Crunchy-top Coconut French Toast with Berry Salad

Recipe by Tami Ganeles Weiser; photo contributed by Amanda L. Heckert Yield:  10 servings
Prep Time:  1 hour Cook Time:  1 hour

Crunchy-top Coconut French Toast with Berry Salad

Looking to save time on a day when you’re making a brunch or breakfast and still make something delicious? This creamy crunchy coconut-y challah dish is your make-ahead ticket to deliciousness. Make the custard and soak the bread in the refrigerator (covered) for 8 to 12 hours before you are ready to bake. This coconut French toast challah is also dairy free and pareve, making it easy to serve with so many other dishes.

Ingredients

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

7 large eggs

1 can (14 ounces) unsweetened coconut cream, preferably Trader Joe’s

2½ cups vanilla coconut milk (from the refrigerator case)

2½ tablespoons dark brown sugar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste

1 loaf challah (about 20 ounces), cut into 1½- to 2-inch slices

Crispy crumble topping:

1¼ cups corn flakes

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

½ cup coconut palm sugar

¼ cup dark brown sugar

½ cup coconut oil

Berry Salad with Mint, for serving

Instructions

  1. Spray a 9- by 13-inch, 3-quart casserole dish liberally with nonstick vegetable oil spray and set aside.
  2. In a blender, combine the eggs, coconut cream, coconut milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla bean paste and blend until completely combined.
  3. Pour half of the egg mixture into the casserole dish and tilt gently to cover the bottom. Place about half of the challah slices into the mixture in a single layer. Pour one-fourth of the egg mixture on top of the challah. Arrange the remaining challah slices on top. Pour the last of the egg mixture over the challah. (The challah will not absorb the liquid yet; in fact, it will float, but don’t worry, you have many hours for it to absorb and eventually the bread will fall apart.)  Cover the casserole dish with foil and refrigerate for 8 to 10 hours or overnight.
  4. When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 350° F. While it preheats, place the casserole on the counter to allow it to warm a bit. (This will take 15 to 25 minutes.) Place the covered casserole dish in a larger, taller pan (a large disposable turkey roasting pan or a big jellyroll pan is the perfect size). Pull out the oven rack slightly and place the nested pans onto the rack, but do not close up the oven yet. Make a water bath for the casserole by pouring 3 to 4 cups of water into the roasting pan, making sure that no water gets into the casserole dish. Bake for 25 minutes; you will be topping it in a moment and then you will finish the baking.
  5. While the casserole is baking, make the crunchy topping. Pour the corn flakes, coconut, sugars, and coconut oil into the bowl of a food processor and pulse for about 20 seconds, until it is a flaky, crumbly mixture with lots of texture.
  6. Slide the pan out gently, uncover, and sprinkle the crunchy topping over the top in an even layer. Carefully slide it back in the oven. Bake for another 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, making sure not to jostle water into the casserole dish. This French toast can be served immediately with a spoon, or let it sit for 10 minutes if you want it to firm up a little. Serve with Berry Salad with Mint.

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