Chef Voula loves taking it easy on weekend mornings by slowing things down and making her favourite meal of the day — breakfast — extra special for her family and friends. This version of French toast is a stuffed sensation. Classic flavours of banana, coconut and chocolate are combined to delight. And once the baking begins, the sweet smell will have the entire household running to where the aromatic magic is wafting from the oven and waiting to be devoured.Serves 6
1 loaf of unsliced sandwich bread*
3 large bananas that are firm, but ripe
1 398 mL can coconut milk
5 large eggs
½ tsp (2 mL) vanilla extract
1 ½ cups (375 mL) milk (almond milk and rice milk work well as an alternative)
2 cups (500 mL) unsweetened desiccated coconut
1 cup (250 mL) semi sweet chocolate chips
Heat oven to 350F (180C). Cut bread into 6 thick slices, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) each. Using a small sharp knife carefully cut a wide slit through the middle of one side of the bread to create a pocket in each slice. Be careful not to cut through any other sides of the bread. You are making a pouch for your banana slices. Or if you prefer and easier option, slice bread in half lengthwise, cutting through all sides, but don't cut all the way to the top. Stop cutting about ¼ inch (0.5 cm) from the top edge. Repeat this step with each slice of bread.
Peel, then slice bananas into ½ inch (1 cm) rounds. Divide the banana slices equally, stuffing each pocket carefully so to avoid tearing bread. If your bread does tear a bit though, it's okay. Gently press down on filled bread. Place stuffed bread slices into a large baking dish. You may need two dishes.
Shake can of coconut milk well before opening. If cream has not recombined, pour milk into a measuring cup and whisk well.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, ½ cup (125 mL) the can of coconut milk (set aside remaining milk), 1 ½ cups (375 mL) milk and vanilla. Pour egg mixture into the baking dish(s) covering each piece of bread evenly. Leave to soak for 7 to 10 minutes and then turn over and let soak for 5 minutes more. Meanwhile, spread desiccated coconut out evenly onto a large plate.
Lightly spray or coat a baking sheet with oil or butter. Remove soaked bread, one piece at a time and place onto coconut, lightly covering each side, then place onto prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden for 25 to 35 minutes, until nicely golden, turning once half way through.
Meanwhile, place chocolate chips and reserved coconut milk in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Stir occasionally until chocolate is melted and sauce looks smooth and glossy. Serve warm stuffed French toast with a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Garnish with a few more sliced or banana if you wish, or fresh berries.
*Your local bakery or grocery store can usually provide you with unsliced bread loaves. Don't fret if you can't get an unsliced loaf though. This French toast can be put together the same way you'd make a sandwich. You just have to be more careful to keep the stuffing from spilling out when you are handling it during preparation.