Makes 1 1/2-pound loaf (6 servings)
For the rye sponge/starter: Combine the rye flour, water and yeast in a medium mixing bowl; stir just to combine, then add the onion. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature. Left at room temperature, the sponge can be ready in a minimum of 8 hours and up to 12 hours. Bubbles should start to form in about 4 hours. Or cover and let sit for 1 hour at room temperature, and then refrigerate for at least 12 hours or later use. But you will have to add a bit of flour and water if refrigerated for more than 1 day. (If refrigerated, bring to room temperature before adding to the dough. After a number of days, it will sour; that's okay.)
For the dough: Remove the onion from the sponge and discard it. Combine the sponge, flours and 300 grams of water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment; beat on low speed for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the yeast, salt and caraway seeds; beat on low speed for 6 minutes. Transfer to the prepared bowl, cover with plastic wrap so that the wrap does not touch the dough and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. The dough should look like a thick batter with lots of different-size bubbles. (If refrigerating, it may be necessary to let the chilled dough come to room temperature so its bubbles can emerge.)
If the bubbles become too fat or collapse, the bread will not have a light interior, but the dough can be used to make flatbread. Or it can be used instead of a sponge for your next round of baking.
Lightly grease the inside of a large bowl with nonstick cooking oil spray.
Spray the work surface with nonstick cooking oil spray and pour the dough onto the prepared surface. Use a wet plastic scraper or wet hands to lift the edges of the dough from the work surface and fold them into the center of the mass of dough. Repeat 4 to 6 times, slightly rotating the dough as you work to keep it from sticking to the work surface. Wet your hands often.
Place the dough in the prepared bowl; cover with a clean dish towel, being careful not to let it touch the dough. Let it sit at room temperature for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the dough has increased in size but not doubled. The dough's texture should look lighter.
About 30 minutes before the dough is finished proofing, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Ten minutes before the bread is to be baked, heat a medium-size (4-quart) Dutch oven with its lid on. (The dough should fill the Dutch oven about halfway; if the Dutch oven is too large, the loaf will bake flat.)
When ready to bake the bread, combine the cornstarch and 1/4 cup water in a cup, stirring to dissolve. Working quickly, transfer the Dutch oven to the stovetop (off the heat). Sprinkle the bottom of the heated Dutch oven with rolled oats to keep the bread from sticking.
Turn the dough into the hot pot. Brush the cornstarch mixture on the top of the dough, then use a lame (the special tool used to slash marks in the dough), a razor blade or clean kitchen scissors to make several quick, clean, assertive strokes, about 1/2 inch deep, creating diagonal slashes on the top of the dough. (This may be hard to do because the dough is quite wet.) Re-cover and place in the oven; reduce the heat immediately to 375 degrees.
After 25 to 30 minutes, check the look of the bread; it should begin to pick up color. Remove the lid and bake for about 10 minutes, until the loaf looks quite brown. The bread will be done when tapping your fingers on the bottom of the loaf produces a clearly hollow sound, as opposed to a dull thud (the internal temperature on an instant-read thermometer should be 206 to 209 degrees). Transfer the loaf to a wire rack to cool for at least 1 hour.
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