Although yesterday was bright and sunny, the frost didn't lift from the shady spots behind the hedges and I took lots of photographs of sparkly leaves and silvery spears of grass.
Stocking up with firewood is a major job at this time of year and fortunately we have quite a lot of wood on the farm although some of it is not particularly accessible. We don't have central heating, and the woodburning stove in the kitchen anda little open fire in the sitting room are our main sources of heat so it's essential that we have a steady supply of good, dry firewood. At the moment we have quite a lot of dead elm which burns well and we're about to start sawing up some good big beech limbs.
The sun made a brief appearance this morning before slinking off to leave a very damp, grey, gloomy day. I decided to have a big baking session as there's nothing nicer on a day like this than a warm kitchen full of lovely baking smells.
The staple fruit cake in our house is smiddy loaf which is made by boiling up dried fruit, mixed peel, oil, spices, sugar and water and leaving it for a couple of hours for the fruit to plump up before adding the flour and eggs, so first of all I prepared a big pan of that mixture and while it was standing I made a batch of soda bread. I have a favourite basic soda bread recipe and sometimes I vary it by adding linseed, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds or pumpkin seeds. I made four loaves as they freeze very well and I like to make good use of the oven space!
I also made a couple of marmalade and poppy seed loaves with an orange drizzle topping. The recipe is for one 2lb loaf, but I made two 1lb loaves instead as again, they freeze well and a smaller loaf takes less time to defrost.
I also tried out a recipe from the current issue of Country Homes & Interiors. It's a Fig and Cinnamon Cake, and although we haven't tasted it yet, it looks and smells very good.
This may seem like an enormous amount of cake, but we do get a lot of friends dropping in and a lovely slice of home made cake with a mug of tea is one of life's great pleasures.