that’s ready to bake within a couple of days. I’ve tried it. Works great!

    I use 100% hydration with my starter. That means the amount of water is equal to the amount of flour in WEIGHT. But water is much heavier than flour, so don’t use the same volume of both. My starter looks like a thick paste before it starts to proof.
  • WATER: I often use refrigerator-cold bottled water or tap water (chill after it sits on the counter for 24 hours to let the chlorine evaporate). Why cold? Because the paddle action of a bread machine can heat up the dough to nearly 90˚F which can make the dough a bit sticky to knead well in my experience. (Note: This may not be necessary during the wintertime or if your kitchen is quite cool.)
  • FLOUR: My recipe calls for 15 grams (2 tablespoons) of whole wheat flour and 345 grams (3 cups) of bread flour. The higher protein in bread flour helps when using a bread machine. However, I’ve produced good loaves with all-purpose flour, too.

    Regarding the whole wheat: I think a small amount improves the taste, gives the starter extra energy, and enables a higher level of hydration. Whole grains absorb more water than white flour. You can substitute bread flour for whole wheat flour if you prefer, but you may have to adjust the water down a bit.
  • SALT: Fine sea salt or table salt will dissolve quickly.

    You can cut back the amount of salt if you like, but don’t cut it out completely.
ingredients needed to make this sourdough bread recipe

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What equipment do I need to make sourdough bread?

The only thing you must have with this recipe is a bread machine with a DOUGH cycle and a conventional oven. Everything else helps you get better results.

BREAD MACHINE: A fancy bread machine is lovely but not required for this recipe. You will only be using the DOUGH cycle. Some bread makers have a timer that will control the DOUGH cycle. So convenient! If your machine has a custom cycle option (most often seen on the more expensive models), use it to customize this recipe to your schedule or lifestyle.

DIGITAL SCALES: In my opinion, you need digital scales to measure the ingredients with accuracy, especially the flour. You can get this one for around $14.

CLEAR CONTAINER for PROOFING: Look for something no smaller than a 2-qt glass bowl, glass casserole dish, or storage container. It doesn’t have to be see-through, but visibility helps. If it has markings on the side, that’s even better.

equipment for sourdough bread recipe made with a bread machine
One thing I left out: a sharp knife or lame to score the bread.

BENCH KNIFE: A bench knife or scraper is SUPER helpful in moving the dough around while you shape it. The less you touch the dough with your fingers, the less likely you will get into a sticky mess. Instead of using flour, keep your water sprayer handy to wet the bench knife, the work surface, and your hands.

BANNETON, mixing BOWL, or COLANDER for PROOFING: Traditionally, a banneton holds the bread dough as it rises. If you don’t want to purchase one, use a small colander or mixing bowl along with a cotton or linen tea towel to line your container. Rice flour works best to flour your liner or towels since it has no gluten and won’t dissolve into the dough as wheat flour does.

After making more than 100 loaves, I no longer flour the linen liners of my bannetons. Using a banneton repeatedly will season it. Please don’t wash out the floury seasoning.

QUICK-READ THERMOMETER: Thermometers are helpful to know when your bread is ready to take out of the oven. This thermometer costs about 14$. I use my thermometer nearly every day whether I’m making bread or not.

Temperature is a vital factor in how fast each stage of making sourdough progresses. Use your thermometer to monitor the situation and make decisions about whether you need more or less warmth.

CAST IRON DUTCH OVEN: A Dutch oven will give your bread more rising power. I used my Le Creuset DO at first. However, the high temperatures pretty much ruined the finish. I had much better luck with a relatively inexpensive seasoned cast iron pot and lid that I could otherwise use as a skillet. The cover holds the bread while the pot acts as a lid. Now I use the Challenger cast iron Dutch oven that is specifically designed for baking sourdough bread.

ALTERNATIVES TO A DUTCH OVEN: Check out this post from KingArthurBaking.com about creating steam in your oven for several methods you can use to get that all-important steam inside your oven if you don’t use a Dutch oven.

DIGITAL SCALES: Digital scales increase accuracy and make measuring easier and faster. I wouldn’t be without one.

