Put 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F to 115 degrees F) in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside to bloom, 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
Add the flour mixture to the yeast mixture and mix with the dough hook on the lowest setting until the dough comes together. Increase the speed to medium and continue to mix until the dough is elastic and smooth, about 8 minutes.
Form the dough into a ball, place in a large oiled bowl and turn the dough to coat it with oil. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rest in a warm place until doubled in size, 30 to 35 minutes. Line a baking sheet with foil or a silicone baking mat, coat generously with cooking spray and set aside.
Punch down the dough, then turn out onto a floured surface. Knead just until the dough is smooth and springs back when poked, about 1 minute. Divide into 4 pieces and form into 5-by-3-inch oblong rolls. Place the rolls on the prepared baking sheet and cut four 2-inch diagonal slashes across the top of each. Cover with a damp towel or cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size, 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and bring 8 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat.
Stir the baking soda into the boiling water (it will foam up slightly). Add 2 rolls and poach 2 minutes per side. Using a slotted spoon, remove the rolls, drain and place on the baking sheet, cut-side up. Sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the remaining rolls.
Bake the rolls until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool slightly on the baking sheet.
Photograph by Victor Schrager
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