Happy Friday, Feasters. Never fear, I won’t subject you to another Heart of the Valley promo this week. No, no, no! Indeed, this week we have someone very special toting their wares. A certain lady from Armidale way who writes gobsmackingly good romantic suspense. RWA Romantic Book of the Year finaling and Australian Romance Reader Award winning romantic suspense, in fact.
Yes, Feasters, I bring you As Darkness Falls and Dark Country author Bronwyn Parry!
Bronwyn has a new book out and what a beauty it is. Dead Heat has been gaining five star reviews all over the blogosphere and elsewhere, with reviewers raving about her characters and suspenseful plot. Here are a few samples:
The moment I picked up this book I didn’t want to put it down and I guarantee I won’t be the only one in that position! The Australian Bookshelf
This is a strongly plotted novel that incorporates organised crime, police corruption, gang activity and murder in a fast paced and exciting story. I reluctantly put it aside only to attend to my family’s pleas for a meal. Book’d Out
Dead Heat was a wonderful read – it drew me in right from the beginning and kept me intrigued all the way. 1 girl…too many books
Intrigued? Check out this cover and blurb.
Trapped in rugged country in scorching summer heat, pursued by ruthless gunmen who can’t afford to fail, Jo and Nick will need all their skills and courage to survive.
The national parks where Ranger Jo Lockwood works, on the edge of the NSW outback, are untamed stretches of dry forest cut through with wild rivers. She’s often alone, and she likes it that way until she discovers the body of a man, brutally murdered, in a vandalised campground.
Detective Senior Sergeant Nick Matheson knows organised crime and gang violence from the inside out. He’s so good at undercover work that his colleagues aren’t sure which side he’s really on. His posting to Strathnairn is supposed to be a return to normal duties, but the murder victim in the campground is only the first of Jo’s discoveries.
As Jo and Nick uncover drugs and a stash of illegal weapons, the evidence points towards local young men already on the wrong side of the law. But as far as Nick s concerned, it doesn’t add up. When the body count starts mounting – each brutally punished before death – he becomes convinced that one person is behind the killings, one person is manipulating the men to commit horrific crimes, forming them into his own private drug-dealing cartel.
Jo has seen the man’s face, and now she’s his next target. Nick’s determined to protect her, but trapped in the rugged outback he and Jo will have to act quickly if they are going to survive.
Amazing cover, isn’t it? You can almost see the heat shimmering off it. I love it and the blurb sucks me right in. And the best thing is that Dead Heat is available right now, so off you go a-book-buying.
Done? Excellent. Now you can enjoy Bron’s faaaaabulous post.
Hi Cathryn! It’s a pleasure to be here – thanks so much for inviting me to your Friday Feast! Like many writers, I have a love-love relationship with food – especially comfort food and procrastination food. I’d like to find the ideal inspiration food, but despite many, many episodes of fridge and cupboard-watching, and much cooking experimentation, I have yet to find the perfect one.
Despite my fondness for food and the frequency with which I restlessly get up from the computer to study the fridge contents, I don’t actually give my characters much to eat. I don’t exactly starve them – I’m not that cruel – but my romantic suspense plots usually keep them far too busy to indulge in the luxury of a proper meal. A hurried hamburger, a couple of muesli bars, dried fruit, a slice of toast – they often eat on the go. At least I do give them plenty of coffee, or, in the case of Jo, the heroine in Dead Heat, proper leaf tea.
Perhaps in some future book I’ll give my hero and heroine the chance to enjoy some quality cuisine in a quiet romantic setting. The main course choices would depend on the characters, but it’s not hard to imagine a sinfully sensuous dessert – pannacotta, perhaps, or crème brulée, or rich, creamy, handmade icecream. Of course, being romantic suspense, I’d probably have to distract them half-way through dessert!
While writing Dead Heat, I started making my own sourdough bread. I love bread, fresh from the oven, with butter melting through it, but it hasn’t always loved me. When I read that some people find the wild yeasts of sourdough much easier on their systems than commercial yeast, I decided to give it a try. Sixteen months later, I’m a convert.
Now, amongst sourdough bakers, there are purists who approach it Very Seriously, and Very Scientifically, with measurements and special kneading techniques and Very Exact percentages of ingredients. I am not one of those purists. I’m just practical about it – people have been making bread with wild yeasts for thousand of years, without the aid of recipes, kitchen scales, or measuring cups, over hearth fires that can’t be easily regulated for temperature.