MISCELLANEOUS: Parchment paper is handy, especially if you need to use it as a sling to lift and lower dough into your Dutch oven or onto a cookie sheet or pizza stone. Lames are fun if you want to cut fancy designs on top of your bread, but a sharp knife or razor blade is sufficient for beginners.


Are you a beginning or an advanced bread baker?

Beginners might want to start with lower hydration levels. For example, use 264 gr (66%) or 253 gr (63%) of water when using 400 gr of flour in the recipe. Lower-hydration dough is easier to handle until you get some experience. If your dough seems sticky and unmanageable, reduce the water and gradually work your way up the hydration scale.

If you are used to working with sourdough with no yeast, you can increase the hydration by simply changing the amount of water. For example, If you want to try higher hydration levels for a lighter and more open crumb, use 280 grams of water for 70% hydration, 292 grams of water for 73% hydration, or 300 grams of water for 75% hydration.

cross-section of bread machine sourdough with no yeast

FAQ about naturally-leavened sourdough bread:

How can I keep the bottom of my sourdough bread from burning?

Place a cookie sheet or broiler pan onto the bottom rack located directly below the rack holding your bread.

How can I keep the parchment paper from sticking to my bread?

1. Spray the paper with cooking spray.
2. Sprinkle the bottom of the dough with semolina flour or cornmeal before turning it out of the banneton or basket.
3. Use a grill sheet cut in the shape of the bottom of your pan instead of parchment paper (my favorite solution because it’s reusable).

How do I know when my starter has risen enough to use it in my bread?

The amount of time required will depend on the ratio of the original starter to flour and water, the starting temperature of the water and seed starter, and the vitality of your starter. If a small spoonful of your starter floats in water, most people would say it’s ready to use. Of course, this is not a guarantee that the starter is strong enough to make your bread rise nice and high, but it’s a clue.

Why can’t I bake my naturally-leavened sourdough bread from beginning to end with the bread machine?

A bread machine only heats up to about 290-300˚F – not hot enough to create a crispy and golden crust, a hallmark of naturally-leavened sourdough. Also, the rise cycles programmed into your machine are nowhere near long enough for a naturally leavened loaf. So your bread will be better when you shape it by hand and bake it with high heat to make it pop and produce a lighter texture. Worth the trouble!

If you want to use your machine to make sourdough bread from beginning to end, including the bake, I recommend you try a sourdough bread recipe with a small amount of commercial yeast added.

What is the advantage of using a bread machine to make sourdough bread over a stand mixer or by hand?

One advantage is the timer. Since the kneading is on a timer (as part of the DOUGH cycle), you don’t have to worry about how long to knead or if you’re doing it right. Use the DOUGH cycle on your machine, but cut it short after 10-15 minutes of kneading. If you prefer and your bread maker offers the option, set up a custom kneading cycle for 10 minutes.

The only thing left to do by hand when using a bread machine is a few folds after mixing and shaping the dough before the final rise. Then, bake the loaf in a conventional oven.

The bread machine is a life-saver for people who can’t physically knead dough or find the process uncomfortable.

an open bread maker with sourdough loaves in front of it

Three secrets to successful naturally-leavened sourdough bread:

#1

In my opinion, the secret to sourdough bread with no yeast is learning to read and handle the starter and dough.

Knowing when to go to the next step is crucial and hard to learn from pictures. Experience helps.

#2

You can manipulate almost any stage of making sourdough by changing the temperature. Warmth speeds things up. Cold slows it down.

Temperature affects how fast your starter grows, the bulk rise, and the final rise. In general, the slower the yeast develops, the better the flavor and texture of your loaf of bread. So when possible, don’t rush it.

#3

Ratios make a HUGE difference when it comes to the timing of the rises and characteristics of the dough.

For example, the higher the water percentage, the faster the dough will rise, the more open the crumb will be, and the greater the possibilities for a sticky mess. Likewise, the starter is affected by the ratio of flour to water.


The best way to learn how to make this sourdough bread is to keep practicing. Luckily, the ingredients aren’t expensive.

The sweet taste of success and a beautiful loaf of bread can be so rewarding!!! 

p.s. Making sourdough bread is addictive once you get into it. Consider yourself warned.


