18 September 2019

The Emperor's Gugelhupf


Sometimes I think that I take my love for the characters in my books a little too far. A couple of days ago I had such a craving for Gugelhupf (a yeast-based Bundt cake, which often contains raisins) that I decided to bake an Emperor's Gugelhupf just like my grandmother used to make. 

Her recipe is based on the one from the famous pastry shop Zauner in Bad Ischl, and is said to be the same Gugelhupf recipe that Katharina Schratt served Emperor Franz Joseph for his second breakfast, whenever he visited his 'dear friend'. The residents of Bad Ischl used to say:  “The Emperor just had his daily slice of Gugelhupf!” after Franz Joseph left the villa of his mistress. 

Whether this story is true or not and whether it actually is the original Gugelhupf recipe - who knows!? But who doesn't appreciate a good story? And ultimately, it doesn't matter. I just love this recipe! The Guglehupf is so moist and fluffy, with just the right amount of sweetness. It is the perfect weekend brunch treat or can be enjoyed any time. 

Emperor's Gugelhupf

Ingredients



180 ml milk
2 tsp active dry yeast
350 g flour
100 g unsalted butter
120 g sugar
4 egg yolks
1 pinch salt
Lemon zest of half a lemon
1 tbsp of cinnamon
100 g raisins
1 handful of sliced almonds (optional)
1 tbsp of unsalted melted butter
powdered sugar

Instructions


- Heat milk in a small saucepan until lukewarm.
- Pour the lukewarm milk into a bowl, add yeast and stir until it dissolves. Add 1/3 of the flour to the yeast mixture and mix well. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel and let it rest in a warm place. 
- In the meantime, whisk butter and sugar until creamy. Add egg yolks and whisk for an additional minute.
- Then add a pinch of salt, lemon zest, and the remaining flour to the mixture. Knead the dough until it is smooth. If the dough is still sticky add a bit more flour.
- Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let it rise for 30 minutes in a warm place.
- Butter and flour your Gugelhupf pan, and sprinkle the bottom of the cake pan with the almond slices.
- Take the rested dough out of the bowl and knead it on a well-floured surface. 
- Roll the dough into a square, approx. 2 cm thick. Sprinkle it with the raisins and cinnamon. Roll the dough square up and place the dough roll into the cake pan.
- Brush the surface of the cake with melted butter. Cover the pan with a kitchen towel, and let it rest for about an hour or until the dough has risen to the edge of the cake pan.
- Preheat the oven to 355 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Bake Gugelhupf for 20 to 25 minutes. After the first 10 minutes of baking time, check your cake. If the top has already turned golden brown, cover it with aluminum foil.
- Let the cake cool for 15 minutes, then remove from the pan and sprinkle the top with powdered sugar.

Notes: Gugelhupf tastes best while it's still warm. I recommend eating it with a bit of butter and a dollop of strawberry jam. If you don't own a Gugelhupf pan, there's no need to go out and purchase an expensive one. Just use a regular Bundt cake pan.


Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added four historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl EmpressA Life in the Shadow of the Crown, and The Perpetual Traveler. When she isn't busy typing on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebook, and Goodreads.
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11 September 2019

Book Cover Reveal: EXCERPTS FROM THE IMPERIAL DIARY - A Country Girl Empress Novel


I am so excited to reveal the cover of my upcoming historical fiction novel: EXCERPTS FROM THE IMPERIAL DIARY - A Country Girl Empress Novel. To make it a little more interesting, I decided to turn it into a game. Below, you will find two images of the new book cover, but there's a difference. Can you spot it? If so, go ahead and comment that you found it. Spoiler alert! Some of you might be too excited to keep the answer to yourself, and that's alright. So, if you don't want to risk seeing a spoiler, then you might want to avoid reading the comments at first, and don't forget to read on to get the inside scoop!



Empress Sisi is still youthful, gorgeous, and desired by many. She is loved and honored by her husband, Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary, but all too soon they are hit by tragedies they are powerless to prevent.

Although the King pays for his pet projects with his own funds, it does not spare Bavaria from financial ruin. Feeling harassed and irritated by his ministers, King Ludwig considers dismissing the entire cabinet and replacing them with fresh faces. However, the cabinet members agree to act first. Seeking a cause to depose their King by constitutional means, the rebelling Bavarian ministers decide on the rationale that he is mentally unfit and therefore unable to rule.

They ask Ludwig's uncle, Prince Luitpold, to step into the royal vacancy once the monarch is removed. Luitpold agrees, on the condition that the conspirators produce solid proof that the King is indeed insane. Then King Ludwig II loses his life under mysterious circumstances. Was it suicide or is someone strategically eliminating members of the House of Wittelsbach?

