Today I'm making a common breakfast item where I'm from in Newfoundland. They're called toutons.
Toutons (pronounced TAU-tins) are thin rounds of white bread dough, fried in butter or pork fat until golden brown. The outside is crispy and sweet, while the inside is moist and chewy. They are most often topped with molasses or syrup, and served like flapjacks.
This is the first project I wanted to outline for a reason. It's hard to mess up a touton. The difficulty in making good bread is in the shaping and baking of loaves. None of this is necessary with toutons. The dough is fried as is. Also, leftover dough works easily as well for toutons as fresh. If you're new to bread baking, or want to try out some new shaping methods, you can make a batch of dough, practice your shaping, and, if you're not happy with it, turn it into toutons afterwards.
The first step is to figure out how much dough you want. There's no need to be precise when it comes to the size of toutons. You can practically make them as big or small, thick or thin as you like. Most people can manage to eat three or four in a sitting. You can get about 6-7 toutons from the same amount of dough that goes into one bun of a three bun loaf.
So once you know roughly how many toutons you want, the next step is to actually make the dough.
How To Make White Dough
White dough is probably the simplest yeast dough to make. There's nothing fancy about it. It's just all of your ingredients mixed together, kneaded, and left to rise.
The first step is weighing your ingredients. For the purposes of this article, I'm going to make about 15-20 toutons.
3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups water
2 Tbsp sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp salt
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1/8 cup oil
Start by putting the warm water in your mixing bowl. If you're using active dry yeast, dissolve some, or all, of the sugar into the water, then sprinkle the yeast over the surface. If you're using fresh or instant yeast, add it to the flour. It's personal preference how much sugar to dissolve. Any that you don't put in the water just add to your flour. Add the salt to the flour as well. You never want moistened yeast to directly contact salt. It will kill it!
Next, gently add the flour mixture to the water. With a spoon (or if you're lucky, a bowl mixer with a dough hook attached) begin to stir the mixture. Gentle! You don't want to splatter your walls with flour. After a minute or two of this, the dough will start to form. It reaches a stage known as a "shaggy mass." It looks sort of like the frays of a mop, with long stringy clumps of half-moistened flour.
Once the oil is in, stir a little more until the dough starts to come together. When it gets to this point, it's sticky and lumpy. The goal from here is to work out the lumps. You have to begin kneading to accomplish this.
Kneading is fairly easy. If you have a bowl mixer with a dough hook attachment, it will do all the work for you. The only thing to worry about is over-working it. But that would take in excess of 10-15 minutes to happen, and honestly, who could stand the noise of the mixer for that long? A rough guideline for kneading bread in a mixer is about 6-8 minutes. Kneading by hand takes a little longer, about 10 minutes. The easiest way to do it is to fold the dough in half and give it a hard suashing. Then rotate it a quarter turn and repeat. It takes a bit of upper body strength to give the dough a good kneading. If you find too stiff and rubbery, just let it sit for about 5 minutes. The stickiness at first can be a nuisance, so sprinkle plenty of flour on the counter to keep its surface dry, and rub some on your hands.
The dough needs to proof now. Oil the bowl you intend to use. Make sure your bowl is big enough to hold the dough after it has doubled in size. Toss in the dough, and oil the top. Cover it in plastic wrap, to hold in the moisture. Some people just cover their bread with a cloth. The cloth is excellent for holding in the bread's warmth, but does nothing to help retain its moisture. I always cover the dough with plastic wrap, then a clean dish towel. Put the bowl in a warm place.
When I'm making this dough at home, it usually takes about 1 1/2 - 2 hours to double. As I said in earlier posts, that time is relative to your kitchen. Let the dough double before you roll it.
The dough has doubled now, and it's time to divide it. See "The 10-Step Program" for tips on methods for dividing the dough. For toutons, I simply pinch off pieces slightly smaller than golf balls. If you prefer to weigh them, I find that 70g is a decent size. If you make them too large they'll burn on the outside before they cook through.
After Dividing you can either stretch them by hand or pat them out flat on the counter
Once the rough hunks of dough are divided, it's time for the "shaping." You're not really shaping the dough for toutons. All you need to do is flatten the dough out to 1/4 inch, like a flapjack. This can be done in two ways. You can pat out the hunks on a counter. Just sprinkle some flour over the counter first. Otherwise, you can just gently stretch the dough between your hands to a similar thickness. Then allow the toutons to rest for about 5 minutes. This will make sure they don't contract and turn into balls again while cooking.
This is a great opportunity to play with the dough. If you're unfamiliar with the whole process, take some time to stretch the dough; pull it until it tears, to see just how stretchy dough is; roll it until it gets rubbery and sticky, to see how tough it can get; make some small rolls, or long skinny tubes, or any other design you can think of. The only way to learn about bread making is through sense of touch. You need to feel dough in all its possible states, in order to have a profile in your mind. There's no harm done by playing with the dough. It will get tough and rubbery, but that's easily corrected by putting the dough back in its bowl and allowing it to rest for another half an hour or so.
To cook the toutons, put a frying pan on the stove and set the temperature to medium-low. Add enough oil or butter to cover the bottom of the pan with 1/4 inch or so. Toutons need to be shallow fried. Warm the pan slightly. It shouldn't be searing hot. The dough need to warm through as it cooks. Place the toutons in. Don't over-crowd the pan or they'll all glue together. Allow the toutons to begin to fry. You'll notice that the thickness of the toutons will increase dramatically. Now keep a close eye on the undersides of your toutons. They need to be a very deep brown colour before you flip them, or the dough will be uncooked in the middle. But be careful! You're looking for a golden brown, not black! Once browned, flip them over and fry the other side to the same colour. Repeat these steps until you've fried all of the toutons. Allow them too cool for just a minute before you serve them.
And that's all there is to it! My favourite way to serve them is with butter and molasses over them. Syrup or jam, or even chocolate syrup, go great on them as well. They also go great with eggs and bacon, or on their own. If you have any dough left over, or want to make the dough the ahead of time, wrap the dough tightly (or coat in flour and put in a plastic bag) and put it in the fridge. The dough will continue to rise for a bit in the cold, so make sure your container has room for some expansion. The dough is good for about a week. In fact, the flavour of the dough will continue to improve for a few days in the fridge. The only downside is that the dough will become rather stick. Nothing a bit of flour can't handle though!!