In Florence there is a fantastic place with a wee slip of a bar, which offers little buns and a glass of white wine, just for those moments when you need some sustenance to keep you going in the day. Here is our take on the little steadying bun.
To make the anchovy paste, crush the garlic and pepper to a fine purée in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle, then add the anchovies and allow them to break down. Gradually add just enough oil to make a thick paste, then the vinegar to taste. Check the seasoning.
Place the flour, dough, oil, yeast, milk, salt and water in the bowl of an electric mixer and, with the dough hook, mix for 6–8 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Cover the dough and leave to prove for just 10 minutes. Then divide it into 12 balls and place on a floured baking tray. The buns will spread, so be sure to allow a little room between each one. Cover loosely with cling film and prove in a warm place for 2 hours.
Bake in an oven preheated to 390°F for 15 minutes, until the buns are golden brown. After baking, let them cool slightly, then slice them in half. Spread with the paste and sandwich them back together.
The anchovy paste can have many uses, depending on how thick you make it. With less oil and vinegar added, you will have a very firm paste, which is delicious spread on toast and eaten with sweet roasted shallots. If the full amount of oil is added, you will have a looser, though still emulsified, mixture, which is ideal for dressing boiled greens or broccoli—eat them on their own or with lamb or beef. It also makes an excellent dressing for bitter salad leaves.
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