Saffronog french toast

Saffronog french toast

I had a pleasantly normal upbringing. Well, until I was about 12. That story’s for a different day (maybe) but today we’ll talk about one of the parts of my childhood that didn’t require a $175/hour therapist to help me sort through all the wildly frustrating and traumatizing madness.

As a kid I spent a lot of time out at my Oma and Opa‘s house – partly because I had my own room with a queen size bed, but mostly because my parents were separated and my mom wasn’t around all that often. My dad’s wife made it clear that we (my brothers and I) were not her children so my Oma took it upon herself to serve as the mother figure in my life. In the time I spent with her, she taught me plenty of lessons and rules and other guidelines that she promised would lead to her version of a happy existence. Some I held onto (like the whole take your man to bed before you get married-thing) (the crazy lady’s been telling me that since I was a youngin’) and others I ditched once I got out of small town Ohio and into a place where people don’t judge you for having beliefs that differ from the ones they continue to borrow from the 1950s.

Soaking cashewsIranian saffronMaking saffron milkDateSaffronogMaking saffronog french toastSaffronog french toastSaffronog french toast

French toast was her morning specialty. And since I grew up on breakfasts of cereal and oatmeal and the once-in-a-blue-moon homemade waffle, it was a treat to stay out at her house. Each morning she’d pull me from bed and I’d walk into the kitchen and there would be my spot at the table – adorned with a glass of orange juice, 2% milk, and water. And an empty plate. She’d rush me into the bathroom to wash up and when I emerged a clean child, she’d be standing over the stove drowning stark white bread in a cinnamon-heavy egg mixture. She’d carefully place the soaked bread onto the hot pan and take a weighty pinch of cinnamon and sprinkle it over top, and almost instantly the scent of stale kitchen air would turn musky and sweet. I’d stand beside her, inhaling as much of the cinnamon speckled air as I could, and moments later she’d pull out my chair, sit me down, and plop two pieces of eggy goodness onto my plate. She’d proceed to smother them with butter and a tell-me-when portion of maple syrup, and I remember, in those moments, feeling so loved that it didn’t matter what was happening at home or at school because here is this woman who loves me so much that she’d rather spend her precious, fleeting moments preparing me a hearty breakfast than tend to her own needs and wants and desires.

And despite the fact that she’d be seriously disturbed if she found out I made french toast without eggs or dairy, this one’s for my Oma. For the woman who taught me that the best way to exhibit one’s love is through a good, home cooked meal. Or a layer cake. Or french toast for your granddaughter, just because. For the woman who planted this memory deep into my heart – the one that flows to my fingertips anytime I’m in the kitchen – where it stays and radiates and reminds me why I do this. I think the best way I demonstrate my love to Thom (well, to anyone, really) is through food. I can tell him I love him or surprise him with a ticket to the football match that sat at the top of his bucket list, but I don’t think there’s anything that makes him feel more loved or appreciated than when I make a batch of cookies or a plate of waffles or a half-gallon of ice cream, just for him. For no reason other than the fact that I adore him more than there are stars and asteroids and space debris in the universe.

Well-fed humans are the luckiest humans. I know that for a fact.

Saffronog french toastWhen a 5 year old decorates your XMAS tree

Happy holidays to you and yours. I hope you get to spend it around a table full of good food, with people you adore.

Saffronog french toastSaffronog french toastSaffronog french toast

Notes: I used gluten free sandwich bread, but if you’re not into that just use regular bread – something fancy from a bakery would be nice, but make sure it’s a day or two old. If you’d prefer to substitute a liquid sweetener in place of the dates, use 2-3 tablespoons of of any sweetener of your choice (I highly recommend maple syrup). If you don’t have saffron just leave it out – the only reason I added it is because a) I thought it’d be kinda fun and b) I brought home a shitload from Istanbul (the real stuff, NOT Turkish saffron). If you don’t have it, leave it out or replace it with a pinch of ground turmeric. I used a heavily spiced liquor in my version but rum, brandy, whiskey, or any other dark liquor would be suitable. If you plan on drinking the nog, add an extra 1/2 cup of liquid during the blending process.


