It’s the darkness. The lack of light. That’s the worst part of winter.

And this from a girl who likes winter. I like the blustery cold (even when it feels like my face is freezing off) and the snowy piles (even though shovelling that stuff is darn hard work) and the icy surfaces (even though I still don’t know how to skate).

I like winter because you get to wear big, puffy sweaters and you get to snuggle. I like winter because you get to put stews and yummy things in the oven for hours and go take a long, warm nap. I like winter because of hot chocolate and apple cider.

But even I, with all my winter like, find the darkness difficult.

I leave for work in the dark and I return in the dark. It can make for some long days and nights and as I trudge home, in the dark, at this time of year it starts to feel a bit like the light will never come again.

Of course I know that’s not true. As it is the days are already getting longer and I know that not too too long from now, spring will make itself known.

But until that happens, these January days can be a challenge for the heart and for the soul.

I do my best to manage. I always buy a new plant for the office (the greenery makes me happy). This year I’ve left some Christmas lights up and I always light candles at night.

But what helps the most is keeping the oven light on.

In the cold dark of winter, the oven light is like a beacon, both of the deeply comforting dishes that emerge from its depths and of the sunny warmth to come.

It may be months away, but it will come.

One recent dark, cold morning, I got up early and formed these lovely Pains aux Raisins (from Epicurious). Made using a brioche dough base, they are filled with a sweet custard and raisins. Between the yeasty aroma, the creamy custard and the warm and light-filled oven, it was a happy winter morning.

Keep that oven light on.

(The recipe for these sweet treats is here and the recipe for the brioche dough is here.)