Mix and knead the dough ingredients — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a smooth, slightly sticky dough. If you're making by hand, allow the dough to rise in a lightly greased bowl, covered, for about 1 hour, until doubled. In bread machine, let the full dough cycle run through.
Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface.
Divide the dough into as many buns as you want. About 8 to 10 will work for sandwich size, while about 12 can be done at about slider size. Shape each piece into a smooth ball.
Place the balls on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 15 minutes.
While that's happening, preheat the oven to 400°F and prepare the water bath for the stovetop. Bring the water, salt, and baking soda to a boil in a large pot.
Gently lower several dough balls at a time into the water bath. Cook for 30 seconds, flip over, and cook for 30 seconds longer. Using a slotted spoon, return the buns to the baking sheet.
Using scissors or a sharp knife, cut half-inch deep crosses into the center of each bun. Sprinkle with coarse salt.
Bake the buns for 20 to 24 minutes (lower time for smaller rolls/buns), or until they're brown. Remove them from the oven, and transfer to a rack to cool.
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