12-15 pieces day old bread
2 cups saffronog
, recipe follows
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pure maple syrup

In a wide, shallow bowl, whisk together the nog and cinnamon. Using a large spoon, cover each piece of bread with the nog and set aside. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat and coat with oil. Cook each piece of nog soaked bread for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until slightly blackened. Drizzle with maple syrup and your favorite toppings (nuts, banana slices, coconut whipped cream, etc). Leftovers can be kept in an air tight container in the freezer; reheat in toaster or oven.

When making the french toast for a large group, I like to put a cookie sheet, lined with a wire rack, in a 200˚F oven and place the toasts on there as I make them. That way everyone gets to eat at the same time. Or no one gets room temperature french toast.

Yeild: 6-7 servings


2 cups unsweetened almond milk
20 strands Iranian saffron
1 cup raw cashews
, soaked overnight
4 medjool dates
, pitted and soaked 15 minutes
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tbsp dark liquor

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk and saffron to a boil; let rumble for 2-3 minutes then off heat and let cool for 30 minutes. Discard the water from the dates and cashews and add them to the base of a high speed blender, such as a Vitamix. Add the saffron milk mixture to the blender by pouring it through a fine mesh sieve (to catch the strings of saffron), then add the nutmeg, cinnamon, and liquor and blend on high speed for 45-60 seconds, or until the mixture is smooth (this may take longer in a normal blender). Store nog in an air tight container for up to three days. Shake well before using.

Yield: about 3 1/2 cups


  • Reply molly yeh 20 December 2013 at 8:03 AM

    your oma sounds like one hell of a lady!! and that photo of you and her is great. (great bangs, btw!!!) well-fed humans are indeed the luckiest humans.

    happy holidays, miss ashlae! i hope it is filled with tons of yummy food :) xo!

  • Reply Heather 20 December 2013 at 8:15 AM

    Beautiful story. I already love your Oma, she sounds like a special lady. And that picture is so adorable. Wishing you and Thom happy holidays!
    – and that french toast, amazing.

  • Reply Lindsey 20 December 2013 at 8:32 AM

    What a delicious recipe! I’m going to make it tomorrow morning, but I think I’ll have to replace the saffron with turmeric because I didn’t factor saffron into my holiday budget. ;-) By the way, I always appreciate your honesty. You are a brave woman. Happy holidays to you and Thom!

    ps, I love that he doesn’t drop the H from his name.

  • Reply Katy 20 December 2013 at 8:42 AM

    I loved reading this, those memories are so precious and your Oma sounds wonderful. The french toast looks delicious and I’d love to have some for my holiday breakfast.

  • Reply Jenna @ Grapefruit and Gold 20 December 2013 at 9:25 AM

    woah — this is seriously amazing. happy holidays!

  • Reply Rebecca 20 December 2013 at 9:34 AM

    Heartwarming story really, thanks for sharing! I wish you and your family a very merry Christmas!

  • Reply Renee Shuman (@FrolicChocolate) 20 December 2013 at 9:43 AM

    i love this. so much. i’ve attempted vegan french toast SO many times, and i’ve failed, well, more often than not. i love the idea of making a boozy vegan nog and soaking the bread in it. and it’s not too sweet so the bread doesn’t burn too terrible (i’ve burned the hell out of banana-almond-milk versions). I also love the idea of drinking this eggnog in the process of french toast making. or, heck, i might just make the saffronog for a holiday party tonight!

  • Reply Stefanie 20 December 2013 at 10:49 AM

    Oh my gosh, SAFFRONOG?!! That sounds like the best thing ever. Have a happy holiday!

  • Reply Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar 20 December 2013 at 11:16 AM

    Mmm this looks soooo good. Perfect for the mornings!