How to make Bread Machine Sourdough Bread – No Commercial Yeast:

MIXING

adding water to bread machine pan
Add water to the bread machine pan. (I set the empty bread machine on a digital scale (paid link) to measure everything.)
sourdough starter--ready to use
Measure active and bubbly starter into the bread machine pan. I use 100% hydration when making my starter. In other words, the weight of the water is equal to the weight of the flour added to the seed starter. (This does not mean the volume measurement is equal as water is much heavier than flour.)
adding whole wheat and bread flour to water in pan
Add flour and salt to the machine and start the DOUGH cycle.

KNEADING (DEVELOPING THE GLUTEN)

Choose the DOUGH cycle on your machine and press START.

dough after kneading for 10-15 minutes
Allow the dough to knead for ten minutes. Note that the sides of the pan are pretty clean. Using cold water during warm weather helps to keep the dough from getting too hot and sticky.

3. BULK RISE

removing the dough from the bread machine to a clear container
Open the bread machine and transfer the dough from the bread machine pan to a lightly greased clear container. The dough is not delicate at this point.
stretching the dough
Grab the dough at the side. Pull up and stretch as far as possible without tearing the dough. Fold back over to the middle. Turn bowl. Repeat on each side, going all the way around twice.
smoothing the dough and pressing it down at the beginning of the bulk rise
Round the dough with your slightly wet hands and place it back into the container with the smooth side up. Do this stretching technique every 15-30 minutes three more times. Stretching builds strength.
dough as it is close to the end of bulk proof
The dough is ready when it is light and airy. You should see a few large bubbles on top (like the picture above) and smaller bubbles all over the bottom.

Warning: You won’t see much happening for the first hour or two. The rise starts slowly, but once it gets going, it can grow fast. Most of the bubbles appear toward the end of the bulk rise. Depending on the ambient temperature, the process could take as long as 4 to 10 or more hours.
Pay no attention to the time–only look at the dough. Getting this right is one of the hardest things about making sourdough bread with no yeast.

If the bread doesn’t rise long enough during the bulk rise, it may turn out too dense. Sometimes, under-proofed bread will have tunnels between the compact crumb.

If the dough rises too long and over-proofs, the bread will spread out and develop giant tunnels. The flavor and color may be off when you bake it. Oven spring will be less.

Over or under-proofing makes a sad loaf. But don’t let it ruin your day.

You’re one loaf closer to success. The silver lining is that the bread usually tastes delicious even if it’s not Instagram-worthy.


SHAPING

letting the dough fall out of the container
Pre-shaping: Gently turn the container holding the dough upside down and let the dough fall out onto a damp surface. Be patient. If the dough sticks to the pan, use a small spatula to loosen the dough from the sides and help it fall out.
dough as it rests after coming out of the glass dish
Gently pat the dough into a rough circle. Allow the dough to relax for 15-30 minutes.
stretching and folding the dough to build structure.
With wet fingers and a damp bench scraper, pull up each corner and fold it toward the middle. Press the seam lightly with your fingertips.
Shape the dough into a tight ball. Use a damp bench scraper and damp hands to flip the ball over, leaving the smooth side up. Cover and let the ball rest for 15-30 minutes.

FINAL SHAPING

Flip the ball back over with damp hands and a bench knife. The smooth side should be next to the surface of your work area.

stretching dough into a large square.
Use wet fingers and a bench knife to stretch the dough into a large rectangle without tearing it.
forming the dough after stretching it into a large square.
Fold the sides into the middle. (See the video.)
rolling dough into a batard.
Starting at the top, roll the dough to make a batard. Pinch any air bubbles over an inch in size.
using hands and a bench scraper to make the dough more compact
Use fingers and a bench scraper to make the ball more compact.

FINAL RISE (COLD RISE–REFRIGERATOR)

Place your shaped dough into a lined basket or bowl with the seam side up. Allow the dough to rest for about 15 minutes.
stitching to improve tension
“Stitch” the dough to improve tension by using your fingers to overlap the dough. Cover with a shower cap or plastic bag and refrigerate for 7-24 hours before baking.

BAKING

Preheat your conventional oven before taking the shaped dough out of the fridge. Set your oven to 500˚F or as high as it will go. Let it preheat for 45-60 minutes. Set a Dutch oven inside the oven to preheat at the same time.

