In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in1/4 cup of the warm water. Add the sugar and 1/4 cup of the flour and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to combine.
Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.
Add the remaining 1 cup warm water and 3 cups flour, the cornmeal, salt, and 1/2 cup olive oil.
Using a wooden spoon, mix the dough, incorporating as much of the flour as possible.
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface and knead until soft and elastic, 10 to 12 minutes. It will be a little sticky, but shouldn't stick to your hands.
Add only a minimum amount of flour to the work surface to keep the dough from sticking.
Lightly oil a large bowl. Add the dough and turn to coat on all sides.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place a clean, damp, kitchen towel over the top.
Set the bowl in a warm spot and let rise until doubled in volume, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (For a slow rise, place the covered bowl in the refrigerator and let rise for 10 to 12 hours, returning dough to room temperature before using).
When the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down and knead it for 2 to 3 minutes. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of an oiled 14-inch round deep-dish pizza pan.
Let the dough rise in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes.
Press the dough until it comes 2 inches up the sides and is even on the bottom and at the corners of the pan.