  • Reply Elsie 20 December 2013 at 11:49 AM

    i think you create beautiful recipes and photographs but, truth be told, i come here for the writing. brilliant and captivating. your oma sounds a lot like my grandma, which makes you a very lucky woman. but i’m sure you know that already.

  • Reply mimi 20 December 2013 at 12:22 PM

    I am so glad you had Oma and Opa.

  • Reply Katie @ Veggie and the Beast 20 December 2013 at 2:05 PM

    I loved reading this. Your Oma sounds a lot like mine :)
    I’m not big on egg-y foods, so I rarely make french toast – this version would probably be perfect for me!

  • Reply The Vegan Cookie Fairy 20 December 2013 at 4:03 PM

    Happy Christmas to you too! Your oma sounds incredible. My mum’s mum makes the most incredible chocolate mousse. Neither my mum or I make it as fabulous as granny does (must be a special granny quality that makes it so good) (and I’m a vegan now, so I can’t eat her chocolate mousse anymore *sob*)

  • Reply Donna 21 December 2013 at 3:39 AM

    Is there a kind of gluten-free bread that would be less likely to burn?…or is it the saffron or sugars from the dark liquor or dates that makes it a bit “scorch sensitive”?…The flavor profile for your saffronog is simply stunning. Thank you for your beautiful prose and Oma “Omage” (homage)…Thoughtful and so right for this time of year.

    • Reply Ashlae 21 December 2013 at 8:12 AM

      Hi Donna!

      I think the gluten free bread is most of the reason it blackened (I made it with whole wheat bread and it didn’t blacken at all) but it could also be because I, like my Oma, covered it with a heavy pinch of ground cinnamon while it was on the stove.

      PS – “Omage” :)

  • Reply Skye 21 December 2013 at 4:11 AM

    Looks and sounds completely and utterly heavenly – love the touch of saffron and dates. And love that you’ve used almond milk – I bet that it gives it a really great flavour!

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  • Reply Dawn 21 December 2013 at 10:35 AM

    A wonderful post, beautiful memories. A belated congratulations on your engagement and a merry christmas to you. Look forward to reading and cooking more of your recipes in 2014!

  • Reply Shari - Simply Shari's Gluten Free 21 December 2013 at 4:24 PM

    Love saffron, love nog, love French toast, and love charred food. A must have for my holiday brunch menu. Thanks!

  • Reply Irina @ wandercrush 21 December 2013 at 11:13 PM

    Saffronog? Decadence at its most brilliant. Cheers for french toast sans eggs—I highly doubt anyone would be wanting for more in this recipe.

  • Reply Mallory @ Because I Like Chocolate 22 December 2013 at 3:43 PM

    What a delicious idea from breakfast Christmas morning! Saffronog is a wicked idea!

  • Reply Melissa @ Treats With a Twist 24 December 2013 at 11:00 AM

    You are so incredibly honest and I LOVE it. Thank you. I hate when bloggers make their life sound shiny and perfect. I try to always put my heart in my writing, and I love that you do too.
    And I love your baked French toast. I’m in my in-laws house right now, and they’re Persian and have saffron rock candy in the cupboard. So random but I thought you’d find this amusing.

  • Reply Amit S. 25 December 2013 at 11:40 PM

    Thanks for an awesome looking french toast recipe. Merry Christmas to you and this looks like the perfect recipe for Christmas!

  • Reply Liz 26 December 2013 at 2:21 PM

    I didn’t realize you were in a similar situation to myself growing up.
    My mother was/is out of my life as well. My Grandma and Grandpa are the reason I am who I am today. It’s hard learning how to be a woman with a gay father. I think because of my Grandma, I learned some important life lessons. (LIKE HOW TO BAKE!)

  • Reply Currently Crushing On. | How Sweet It Is 28 December 2013 at 4:47 AM

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  • Reply Kasey 3 January 2014 at 3:49 PM

    This post, your writing. ALL OF IT. Amen to being gloriously well-fed – we are sure the lucky ones. Happy New Year my friend. May this one be the brightest yet. xo

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