Speaking of Dutch ovens, don’t exceed the manufacturer’s recommended maximum temperature. Some will tell you never to preheat an empty pan. If that’s the case, preheat the oven first. Then, place the bread in the pan, then into the oven. The Dutch oven doesn’t have to be preheated (although I have much better luck when it is).

sprinkling semolina over the top of the crust
When your oven is thoroughly preheated, remove the dough from the fridge. Work fast. After sprinkling the dough with semolina or cornmeal, invert the shaped dough onto a piece of parchment paper. (The black sheet here is a grill sheet cut to fit the bottom of my Dutch oven.)
brushing and spraying the loaf with water--hoping for blisters
If you want blisters, spray the loaf with refrigerator-cold water.
Scoring the loaf with a serrated knife
Use a sharp knife or razor blade to score the bread at a 45-degree angle if you want an “ear.” Or make a simple “X” or “+” sign. The slash should be 1/4 to 1/2-inch deep.
using a Challenger bread pan to bake the sourdough loaf
Place the dough into your Dutch oven and cover. Turn the oven thermostat back to 460˚F and bake for 20 minutes.
taking the lid off halfway through the bake
Remove the lid. Turn the oven temperature back to 435˚F. Continue to cook for 20 more minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 210˚F.
Baked sourdough loaf on a cooling rack
Some people like their sourdough baked to a darker color, but this is perfect for us. Let the loaf cool for 1 hour before slicing. Waiting 2-3 hours is even better.
bottom crust on baked sourdough loaf
The bottom is crispy but not burnt.
sliced sourdough bread in front of a bread machine
It’s possible! You can make a traditional loaf of sourdough with no yeast using a bread machine.

bread machine crash course sign-up

Getting the hang of making a sourdough loaf without commercial yeast takes persistence and a willingness to experiment. I guess that’s why a successful loaf is SO SATISFYING.

If you try making sourdough, I hope you’ll let me know how it goes.

p.s. A special thanks to Vanessa, one of my faithful readers and a fellow bread machine lover, who has encouraged me throughout my sourdough journey. May you have somebody in your life who will do the same.


More recipes and posts related to bread machines:

Did you enjoy this recipe? If so, you can help others and me by leaving a 5-star 🤩 rating in the recipe below. No comments are required.

Hope to see you again soon!
Paula

p.s. If you have any questions or suggestions, you can email me privately: Paula at saladinajar.com.


Yield: 12 slices

Classic Bread Machine Sourdough Bread Recipe - No Yeast

sliced bread machine sourdough with no yeast

Make this no-yeast sourdough bread recipe in your bread machine using the DOUGH cycle. All the hard work of mixing and kneading happens in the machine, but you do the shaping and baking in a conventional oven for a superior crust and a traditional appearance.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Additional Time 22 hours
Total Time 22 hours 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup + 3 tablespoons ( 272 gr) water
  • 1/4 cup (60 gr) bubbly and active sourdough starter
  • 2 tablespoons (15 gr) whole wheat flour (substitute with bread flour if preferred)
  • 2-7/8 cups (385 gr) bread flour
  • 1-1/2 scant teaspoon (9 gr) table or sea salt

