September is an industrious month. The return to school signals the end of the summer months and a crisp new academic year; a time to focus on old goals and new projects. My own school days might be long over but I still feel a significant shift as the days begin to cool and the evenings darken. After the laze of the summer sun I am instilled with an urgent need to sort, clear and cull. It is a month for polished shoes, sharpened pencils and colour coding. Traditionally a harvest month, September is when we prepare for the long winter ahead of us, gathering supplies and taking stock. There is a fresh note to the breeze, a forerunner to frost and drizzle; Autumn waits just around the corner.

As the colder weather closes in I feel no remorse for sunshine, only excitement that the cosy baking days are back. Baking can be an ally during this busy month, fuelling long school days and late office evenings with slabs of oaty flapjack. I like to make batches of fruity, spiced muesli biscuits to keep in a big tin in the kitchen for impromptu tea and coffee ‘meetings’. At the weekends I like to slow down and spend restful Sundays making bubbling, blackberry crumbles or loaves of crusty, wholemeal bread.

Along with organising the present, September is also about new ideas, new challenges. For me, this year, it’s sourdough. Try as a might I cannot seem to get the hang of this artisan bread. Sourdough is leavened with wild yeast cultivated in a mix of fermented flour and water (called a Starter) and has a distinctly sour taste, chewy crumb and sharp crust. It’s delicious and, theoretically, much more digestible than bread baked with traditional baker’s yeast. All previous attempts at this bread have left me wanting, the crumb is always too tight or the crust too soft. There are many books and blogs on the subject but experience has shown me that experience is the key. I have cultivated a starter and endeavour, in the coming months, to understand the textures and aromas that accompany good sourdough baking. I hope to report back with some anecdotes, advice and a few sheepish disasters.