1) Mix and knead the dough ingredients — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a smooth, slightly sticky dough.
2) Allow the dough to rise in a lightly greased bowl, covered, for about 1 hour, until doubled.
3) Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface.
4) Divide the dough into 10 pieces and shape each piece into a smooth ball.
5) Place the balls on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover, and let rest for 15 minutes.
6) Preheat the oven to 400°F.
7) Prepare the water bath: Bring the water, salt, and baking soda to a boil in a large pot.
8) Drop 5 dough balls at a time into the water bath.
9) Cook for 30 seconds, flip over, and cook for 30 seconds longer. Using a slotted spoon, return the buns to the baking sheet.
10) Using scissors or a sharp knife, cut 1/2"-deep crosses into the center of each bun. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
11) Bake the buns for 20 to 24 minutes, or until they're a deep-dark brown. Remove them from the oven, and transfer to a rack to cool.
Yield: 10 buns