I did some web research, and made my initial sourdough starter based (loosely) on instructions from the sourdoughbaker.com.au and made my first loaf based on a recipe on a much simpler website that I now can’t find. (Sorry!) A quick web-search for ‘sourdough starter’ will produce many good results, however.
After my first few loaves, I tried the breadmaker for mixing the dough, and that worked very well – and was much easier on my hands! Since then I’ve learned, through trial and success, more about making bread in dry, cool climates (a moister dough works better), and I’ve put together a number of recipes that work for me (and my husband!) Our freezer is generally full with sourdough bread, rolls, fruit bread, crumpets, cinnamon scrolls…
At one point in Dead Heat, Jo and Nick have a hasty breakfast of fruit toast from Jo’s freezer. In the book, it’s not mentioned that it’s homemade sourdough fruit toast – chatting about food isn’t their top priority at that point – but of course I imagine that Jo makes sourdough bread! So here’s our recipe:
Bron’s (and Jo’s) Sourdough Fruit Toast
(makes one large loaf or two small ones)
2 cups of fed sourdough starter (100% starter – ie, equal amounts of flour and water)
½ cup of milk
1 tablespoon golden syrup
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons salt
3 ½ cups plain flour
tepid water as required (approx 1/2cup)
approx 300 grams mixed fruit (including some chopped up dates) (toss in small amount of flour)
If using a bread machine pan for the dough:
Add into the pan in the following order: Starter, milk, golden syrup, cinnamon, flour, salt.
First knead: Set bread machine to ‘dough’ setting – check after a few minutes that there is sufficient liquid – add a little water if necessary.
If kneading by hand, put on some good music before you start, and give it a good ten minutes or more. A basic kneading motion is fine – you don’t have to do anything fancy, just keeping working the dough evenly to make it smooth and elastic.
First rise: Leave dough to rise in the bread machine or covered in a warm place; maximum rise is when it doesn’t bounce back when pushed gently with a finger tip.
Second knead: Using ‘dough’ setting on bread machine, knead for 5 minutes or so. Or knead it again by hand for around the same length of time.
Fruit and shaping: On a floured surface, press gently on dough with tips of fingers (without squeezing air out) to stretch out sides until it’s a large rectangular shape. Scatter floured fruit over the surface of the dough. Starting with the far end, tightly roll the dough towards you. Fold one end in over the other (ie in thirds). Gently stretch and mould dough into desired shape. Place seam side down into oiled bread tin.
Second rise: Leave to rise in tin – best rising is in a warm place out of draughts, with a little humidity. I put a mug of hot water beside the tin, and place a large plastic box over the tin and the mug. A heat pack can also assist on cold days. Depending on temperature, humidity, and moistness of dough, rising can take 2-3 hours.
Bake at 180 C for about 30 minutes or until cooked – it should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom of the loaf.
Eating: Prepare a cup of leaf tea – chai is ideal. Toast your fruit bread lightly, spread with butter and maybe a touch of marmalade, and relax and enjoy in a pleasant environment, preferably avoiding interruptions from gun-toting criminals intent on killing you. If interruptions cannot be avoided, offer them fruit toast and a cup of chai. As they sinking into a state of bliss, apprehend them and then return to your breakfast.
Oh, thanks so much for this, Bron! Sourdough you can knead in a breadmachine might actually convince me to have another go at making this bread. I tried a few years ago, developing my own starter with spelt flour and whatnot, then on baking day, I (for once) followed instructions and used this ridiculous slap-kneading technique which resulted into sticky dough being shot into every crevice of my kitchen. It took forever to clean and the bread turned out ordinary to say the least. Never again, was the motto after that. But after reading this recipe I may have to rethink this stance.
Now Feasters, Bron, being the lovely person that she is, has very generously offered a giveaway prize and it’s the one you all want. Yes, you can win a copy of her brilliant new novel, Dead Heat! But freebies like this don’t come easy. You have to work for it, and by work Bron means sharing your favourite bread or bread topping, or simply a bready memory.
So get commenting!
Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday, 22nd May 2012 AEST. Australian addresses only, sorry.
If you’d like to learn more about Bronwyn and her award-winning romantic suspense novels, please visit her website. You can also connect via Twitter and Facebook.
This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Imelda who has won a signed copy of Bronwyn’s Dead Heat. Lucky girl! Thanks to all who stopped by to comment. Looks like we may see a few sourdough converts!