7 cups bread flour or all purpose flour-divided (*see my note below on making dough)
2 cups warm water (105 degrees F-110 degrees F)
1 cup sourdough starter
1 ½ packages active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornmeal (if you don’t have cornmeal, just regular flour will do OK in a pinch)
Making the Dough
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and set on medium speed, combine 2 cups flour, water, sourdough starter, yeast, salt and sugar; beat for 2 minutes. (I just use a wire whisk to start out with, then as the dough gets thicker, graduate to a wooden spoon, or whatever else “feels” right at the time. I tried using an electric mixer and dough hook and couldn’t keep the dough from crawling up the hook into the mixer. Maybe I need more practice)
With the mixer on low, add 2 cups more flour, a little at a time, until combined. Increase speed to high; beat until smooth and sticky, about 3 minutes longer. With the mixer on low, beat in an additional 2 cups flour, a little at a time.
Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface; knead in remaining flour, a little at a time, until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. (*I don’t knead in the whole last cup of flour because it seems to make the bread too heavy and dense. I usually try and just use 6 cups of flour in the dough instead of 7, but maybe it depends on the weather-humidity-and/or time of year.)
Oil a large bowl; transfer dough to the bowl, turning once to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap; set in a warm place and let dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. (Somewhere I learned the best way to do the raising is to boil a pot of water then put it in the oven with the dough while dough is rising. It keeps the oven warm and gives it the right humidity, I guess. Anyway, it’s how I do it.)
Making the Bread
Punch down dough; divide in half. Sprinkle cornmeal onto a large baking sheet. Shape each piece of dough into a smooth, tight ball. Transfer each ball of dough to the baking sheet; cover with a towel. Let dough rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Preheat over to 400 degrees F. With a sharp knife make four ¼ inch deep slashes in a crisscross pattern on each loaf.
Bake bread until golden brown, about 40 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. (Maybe it’s just my oven, but I only bake the bread for 20-25 minutes and it comes out just as done. When I bake it for the full 40 minutes it’s almost burned.)