Coconut Caramel French Toast with Macerated Berries

I scream, you scream, we all scream…for BRUNCH!!! Ha ha, that one didn’t end the way you expected it to, did it? Don’t get me wrong…I love ice cream. In fact I could totally get behind a giant scoop of vanilla bean atop this amazing dish I’m about to share with you, but then that might be a little over-the-top.

Coconut Caramel French Toast w/ Macerated Berries | Bites of Life

Brunch, a breakfast + lunch hybrid, continues to gain popularity each year (especially in the US), but to the best of anyone’s knowledge, it was a late 19th century British creation, historically reserved for Sundays. In a prophetic 1895 Hunter’s Weekly article titled “Brunch: A Plea,” Guy Beringer wrote, “By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday-night carousers. It would promote human happiness in other ways as well.” Anyone who’s ever indulged a little too much on a Saturday night and stumbled their way to a Sunday afternoon brunch likely knows the truth in those words. These days, countless restaurants offer brunch on both Saturdays and Sundays, and apparently “Friday Brunch” is a thing in Dubai now. Before long we’ll all be brunching seven days a week, and that thing called breakfast will become nothing but a tiny snack—a reward for early risers.

Coconut Caramel French Toast w/ Macerated Berries | Bites of Life

Like many things, Island Boy and I share a mutual admiration for brunch. For no other meal are the menu possibilities so endless, and when appropriately paired with a Mimosa, Bellini or Bloody Mary, what’s not to love? Heck, some restaurants’ bloodies are piled so high with meat, cheese and veggies, they’re practically brunch in and of themselves! Now it’s no secret that I love to travel–I would venture someplace new every weekend if I could, but when I’m at home there’s nothing better than sleeping in and hitting up one of the many Twin Cities brunch spots {of course the summer months require patio seating so #HaleyTheBeagle can accompany us}. There are a few exceptions, like the holidays when EVERYONE goes out for brunch (Easter, Father’s Day, etc.), when we try to steer clear of the madness and cook up something at home.

Coconut Caramel French Toast w/ Macerated Berries | Bites of Life

Speaking of holidays, since my mom is always going out of her way to make my life easier, I wanted to do something nice for her on Mother’s Day to show her how much I appreciate all that she is and all that she has done for me over the years. So what do you get for the greatest mom in the world? {Forgive me if I’m a bit biased.} I would love to send her and my dad on a much-needed vacation to Banff National Park (someplace she’s always wanted to go), but that wasn’t exactly in the budget this year, so instead I opted to invite my family over and prepare a special brunch for my mom, my 94-year-old grandmother and the rest of the troop.

Coconut Caramel French Toast w/ Macerated Berries | Bites of Life

To avoid me spending 90% of their visit in the kitchen, I needed to prepare a dish that wouldn’t take all day. Hash is one of my favorite brunch options…one potato, two potato, red potato, sweet potato…it doesn’t matter what kind. There’s just something magical about a medley of veggies, meat and spices that have been cooked together…and if you stick an egg on it and maybe drizzle a little saucy sauce up in there…oh. my. stars. {as my mom would say} My mouth is watering just thinking about it, (although that could also be because I haven’t eaten in 10 hours, and writing about food makes a girl hungry). My go-to hash, amazing as it is, requires quite a bit of time to chop, grill, saute and poach (especially when serving a group), so I thought I’d come up with a recipe that was easier, yet equally as impressive. Little did I know my mom would proclaim it “the best French toast she’s ever had”! 🙂

Coconut Caramel French Toast w/ Macerated Berries | Bites of Life

The basic foundation for any French toast dish is bread soaked in a mixture of eggs and milk, but since my family loves coconut, I decided to develop a coconut French toast recipe using coconut milk instead of dairy. I also wondered if I could create a decadently sweet dish without refined sugar. Challenge accepted. I tweaked the recipe for weeks…Kash, being the brunch lover and supportive boyfriend that he is, thankfully didn’t mind eating French toast twice a week. My first version {made with French bread and topped with maple syrup and blackberries} was delicious, but I thought it could use a little more oomph. So to amplify the coconut flavor, the next time I added coconut extract to the batter and swapped out the maple syrup for a quick + simple coconut caramel sauce…and with a total of 5 different coconut-derived ingredients, it was off-the-charts AMAZING! Then at the suggestion of my resident taste tester, I made one final adjustment and used challah instead of French bread…and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t the BEST IDEA EVER! The slightly sweet, pillowy loaves of deliciousness have a soft crust and absorb just the perfect amount of batter so they don’t dry out when cooked. It was so ridiculously good that even after the recipe was officially perfected, we couldn’t help but eat it almost every day! Now I’m sharing the recipe with you, so you can feed your brunch addiction too! I know, I’m such an enabler 😛 

