Combine 1 1/2 cups warm water, yeast, sugar and salt in 2-quart plastic food container or bowl. Stir in flour with wooden spoon until moistened. (Dough will look wet and be loose enough to conform to the shape of its container.) Cover loosely with lid or plastic food wrap; let stand at room temperature about 2 hours or until dough rises and begins to collapse. Top of dough will have a flattened appearance.) Cover loosely; refrigerate overnight or up to 7 days.
When ready to form loaf, line large baking sheet with parchment paper; sprinkle with cornmeal. Set aside.
With floured hands, stretch and shape (do not knead) dough into 1 (16-inch) or 2 (10-inch) long smooth loaves. Place onto prepared baking sheet; let stand at room temperature, uncovered, 40 minutes. (Loaf will not rise much during this “resting” period.)
Fifteen minutes prior to baking time, place broiler pan or 13x9-inch baking pan onto bottom oven rack; carefully pour 2 cups hot water into pan. Then, heat oven to 450°F.
Cut 5 to 8 (1/4-inch) deep diagonal slits across top of loaf with serrated knife. If desired, brush loaf with water; sprinkle evenly with sesame seed, poppy seed or shredded Parmesan cheese.
Place baking sheet with bread onto middle oven rack. Bake 35-40 minutes or until crust is golden brown and firm to touch. Cool completely on wire cooling rack.
Variation: Cheddar Cheese Artisan Bread. Prepare as directed above, stirring 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese into dough with flour. Continue as directed above.