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Hawaiian French Toast

We named it Hawaiian because we use a commercial bread called "Hawaiian Bread", not because there's pineapple in it. Not too imaginative, perhaps, but accurate -- and delicious, too! Note: this is a 2-step process. First you must slice and partially dry the bread so it will absorb the maximum egg custard. Then you make up the egg custard mixture and cook the French toast.

1 loaf round Hawaiian brand bread
10 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla
1 pint heavy cream
1 pint half & half
Zest from 2 navel oranges
Banana for garnish
Toasted coconut
Confectioners' sugar for garnish

Cut loaf into 7 one-inch slices. Reserve "heels" for another use (makes a great piece of toast). Cut each slice in half to make 14 pieces. Leave out or place in warm oven to dry. Bread does not need to be completely dry, but you want it to absorb lots of your egg mixture.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs and sugar until sugar dissolves. Add vanilla and half & half. Whisk until egg mixture is combined. Add heavy cream and zest. (Note: this 2-step process works quicker than dumping it in all at once, but you can do it either way.) At this point, stop and set up your griddle (if electric, preheat to 350 degrees) and preheat your oven to 300 degrees (if you are planning to finish them all at once). This gives the orange zest a chance to infuse throughout the mix.

Take 1 or more large shallow containers (a large casserole dish, for example), and line up as many slices as will fit in the bottom of the container(s). Using a cup or ladle, dip from the bottom of the bowl and pour the mix over the bread to completely coat (not cover). The mix usually will come about halfway up the sides of the bread slices.

Let the toast soak up the mix for a minute or so. Spray your griddle with non-stick spray and carefully place the saturated bread slices on the griddle. Cook until browned, then turn and brown the other side. As the slices are browned, move them to one or more baking sheets. Note: you can prepare the Hawaiian French Toast to this point and refrigerate overnight -- make sure your refrigerator is very cold (maximum temperature when it is not running should be 45 degrees F or lower to prevent harmful bacteria).

When preparing to serve, place in preheated 300-degree oven for 20 minutes or until toast puffs somewhat. Place on plate and top with a thin slice of banana, toasted coconut, and a light dusting of confectioners' sugar. Serve with maple syrup.

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