Coconut Caramel French Toast w/ Macerated Berries | Bites of Life

If you’re interested in what coconut-derived ingredients I use, you can likely find them at your local Whole Foods, or via the following Amazon links, with the exception of the organic virgin coconut oil (which I buy from Costco) and unsweetened shredded coconut (which I buy from Trader Joe’s):  So Delicious Coconut Milk (unsweetened) | Coconut Secret Nectar | Coconut Secret Crystals | Frontier Coconut Flavor

Coconut Caramel French Toast with Macerated Berries
Serves 3
A coconut-crusted French toast with fresh macerated berries and a coconut caramel syrup—a sweet treat that you don't have to feel guilty for eating!
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Total Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
French Toast
  1. 9 slices of challah or brioche (approx 1/2 a loaf)
  2. 3 eggs
  3. 3/4 cup coconut milk (from a carton)
  4. 1 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened if making w/o refined sugars)
  5. 1/2 tsp coconut extract
  6. 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  7. 1/8 tsp sea salt
  8. 2 Tbsp coconut oil (for cooking)
  9. 1 Tbsp butter (optional, to melt on top of French toast)
  10. Powdered sugar or Stevia in the Raw if making w/o refined sugars (optional)
Berry Topping
  1. 16 oz fresh berries (strawberries, blackberries, raspberries or mix)
  2. 1 Tbsp stevia (i.e. Truvia/Stevia in the Raw)
  3. 1 tsp champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
Coconut Caramel Syrup
  1. 1/2 cup butter (preferably grass fed) or coconut oil
  2. 3/4 cup cream (preferably grass fed)
  3. 1 cup coconut nectar or coconut crystals
  4. 1 tsp coconut extract
  5. 1/2 tsp baking soda
Instructions
  1. | Syrup |
  2. Place butter/coconut oil, cream, and coconut nectar/crystals in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until butter is melted and coconut crystals are dissolved. Bring to a boil for one minute, then remove from heat and add coconut extract.
  3. Add baking soda and stir constantly until well combined. (Please note: the baking soda will cause syrup to foam up a bit, so be sure to not use too small of saucepan, or add baking soda over sink just to be safe.) Set aside and keep warm until ready to serve.
  4. | Topping |
  5. Place berries in a bowl (if using strawberries and/or blackberries, be sure to cut them into more manageable pieces. Raspberries can be left whole).
  6. Add champagne vinegar and stevia, stir to coat the berries, and then lightly mash them with a fork. (Alternatively, you may use a mortar and pestal, but be careful not to crush the berries too much). Set aside.
  7. | French toast |
  8. Preheat oven to 250°F.
  9. Cut bread into 1/2" slices.
  10. Spread a thin layer of shredded coconut on a plate/shallow (add more as you need).
  11. Mix eggs, coconut milk, vanilla & coconut extracts and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
  12. Heat 1 tsp coconut oil in skillet on medium-low heat.
  13. Quickly dip both sides of bread into the mixture (make sure no part of bread remains dry), and then immediately press it lightly into the shredded coconut (cover both sides with a thin layer of coconut).
  14. Place coconut-crusted slice into heated skillet and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown (I usually cook 2 - 3 slices at a time). Remove from skillet and place in preheated oven to keep warm until served. Repeat for all bread, adding a bit more coconut oil between each batch.
  15. When done cooking, remove from oven, top each piece with a bit of butter, coconut syrup, macerated berries and dust w/ {optional} Stevia in the Raw/powdered sugar and serve.
Notes
  1. I try to make most of my recipes as healthy as possible, even when indulging in a sweet dish such as this, but I understand that not everyone stocks their pantry with every coconut-derived product known to mankind. So if you're looking for substitutions which you may already have on hand, try these: dairy/almond/rice/soy milk can be used in place of the coconut milk, white cane sugar can be used in place of stevia to macerate the berries, and brown sugar or maple syrup can be used in place of coconut nectar/crystals for the syrup (if you use brown sugar, just make sure you cook it long enough to dissolve before boiling). You can make the recipe with a different bread or even croissants, but the texture will vary.
  2. Pro Tip: Lightly wipe out skillet between batches to prevent excess shredded coconut from burning when cooking additional slices, and use just enough coconut oil to keep it coated for each batch. Also, you may want to turn the heat down slightly after the first or second batch if it gets too hot and begins to brown the coconut faster than the rest of the French Toast.
  3. If you pre-made the syrup and have stored it in the refrigerator, it will have thickened up (especially when made with coconut oil) and will require some reheating. Place it in an oven-safe container in the oven when you set it to preheat, or transfer it to a saucepan and heat it on low until warm and liquified.
Bites of Life http://bitesoflife.net/

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