Instructions

  1. MIXING: Add the water, starter, flour, and salt to the bowl (in that order).
  2. KNEADING: Select the DOUGH cycle and press START. Let the machine mix and knead the dough for 10 minutes. Stop the machine.
  3. Transfer the dough to a transparent 9-inch square glass Pyrex dish. Cover the container and let the dough relax for 15 minutes.
  4. FOLDS: Grab the dough on one side and stretch it upward without tearing the dough. Fold it over toward the middle. Turn the dish. Grab the next side with your fingers and stretch, then fold it towards the center. Move to the next side and repeat. Do this until you have gone around the container twice. Cover with a tea towel or cheap shower cap.
  5. Repeat the stretchy folds every 15 minutes at least 3-5 times to strengthen the dough.
  6. BULK RISE: Leave the container of dough on the counter to rise. The proofing process may take 3-10 hours, depending on the dough's temperature, the vitality of your starter, or the amount of starter you use.
  7. How to tell if the dough has risen enough: The dough should be approaching double its original size. Look for giant bubbles on top and smaller bubbles covering the sides and bottom of the dough. (This is why a clear container is helpful.)
  8. When the dough is ready, turn the dough container upside down. Allow the dough to fall out gently onto a damp work surface. If it doesn't want to release, use a small, wet spatula to loosen the dough from the sides and try again. Be patient and let gravity do most of the work so the air bubbles will stay intact.
  9. PRE-SHAPING: Use your wet fingers and a wet bench scraper shape into a rough circle. Next, pick up one side of the circle, then fold it toward the center. Use your fingers to tap the seams and "glue" them down gently. Move clockwise around the circle, picking up the adjacent dough and folding it towards the center. Repeat the process until your dough is in a ball shape. Use a wet bench knife to help you flip the dough ball over, resulting in the smooth side on top. Allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.
  10. FINAL SHAPING: (If the dough flattened out a lot during the previous rest period, refold the ball starting with one edge and work your way around the circle just like you did in step 5. Flip over, cover, and let rest again before proceeding. Use your hands and a bench scraper to make the ball more compact. (NOTE: If your dough turns into a big gooey mess, likely, the dough rose too much. (Recovery tip: Scrape the dough into a greased 8½ x 4½-inch bread pan and make a sandwich loaf.)
  11. Place the dough with the smooth side down into a lined (can use a linen or cotton tea towel) and floured (I like rice flour) banneton, small mixing bowl, or a small colander. Cover and allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes on the counter. If desired, "stitch" the dough in the banneton to make the loaf more compact. (See video.)
  12. FINAL RISE: Refrigerate 8 to 24 hrs inside a plastic bag sealed to keep out refrigerator odors and preserve the moisture inside the dough.
  13. BAKE: Preheat your oven to 500˚F for 45 minutes before you want to bake. If using a Dutch oven, put the lid on and place it into your oven while preheating (unless the manufacturer recommends against heating the pan empty).
  14. Remove the bread from the refrigerator immediately before you're ready to bake. Sprinkle the top of the dough with semolina or cornmeal while still in the bowl so it won't stick to your parchment paper. Turn the dough out of the bowl or banneton onto a piece of parchment paper. Brush off excess flour with a brush.
  15. Slash the bread with a sharp knife or razor blade using any design you like. The primary slash should be at least 1/2 to 1 inch deep. Keep it simple if you are a beginner. An 'X' works fine. Move the shaped dough with the parchment paper under it to a Dutch oven.
  16. Put the lid on the Dutch oven and place it into your oven. Turn the temperature back to 460˚F. After 20 minutes, remove the cover. Turn the oven temperature back to 435˚F. If you want the loaf to be browner, remove the bread from the Dutch oven and set it directly onto the oven rack.
  17. Bake bread until it registers 207-210˚F in the middle using a quick-read thermometer.
  18. Cool the baked bread on a rack for an hour or longer before slicing. Cutting the loaf too early will result in gumminess.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 138Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 265mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 5g

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest


Mary

Tuesday 23rd of November 2021

Can you substitute whey for the water for a more sour flavor as in your sourdough loaf recipe without affecting this process?

Tam

Thursday 2nd of September 2021

Great idea! I will try this for my next loaf, thank you! A tip for the bulk rise is to let it rise 25% to 50% in the container. I mark the top of the dough level on the outside of the square container with a pen, measure it and put another mark where the 25% rise will be. When the dough reaches that height I know it's ready.

Paula

Thursday 2nd of September 2021

Hi Tam,

Thanks for leaving this tip. I have also used large rubber bands to mark where my dough is at the beginning of the bulk proof and another one where I want it to be at the end. It's easy to forget how far the dough has come, right?

PattiAnn

Tuesday 22nd of June 2021

Hi Paula, I would like to make this recipe but put it in a pullman pan for a sandwhich loaf. Also want a soft crust. Should I put the top on the pullman pan? Any advice? I do not want to use yeast or sugar.

Thanks for your reply, PattiAnn

Paula

Tuesday 22nd of June 2021

Hi PattiAnn,

Yes, I have done this before. I would put a top on the Pullman pan for the first half of the baking time. Then remove the top so it can brown. With some experimentation, you might decide you need to leave the top on a little less or a little more time. I would love to hear how it turns out for you.

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