We spent the Christmas holiday with Nico’s family in the mountain village Ax-les Thermes in the French Pyrenees. Each afternoon, after hours of cavorting in the snowy slopes, we would have an open air picnic. Nico’s mom would pack cheeses, tomatoes, and meats, and hunks of Pain de Campagne picked up from the bakery in the morning. This bread was different than the country loaves I had become accustomed to. There was something other than bread flour in there. After days of eating it, I decided it was rye and made a deal with myself to give it a try when I got home.
So here it is, a big loaf of rye sandwich bread. This is a technically easy loaf to make, you just need to dedicate a bit of time, allowing the sponge to bubble for 3-4 hours really helps the flavors to deepen, but if you are in a hurry, 1-2 hours will still produce a good loaf. I have read several accounts of adding pickle juice in addition to the water to the sponge, and it produced wonderful results. The flavor is much richer (and really not pickly) after the loaf is baked. Rather non-traditionally, you will find that I combine the traditional caraway seeds with fennel and coriander for a bit more excitement! If you want a traditional loaf, simply add 3 tablespoons of caraway seeds.