- Prep time 15 minutes
- Cook time 20 minutes
- Serves 4
Tender, rich, and custardy, French toast is a VIP in the league of sweet breakfast dishes. It’s versatile in flavor, approach, and complexity. Fortunately, even the most elaborate varieties require minimal time and effort. This tropical version—which generously tucks earthy ube halaya and tangy cream cheese inside fluffy challah bread—draws inspiration from Filipino pantry staples, pan de ube, and classic French toast.
Ube halaya, a jam made from cooked and sweetened purple yams, is a dish in its own right. But it’s also a regular addition to a number of Filipino desserts. It has a soft and velvety texture and an extraordinary flavor that combines vanilla, pistachio, and coconut. To amplify the ube flavor in the filling, I also like to add a dash of ube extract. Cream cheese makes the filling glossy and smooth, while adding a bright contrast.
Instead of standard whole milk, the egg custard is made with canned coconut milk, an ingredient I always keep on hand. It adds an extra boost of richness and creaminess. The texture of canned coconut milk varies greatly across brands. And while I typically reach for thicker blends in my everyday cooking, a coconut milk with a thinner consistency works best here.
When cooking the French toast, be sure not to go too high with the heat. You want to give the filling enough time to become hot all the way through without scorching the exterior. When it’s time to dig in, top off your French toast with confectioners' sugar, lots of shredded coconut, and another dollop of ube halaya. —Arlyn Osborne
canned coconut milk (such as Goya)
cream cheese, at room temperature
ube halaya, plus more for serving
ube extract (optional)
(1½-inch thick) slices challah bread
coconut oil, divided
Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish
Unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted, for serving
Maple syrup, for serving
- In a large shallow dish, whisk together the eggs, coconut milk, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Set beside the stovetop.
- To a medium bowl, add the cream cheese, ube halaya, and a pinch of salt. Beat with an electric hand mixer until fluffy and combined. Add the ube extract (if using) and beat until combined. Transfer the ube filling to a large pastry bag and cut off the tip.
- With a small paring knife, cut a horizontal pocket (about 3 inches wide) into the bottom of each bread slice. Pipe some ube filling into the pocket of each bread slice, moving the tip around to fill evenly.
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add half the coconut oil and let melt.
- Working with two bread slices at a time, dip into the custard for about 10 seconds on each side. Transfer directly to the skillet. Cook until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes on each side.
- Repeat with the remaining coconut oil and bread slices.
- To serve, slice each French toast in half diagonally. Top with confectioners’ sugar, shredded coconut, and a dollop of ube halaya. Serve with maple syrup.