Meanwhile, at court, many people, including the imperial couple and Crown Princess St├ęphanie, know that Rudi has plenty of extra-marital affairs. His newest conquest is 17-year-old Baroness Mary Vetsera, daughter of Baron Albin Vetsera and his wife, Helene Baltazzi. Rudolph’s marriage to Steffi is not a particularly happy one and results in the birth of their only daughter, Archduchess Elisabeth, affectionally referred to as “Erzsi”.

The sudden, and violent death of Sisi’s only son, Crown Prince Rudolph at his hunting lodge Mayerling, shakes the Monarchy to its core. And the fact that the dead body of his teenaged mistress is found right next to his completes the scandal. How will the imperial couple cope with this devastating loss? Does this tragedy mark the end of the Danube monarchy, since Rudolph only had a daughter? And will their love and faith in each other allow Sisi and Franz Joseph to master these difficult trials?

Are you eager to learn more about the book? If so, more snippets are coming your way soon! EXCERPTS FROM THE IMPERIAL DIARY is coming to your favourite online book retailer in 2020. 



Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added four historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl EmpressA Life in the Shadow of the Crown, and The Perpetual Traveler. When she isn't busy typing on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebook, and Goodreads.
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04 September 2019

Month in Review - August 2019




Pumpkin Spice season is already here. Can you believe it? Where did the time go? Although the weather still blesses us with unseasonably warm weather, autumn is right around the corner. But before I get sidetracked by thoughts of what costume to wear for Halloween, it's time to recap last month. So now, without further ado, here's the list of the most popular blog posts for August 2019, chosen by you, the readers:

Why I Love to Write and Read Historical Fiction



Someone recently asked me during a dinner party why I decided to write historical fiction. I had, after all, up until just a couple of years ago, written nothing but non-fiction. What is it about historical fiction? What makes it so charming? And what ensures its continuing popularity? I will gladly admit that I’ve always been a bit of a history buff and enjoy researching different eras and cultures.  But my love of this genre goes well beyond that...

Dog Bakery: Lip-Smacking Birthday Pupcake Recipe



As it has been our tradition for many years with our current furry children as well as our last two, Lana and Darren, I baked some yummy pupcakes to help us celebrate. While the baked goods were made for our furry companions and their friends, they can also be consumed by humans, although they might not be to their liking due to the lack of sugars. This recipe is a variation of the original which can be found in my book, LIVING WITH CANINE EPILEPSY...

A Writer's Adversaries 





As writers, we face many hardships, such as rejection, criticism, lack of time, writer's block...just to name a few. But of them all there's one, in particular, that seems to sneak up on us often unnoticed, and we don't realize we're battling it until it squeezes the creativity out of us. That adversary is called exhaustion. It can happen to the best of us, and it occurs in a variety of ways. Perhaps we lost joy in the writing process altogether, or we've run out of fresh ideas. Maybe the act of juggling our writer's life with all our other obligations has become too much to bear.....

Writing Historical Fiction: Where to Start



When I first conceived the notion to write THE COUNTRY GIRL EMPRESS series, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to cover the entire lifetime of Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Sisi), set in 19th century Vienna. While I was quite familiar with her life story and the setting already, I knew there was still so much more I needed to research about this timeframe. The question was: Where should I begin?  Why...with the characters of my book, of course...

#WritersLife: Is It All You Thought It Would Be?



When I am out and about at events or appointments, people usually ask about my occupation as part of our small talk. When I mention that I am a writer, and I am working on my fifth historical fiction piece after writing and publishing several non-fiction books, I often get the question “So, what’s life like as a published author?” As if my life is supposed to differ dramatically from others in a very particular way...

Thank you for reading my blog! Please feel free to come back often to catch up on my latest endeavours. Happy Reading!




Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added four historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl EmpressA Life in the Shadow of the Crown, and The Perpetual Traveler. When she isn't busy typing on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebook, and Goodreads.
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28 August 2019

A Writer's Adversaries


As writers, we face many hardships, such as rejection, criticism, lack of time, writer's block...just to name a few. But of them all there's one, in particular, that seems to sneak up on us often unnoticed, and we don't realize we're battling it until it squeezes the creativity out of us. That adversary is called exhaustion.

It can happen to the best of us, and it occurs in a variety of ways. Perhaps we lost joy in the writing process altogether, or we've run out of fresh ideas. Maybe the act of juggling our writer's life with all our other obligations has become too much to bear.

I've recently had several of my writer friends express this sort of exhaustion with writing but blogging in particular. They've made it clear to me that they've reached a turning point and no longer know what to say. They've become sick of writing, submitting manuscripts for publication, posting new articles, and wish they could just stop. These talented writers had lost not only their joy in writing but also their enthusiasm for all things related to writing...and in some cases even more. They seemed to have forgotten all they had accomplished. They were left drained and downcast. It saddens me to think of them giving up on writing altogether.

