Adapted from Bon Appetit, January 1994
2 3/4 cups bread flour
1 envelope quick-rising yeast*
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (about) hot water (125°F to 130°F)
8 cups water
1/4 cup baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg white, beaten to blend (glaze)
Combine bread flour, one envelope yeast, one teaspoon salt and one teaspoon sugar in food processor and blend. With machine running, gradually pour hot water through feed tube, adding enough water to form smooth elastic dough. Process one minute to knead. Grease medium bowl. Add dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then towel; let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 35 minutes.
Flour baking sheet, or clear area of counter. Punch dough down and knead on lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide into 8 pieces. Form each dough piece into ball. Place dough balls on prepared surface, flattening each slightly. Using serrated knife, cut X in top center of each dough ball.** Cover with towel and let dough balls rise until almost doubled in volume, about 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease another baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal.*** Bring 8 cups water to boil in large saucepan. Add baking soda and 2 tablespoons sugar (water will foam up). Add 4 rolls and cook 30 seconds per side. Using slotted spoon, transfer rolls to prepared sheet, arranging X side up. Repeat with remaining rolls.
Brush rolls with egg white glaze. Sprinkle rolls generously with coarse salt. Bake rolls until brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Serve rolls warm or room temperature.
* I used regular old active dry yeast. Worked fine, but the rise time is closer to an hour.
** I slit them right before putting them in the oven, as we did in my bread class, in hopes to keep the mark as sharp as possible. However, they are not as easy to slit after boiling them, which forms a seal. I might try it both ways next time.
*** For some reason, greasing and then cornmeal-ing a baking pan sounded like a potential stuck mess, so I instead lined one with parchment paper and sprinkled that with cornmeal. It worked great, and was a much easier clean up. (We’d baked many breads in my bread class on parchment paper in my bread class, so I knew it should work.)
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