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Another Sweep

I’m flying in again to let you know — if you live in the USA — that my publisher is running another sweep. But be quick, because it finishes on July 1st.

 My July book, MARRY IN SECRET will be featured in a wedding sweepstakes along with THE WEDDING PARTY by Jasmine Guillory and BEWITCHED AND BETROTHED by Juliet Blackwell, THE PLUS ONE by Sarah Archer and COME RAIN OR COME SHINE by Jan Karon. The giveaway finishes on July 1, so be quick! (Only for people living in the USA, sorry.)

My private “rest of the world” giveaway is closed. I’ll be announcing the winners shortly. And yes, winners — so many people wrote to me from so many places, I decided to give away several copies. Thank you all so much.

A sweep . . .

. . . but not the kind who cleans your chimneys. My publisher (Berkley, a division of PenguinRandomHouse USA) is running a dedicated sweepstake for my new book Marry in Secret — out July 3oth. The competition is for US readers only — BUT — if you live outside the USA you can email me (through the contact form on my website) and I will put your name in a draw, and send the winner a book, no matter where in the world you live.

The Berkley sweepstake runs through June 5th.  To enter, clink on this link.  If you’re outside the USA and would like to enter in my own private draw, click here and then go to the “contact” link and send me an email.
And no matter where in the world you live — good luck!

No-knead Bread

Baking bread. It’s such a fundamental, timeless thing to do. I’m always amazed when I make bread and it turns out well. I feel triumphant and vaguely historical. And yet it’s really pretty easy. Even easier with no-knead bread.
Years ago, in my shared-house student days, I often used to make bread. It took ages — mixing, kneading for 10 minutes or more, proving, kneading again, proving, then baking. And with a house full of hungry students who’d been smelling glorious smells for hours, the minute the bread was out of the oven it would be ripped apart, slathered with butter, and jam or my dad’s honey, and devoured. In seconds!

The pic below right is the sort of bread I used to make, though often I plaited it into fancy-looking twists — all the better to pull it apart while still hot, my dears. So there I’d be, almost a day’s work eaten in a flash, not a crumb left, my friends, full and happy, gone back to their studies, and I was left to clean up. Little wonder I soon got sick of making bread.

But in recent months, a friend put me onto no-knead bread. The picture at the top of this page is the loaf I baked this morning. It’s a brilliant recipe — it only takes a few minutes to mix the four ingredients and the rest is time — time you spend doing anything you like  — in my case it was mostly  sleeping, because I mixed the bread in the evening and baked it the next day.

The ingredients are simple — plain flour, salt, yeast and water — and you just mix them — not knead or beat, or process with a dough-hook — just stir together until combined. Next you cover it and leave it on the kitchen bench or the laundry or wherever is cool and convenient until the next day — at least 12 hours. (If the weather is hot, I’ll pop it in the fridge and leave it a bit longer.)

Next day pull out your dough —it’s a big sticky mess with a few bubbles — and shape it  into a ball (I use a wide-bladed egg lift because it’s too sticky to handle). Then I plop it onto a sheet of baking paper, cover again and leave for an hour or so to rise again. Half an hour before you want to bake it, turn on the oven and slide in a dutch oven or cast-iron pot with a lid. To bake, you carefully place the dough on the baking paper inside the hot pot, put the lid back on, and bake for 30 mins. Then reduce the heat slightly and bake another 10-15 minutes with the lid off. The original no-knead recipe is here — he says to use a tea-towel or something similar, and drop the dough in, but baking paper (parchment paper) makes it so much easier. I sit the dough on the paper, then lower it, paper and all into the hot dutch oven. You can see in both my photos, the bread is still sitting on the parchment paper.

The toughest part of the whole process is that almost every recipe says to let the bread cool before you cut it. I haven’t yet managed to achieve that yet. But practice, they say, makes perfect, so we live in hope (though not much). I’m also told no-knead bread keeps well. I’m here to say it doesn’t. It gets eaten before it gets a chance to keep.

So try it out and see what you think.