Sekowa Spezial Backferment is an alternative to both fast-acting yeast and sourdough starter. It is a honey-based ferment, popular in Germany, which gives many of the qualities of sourdough bread. To make this recipe, you need to have a jar of Sekowa starter made and ready in your fridge (once mixed, it will keep for weeks without feeding) - see HERE for instructions, and the method then falls into two stages, with a pre-ferment made the night before you mix the main dough. It will reward you with a lovely, crusty white loaf with a soft, open crumb and very good keeping qualities.
Make the pre-ferment the night before. Mix the starter, granules and water together, breaking up any lumps. Add the flour and mix well. Leave undisturbed at 30°C/86°F for 12 hours in a container covered with cling film, with room for it to double in volume. I used our airing cupboard.
After 12 hours have passed (for a stronger flavour, you could leave it for longer), the mixture should be bubbling vigorously. Add the final dough ingredients, mix well, then tip out onto the work surface and knead until the dough is smooth. Return it to the bowl, cover, and leave somewhere warm for about 30-60 minutes, until risen substantially.
Divide the dough into the loaf sizes you want, knead each portion gently into your preferred shape, and place them seam-side up in rye-flour-dusted proving baskets. Return them to the warm place, covered with a damp tea towel, until doubled in volume (about another 30-50 minutes). Meanwhile, heat your oven to 220°C/425°F, not forgetting to put your baking stone in. For extra crust, place a bowl of water in the bottom of the oven to add steam.
Tip the loaves, one at a time, onto a semolina-dusted peel and slide into the oven and bake for about 45-60 minutes depending on the size of the loaf and your oven.