Sunday, January 30, 2011

Crunchy Coconut French Toast

Breakfast time!  I actually made this recipe while spending the weekend with my lovely brother and sister-in-law.  As a "thank you" for their wonderful (and often frequent) hospitality, I whipped up some delicious, vegan french toast one Saturday morning.  Unlike most vegan french toast recipes, there's no mashed banana or other nonsense in here, so the batter actually tastes pretty authentic.  The battered pieces are then coated in a mixture of coconut and crushed cereal, and pan-fried until golden brown.  This stuff is GOOD.  No, seriously.  Even if you've never actually tried one of my recipes before, I urge you to try this one because everything came together literally perfectly.  The french toast is so good that it doesn't even need maple syrup (although syrup couldn't hurt either!) and we were even eating cold pieces of it as finger food for the rest of the day and into the evening.  Roast some potatoes and onions while you're cooking the french toast and you have yourself one amazing breakfast.  Onto the recipe!

Crunchy Coconut French Toast

 Special "thank-you" to Michelle for FINALLY sending me this pic!


1 12oz box of firm silken-type tofu (the shelf-stable boxed kind, not the water packed kind)
6 teaspoons cornstarch
2/3 cup non-dairy milk
4 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups flake cereal, crushed 
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut
non-dairy butter and canola oil for pan-frying
1 baguette, cut into 1" slices

Heat oven to 300 degrees F.  Put the tofu and the cornstarch in a blender, and blend until smooth.  Add non-dairy milk, maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne, and blend again until everything is incorporated.  Pour batter from blender into a medium bowl.  Mix crushed cereal and coconut in a small bowl.
Heat 2 Tablespoons of the non-dairy butter and 1/2 Tablespoon of canola oil in a large skillet or griddle over medium-high heat until the butter is melted.   Dip slices of bread into the batter, making sure bread is coated on both sides and fairly saturated.  Dip battered bread in coconut mixture to coat.  Cook in skillet/griddle for 4-6 minutes, or until golden brown, turning once.  Place cooked slices in an oven-proof dish and place in warm oven until all bread is cooked and ready to serve.  Continue battering and pan-frying remaining bread, adding non-dairy butter/oil to the pan in the same ratio as needed.

Tips and Tricks:

1. Silken tofu - make sure you're buying the right kind.  You do NOT want the water-packed tofu that you find in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.  You need the non-refrigerated kind that is usually found wherever they keep the Asian foods.  The only brand I've ever seen around here is Mori-Nu, but I'm sure there are others.  It's confusing, because the water-packed type comes in different styles (x-tra firm, firm, soft, etc.) and one of those styles is "silken," and silken can also refer to the boxed type of tofu in general.  You want the boxed type of tofu here; firm is what I usually buy, although any type would likely work.  Yes, I know tofu is confusing, scary, and downright weird to people not used to working with it, and most people who are skeeved by any recipe containing tofu usually had a bad experience of being forced to choke down some slimy, tasteless jiggly white stuff by some well-meaning veg-head without an ounce of cooking know-how.  DON'T BE SCARED BY TOFU.  It can be an integral ingredient in many recipes (in this one it's replacing the eggs that would be traditionally found in a french toast batter, and also adds to the golden-brown color of the finished product) and can be delicious in many dishes if it's handled correctly.  It's unfortunate that this misunderstood food has been so mistreated as to make people turn up their noses at its very mention.  Please try my recipes with tofu, despite its inclusion.  I promise, no jiggly white goo here.  Please feel free to contact me with any tofu (or any other) questions :)

2. I've already berated you in other blog posts with the fact that real ninjas don't eat sweetened coconut or fake "maple syrup," so I won't get into that again here.  But don't forget.  Fur Ninja is watching you.

3. Flake cereal - I used flax (the cereal is called Flax Plus to be exact) because it's natural and tasty and flax flakes have a nutty flavor that was delicious here.  Plain ol' corn flakes would probably work as well, although I'd stay away from bran flakes because they might not be as crunchy.  Rice flakes might also work.  Basically any cereal that you think would be tasty here and would stay crunchy when put on top of french toast batter and fried would be great.  Don't go blaming me though if you try some weird cereal and it turns out awful.  Definitely stay away from anything that's not just plain flakes/cereal; I don't think your Crunchberries will work here; although heck, if you've tried it, I'd love to hear how it worked out....

4. Frying mixture - non-dairy butter AND oil???  I found this ratio in a cooking magazine and I've gotta say, it's perfect.  The non-dairy butter adds flavor to the finished product, and the touch of oil mixed in keeps the french toast from sticking better than the butter alone could.  I had zero problems with bread sticking to the pan, overcooking, batter falling off, etc.  Every single piece came out as a heavenly slice of crunchy golden-brown perfection.  If you'd prefer though, you can use just non-dairy butter, or just oil, but I'd recommend against plain cooking spray, because you wouldn't get everything browned well enough.  The butter/oil combo is great though, so if you have both ingredients, go for it.

5. Cooking to perfection - I used a large skillet here due to being at my little bro's place, but if I was making this at home I would have used my electric griddle.  I also used a non-stick pan, despite my abhorrence for the stuff, but most of my brother's cookware is non-stick.  I hate to say it, but I think the non-stick surface is part of the reason that the french toast came out so well.  When I started cooking, I was half-expecting the cereal/coconut mixture to be falling off all over the pan, but it really wasn't an issue.  If you're going to be cooking on stainless steel cookware, make sure that you have plenty of oil/non-dairy butter to avoid sticking, and flip your pieces carefully.  Better yet, use an electric griddle (mine isn't Teflon, but it's some type of anodized dark metal that resists sticking but won't flake off into your food) or a well-seasoned cast iron pan.  Whatever your cookware, I'd recommend flipping your pieces with tongs rather than a spatula.  It's just easier and will keep you from accidentally scraping off your batter when flipping.

6. Bread - The bread works best if it's day-old or slightly stale.  Notice I said slightly; if you've got hockey-puck slices, no amount of french toast batter or ninja skill is going to magically turn them into tender, yummy french toast.  Check your grocery store to see if they sell day-old breads at a discount.  Mine has a "f-ed up food shelf" and it's my favorite part of the store.  Dented cans, smushed cereal boxes, and yep - day old baked goods for super, super cheap.  Most of the bread they have there is around $1.00 a loaf.  You need a baguette for this recipe, but pretty much any chewy-crusted bakery-style bread will work; your slices might just be different sizes.  The baguette will give you little palm-sized pieces, while an Italian bread might give you bigger ones.  I prefer the baguette for texture and also sheer cute-ness of the little pieces, but whatever bread you can find will most likely work.  If your bread isn't day-old, you can either wait a day, or fresh will work almost as well too.  Don't use sliced sandwich bread here.  It's not thick and chewy enough to stand up to a hard battering/frying.

Well that's all the advice for today - go out and make this stuff!  Serve the french toast with roasted potatoes and vegan sausage (recipe coming soon) with lots of real maple syrup, ketchup and hot sauce (for the potatoes, silly!) and hot coffee, and I guarantee your ninja skills will be in tip-top shape all day long.

More recipes soon; I've got apple-butter cinnamon swirl bread cooling on the counter as I type this!

<3, The Fur Ninja

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