Benjamin Franklin used to say: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!"  Wise words indeed, but how can you prevent losing the joy writing brings due to fatigue? Here are just a few things that have helped me in the past to at least mitigate the effects or even avoid burnout  entirely:

- Reevaluating the Workload 


I like to look at my to-do list quarterly, and then decide what to keep and what to toss. At this point in my life, my two main priorities are my family (which includes three crazy dogs) and my writing. If my commitments outside my home don't line up with my priorities, then it might be time to reevaluate my to-do list.

- Cutting Back on Social Media 


Let's be realistic: Social media is everywhere, and it can be a significant drain on a writer's time and energy. A few months ago, I decided to cut back on the time I spend posting and commenting on my social media outlets. While at first glance, this might not seem like a significant change, it has freed up quite a bit of my time and energy that I can now devote to other responsibilities. 

- Chasing the Joy of Writing 


It's that joy that fuels my creativity, and sometimes I forget that I have to consciously look for ways to bring joy into my own life. I find comfort in the simple things of life, like drinking a good cup of coffee, snuggling with my dogs, or reading an exceptional book. Or just scrubbing my kitchen until it gleams - I know, it's weird, but I enjoy it.

- Taking Care of Ourselves


Just because we hit rock bottom, the point where we must stop writing for the sake of our well-being, that doesn't automatically mean we have to give up our writing career forever. I frequently have to take a break from writing when my migraines hit me.  It doesn't do me any good if I force myself to keep on writing while I suffer through excruciating pains. So, If I have to distance myself from my writing in order to get better, then that's what I'll do. Self-care is important. If you don't take care of yourself, no one else will do it for you.

-  Taking a Break


I just got back a couple of weeks ago from a week-long trip to Missouri. And although it was a busy week filled with driving, meetings, dinners, etc., it was still a break from my routine. After my time away, I was ready to jump back into my day-to-day life with renewed energy.

Most writers battle burnout at some point. The trick is to be aware that it is a genuine adversary and to be mindful of the symptoms that may indicate that we are losing our spirit and joy of writing. We have to take conscious steps to recapture the joy that brought us to writing in the first place if we notice that our happiness is slowly being squeezed from us. We can't really expect anyone to love our scribbles if we don't even like what we write!

Have you ever faced burnout or lost the joy in writing? What helps you through the rough times? 


Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added four historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl EmpressA Life in the Shadow of the Crown, and The Perpetual Traveler. When she isn't busy typing on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebook, and Goodreads.
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21 August 2019

Why I Love to Write and Read Historical Fiction



Someone recently asked me during a dinner party why I decided to write historical fiction. I had, after all, up until just a couple of years ago, written nothing but non-fiction. What is it about historical fiction? What makes it so charming? And what ensures its continuing popularity? I will gladly admit that I’ve always been a bit of a history buff and enjoy researching different eras and cultures.  But my love of this genre goes well beyond that.

Why does anyone even bother reading books? What pleasure do people derive from a well-spun tale? I think most would argue that a good story takes us away from our daily hum-drum. We trust the author to provide us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in a completely different world as soon as we turn the pages of a book to the first chapter.

Who among us has not imagined ourselves or our alter ego, living in another period? Perhaps we think we were born in the wrong century and believe we would have felt more at home way back when. Or maybe it's a yearning for a simpler time, or a desire to live in another country. Perhaps we're looking for an opportunity to meet our cherished heroes. Or we wish to right one of history’s horrific wrongs. After all, there have been many! If that’s you, then you are probably already a fan of historical fiction and many of its sub-genres. There are so many to choose from: Romance, horror, mysteries, tragedies, westerns, etc. set in history ready to captivate their readers and bewitch them with a sense of another time and space.

Stories from our past expose us to unfamiliar cultures, and sometimes even the strange aspects of our own. It shows us who we were as a people, but also provides a map to our future. An astute reader might even pick up on the commonality of all faiths and nations when our basic needs were exposed, rawer.

Historical fiction affords a writer the rare opportunity to right wrongs. We can create a story starring historical figures in a new light. We can restore them to life although theirs was stolen, or exact justice although they received tragic condemnation. We can even award posthumous accolades to the heroes who left us all too soon. After all, it is fiction, and nowhere does it say we can't ask: What if...? 

For a storyteller, this genre requires more research than most other forms of writing. This is my favourite stage of the writing process! I get to transport myself to that time and place in history and "experience" (albeit second-hand) the same things as the people of that time. Using modern-day phrases, or mentioning inventions that have not yet been discovered, could negate all of my efforts. However, despite the extra challenges, or possibly because of them, I feel it is also the most rewarding type of writing. It allows me to introduce the relatively unknown people and periods in history while indulging my inner history buff and storyteller in the process.


Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added four historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl EmpressA Life in the Shadow of the Crown, and The Perpetual Traveler. When she isn't busy typing on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebook, and Goodreads.
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