Coconut Crusted Pandan Challah French Toast

with Coconut Gula Melaka Syrup

Serves 4

This french toast has a Southeast Asian twist with a coconut and panko crumb crust. It's served with caramelized bananas and a syrup that distills the flavors of one of my favorite Peranakan desserts—Sago Gula Melaka.
pandan french toast illustration gula melaka, JewAsian

1 loaf challah bread
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tsp palm sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
4-5 knotted pandan leaves*
6 eggs
1 cup panko crumbs
1 cup shredded coconut in course crumbs
6 tbsp unsalted butter

Coconut Gula Melaka Syrup (recipe below)
Caramelized Bananas (recipe below)
blueberries and blackberries
The night before: Simmer milk, palm sugar, cinnamon, ginger, salt and knotted pandan leaves over low heat for 10 minutes to infuse the flavors. Remove from heat. Once cooled, transfer to a covered container and whisk in eggs. Let sit in fridge overnight.

In the morning: Slice challah into 1"-thick slices with a serrated knife. (If you want to dry out the challah, toast in 200°F oven for 5-10 minutes.)

Soak challah slices in the egg mixture. Allow it to soak up all the liquid (up to 30 minutes).

Heat 3 tbsp of the butter in a 10" nonstick skillet over medium heat until just foaming.

Mix coconut flakes and panko crumbs into a shallow dish. Coat challah slices in the panko and coconut. Transfer to a sheet tray lined with waxed paper or place directly in heated skillet.

Transfer challah slices to the skillet and cook, turning once, until both sides are golden brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer slices to a 200 degree oven to keep warm. Wipe out skillet, add remaining butter, and repeat process. Serve with berries, caramelized bananas, and coconut gula melaka syrup.

Coconut Gula Melaka Syrup
1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup palm sugar
1 knotted pandan leaf*
1 tbs tamarind concentrate
In a small saucepan, combine coconut milk, palm sugar and knotted pandan leaf. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in tamarind concentrate. Keep warm until ready to serve. Discard pandan leaf before serving.

Caramelized Bananas
2 bananas sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tbs butter

*Pandan leaves are usually available in Asian grocery stores. If pandan leaves are unavailable, replace with pandan extract.
Roll banana slices in brown sugar. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add butter. Cook bananas in skillet for 3 minutes, until sugar is dissolved into the butter and it starts to bubble and caramelize.

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