My most recent loaf was the best to date.
Meteil (less than 50%) rye baked as a “hearth” (not in a pan) loaf with caraway and onion flake.
The key? Spraying the crust with water at 2 minute intervals for the first 6 minutes (aka: 4 total sprayings,1 as it first goes in) to produce significant crunch.
Also, I stopped punching down to achieve a second rise before panning. I seem to have been exhausting the levin and thus creating dense final loaves with little to no oven spring.
Additional final adjustment was realizing that I was working so hard to make the dough not be “messy” that I was working in too much flour which (a) taxed the levin too much and (b) reduced available moisture to out-gas steam during baking.