I love baking bread. There’s something so wholesome and Zen about making your own dough and watching it rise. And then there’s the anticipation of that first warm slice. When my daughters were young, I took a baking course at Newbury College. Every Saturday for 6 weeks, my class started off with knot rolls. Did I say every class started out with rolls? Every – single – class. The first class was devoted to learning the basics of yeast dough, and every class thereafter we were expected to get fifteen dozen rolls in the proof box in half an hour. After a while, I was dreaming of knot rolls in my sleep. I didn’t complain – I loved the challenge of getting those rolls done quickly and with their knots all coiled perfectly. Thankfully, the class progressed to making croissants and Danish! Seven hours on a Saturday making Danish is not a bad way to spend a day.
Three years ago, I visited Peter Island in the British Virgin Islands. The first morning I ordered coconut brioche French toast. Amazing. I have been dreaming of it ever since. And so, last week, after sailing around the British Virgin Islands we couldn’t resist stopping there to have breakfast. Yay! The coconut French toast is just the same as ever. I loved it. I devoured it. I may have stabbed my husband a time or two with my fork when he reached to take some.
Since I can’t have the Peter Island French toast whenever I crave it, I created a recipe that comes pretty close. Brioche makes a perfect French toast. It’s similar to Challah, Russian Easter bread, and Portuguese sweet bread; a dense, sweet loaf. The key when baking bread is to make sure it gets a full two rises. For this recipe, I used my 10” loaf pan so I could get even slices, but you can use a traditional brioche mold and cut your slices to suit your style. A traditional brioche mold is round and fluted. The best brioche has an overnight refrigerated rest, but you don’t have to do that to get a nice loaf.
Toasting coconut is very simple, but you have to keep an eye on it. There’s a very fine line between toasting coconut and burning it. To toast coconut start with unsweetened, shredded coconut. I like the large coconut chips that I can get from Bob’s Red Mill. The larger shreds have more coconut flavor. If I want a smaller shredded coconut, I simply put it in my food processor and process for a few pulses. Preheat your oven to 300°. Spread the coconut on a cookie sheet in a fairly thin layer. Bake for about 20 minutes until just toasted. Check on the coconut frequently and give it a stir because it burns very quickly. Toasted coconut is great with Greek yogurt, sprinkled on ice cream, tossed into salads, and snacking. You can also toast coconut on the stovetop.
Makes one loaf
- ⅓C warm whole milk, 110°F
- 1 package yeast, NOT rapid rise
- 4T sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 5T butter, room temp and soft
- 2¼C flour
- ¼t salt
- 1 egg yolk
- 1t milk
Directions: Put the dough hook on your heavy-duty mixer. In the bowl of the mixer, pour in the warm milk, sugar, and yeast. Stir to combine, and let it sit for about 10 minutes to wake up the yeast. It should bubble a bit. If it doesn’t, the yeast is probably dead. If that happens, get a new packet and start over.
Turn the mixer to medium-low and slowly add the eggs. Use a rubber scraper to scrape down the sides. Beat until combined, about 5 minutes on low. Add the flour and salt in small increments, and beat on medium speed for 5 minutes. Add the butter one tablespoon at a time. Once all the butter is added, turn the mixer to high and beat the dough for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and starting to pull away from the sides of the bowl. It should feel springy to the touch. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit of flour and beat another 5 minutes.
Butter a large stainless steel bowl. Place the dough in the bowl, loosely cover it with plastic wrap, and place in a warm area of your kitchen to rise for up to 2 hours, or until doubled in size. Punch down the dough. Remove it from the bowl, and rolling it with both hands, work the dough into a loaf.
Butter a 10” loaf pan. Place the dough into the loaf pan. Loosely cover the dough again with the plastic wrap, and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1½ – 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Prepare the egg wash by using a fork to blend the egg yolk and milk. Brush the egg wash over the top of your loaf and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden. The loaf should sound hollow if you tap it on the bottom. Let the bread cool for a couple minutes, then remove from the pan and place on a wire rack to continue cooling.
- 2C coconut, toasted
- 8 eggs
- ½C low-fat coconut milk
- 1C whole milk
- 1T vanilla or dark rum
- 1T superfine sugar
- 1 day old (stale works best) loaf of brioche, sliced into generous 1“ slices
- 4T+ butter
- 4T+ coconut oil
real maple syrup
fresh berries, bananas, or other fruit of choice
Directions: In a shallow bowl, whisk the eggs, coconut milk, whole milk, vanilla, and sugar until combined. The coconut milk will be lump. Whisk it hard. Dip the bread slices into the mixture and let the bread soak for at least a minute each side.
Press each side of the bread into the toasted coconut. You may have to turn them a couple times to make sure that the coconut sticks to the sides.
Heat a skillet on medium high heat and add the butter and coconut oil in equal amounts. Cook the bread until it’s golden on all sides. Watch out, that coconut crust can burn! Add more butter and coconut oil as needed to cook the French toast (this is not the time to skimp on the fat). Transfer to a platter and keep warm in the oven tented with foil until all slices are ready.
Serve with fresh fruit and real maple syrup.