There is a story in the Old Testament where God promised the Israelites a new homeland flowing with “Milk and Honey” after they crossed the dessert. Well, I can easily say without any intended irreverence, if God had promised me a land filled with rivers of COCONUT milk and CRUCIAN honey, I too would travel without complaints over the expansive hot desert sands (barefoot)!!!
Coconut milk is a lush and wholesome food. It marries beautifully with the savory and the sweet with equal compliment. And honey– well, is there any need to say anything else? The word itself is the epitome of comfort, and elemental sweetness. In my mind, “Milk and Honey” are the emotional equivalent of the words”Warm and Cozy”. Mmmmm…
I had my first taste of wild Crucian Honey when we hired a beekeeper to come and remove a hive that was collecting on our property. He broke off just a small piece of the honeycomb that they had started to produce, and offered me a piece. It was like nothing I had ever tasted before. My senses came alive in an instant. I could literally taste the flowers, and the citrus fruits, and the entire island’s aroma in that one bite. It was extremely light, sweet, and bright tasting. I could not go back to honey in the bear bottle. I met some of the local honey creators who cultivate wild honey, and I buy as often as I can from them. It is liquid gold! Precious.
So, in honor of this ancient pairing, I created a recipe for Coconut Honey French Toast. This is the perfect way to wake up a family over the coming holidays. It is guaranteed to make for wonderful food memories!
As with all good bread and custard pairings, it starts with a well made Challah! It is hard to find Challah on the island, so I always make my own. Its eggy, fluffy, richness makes the perfect base for a stellar French Toast. For this recipe, instead of the usual braided Challah, I made this one in a loaf pan for the classic french toast shape.
If you can’t find Challah, just substitute any good quality soft white bread. It could be a nice French, Brioche, or Italian bread. But whatever bread you use, nothing says REALLY good French Toast like a thick cut slice of bread.
This is not the time to skimp on the quantity or the quality of the bread. It is the heart of this recipe. A well made loaf is key! And it should be at least one day old, two is even better. All the better to soak up the heady island cinnamon, vanilla, and rum flavors in this custard base.
1 loaf of Challah Bread or Equally Good White Bread
4 Large Eggs (Do not use medium, or extra-large eggs, it will change the consistency.)
1 1/2 Cup Coconut Milk
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
1 Tablespoon Real Vanilla
2 Tablespoons (Local Wild Crucian) Honey
1 Teaspoon Almond Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Freshly Grated Nutmeg
1 Teaspoon Dark Cruzan Rum
1/2 Teaspoon Cointreau
1/2 Cup Sweetened Coconut Flakes
Enough Canola Oil and Butter to grease the pan
Powdered Sugar to Garnish
Real Maple Syrup
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Place the sweetened shredded coconut flakes on one of the parchment covered cookie sheets. Allow the coconut flakes to lightly toast, you may have to turn them a few times, and watch them frequently to ensure that they do not burn, which can happen quickly. After they have toasted to a golden brown, take it out of the oven and allow it to cool.
In a large bowl lightly beat the eggs. Then add the coconut milk and heavy cream.
Then add the flavorings: cinnamon, nutmeg, honey, Cointreau, rum, almond and vanilla extracts and beat with a fork until fully incorporated.
Place the sliced bread in the custard and allow it to soak for a few minutes. You want to make sure that the bread soaks up all the thick custard. If you are using thick pieces of bread like I did here, you should be very careful in handling it to ensure that it does not break before you can get it onto the griddle.
Add equal parts butter and oil to the griddle surface. Just enough to keep the toast from sticking to the griddle. I use both butter and oil, because the butter gives an overall better flavor, and the oil increases the smoke point of the fat so that it won’t singe the Toast’s outer crust.
I use a cast iron griddle, for me nothing is better than a good cast iron for cooking. It holds and distributes heat wonderfully. However, if you decide against all culinary hope to use a non-stick pan, it may require less of the oil-butter.
Place the French Toast on the griddle surface, and allow it to cook on one side until golden brown. Then flip the toast over gently.
When both sides are browned, place the toast on the parchment cookie sheet.
Then place the toast in the preheated oven for approximately 8-10 minutes or until the toast is sufficiently cooked through.
Important: Bear in mind that you are dealing with eggs in this custard. So be careful in ensuring it is properly cooked, without overcooking the french toast. It is a delicate balancing, but so worth the extra step! If I am ever in doubt when working with eggs, I use a digital thermometer and check to see that the internal temperature is between 165-170 degrees.
Plate the French toast, and sprinkle some of the toasted crispy coconut flakes and/or powdered sugar.
Serve with whipped cream and real maple syrup!