This decadent, authentic Egyptian bread pudding goes by the name of "Umm Ali" and is a breeze to make! Crispy puff pastry is smothered with a sweet cream and milk mixture and topped with an array of nuts, raisins and coconut. Delicious and the prefect dessert for a gathering! Follow along for the easy step-by-step recipe.
What is Umm Ali?
Okay, so let's address the big question: what does Umm Ali mean? It literally translates to "Ali's Mother" and some history sources report that it was named after a Sultan of Egypt who goes by the name of Izz Al-Din Aybak. His wife was known as "Umm Ali" and once made this dish and distributed it widely and it became known by her name. You may also find it spelled as "Om Ali" or "Um Ali".
Anytime I eat Egyptian food, I remember our Egyptian neighbours growing up, one of my mom's best friends, who was the first to introduce us (an Iraqi family) to their food. Some of my favourites are this Egyptian Goulash, macarona bechamel, or this ful medames. But when it comes to desserts, this Egyptian dessert recipe cannot be beat and is one of my favourites amongst many other middle eastern desserts.
I actually didn't love Umm Ali growing up... I never really gave it a chance. But now as an adult, I can appreciate the milky soft pudding texture, the crispy outside, the sweet bursts from the raisins, and the crunchy nuts. A decadent bread pudding that's bursting with texture.
You can make this recipe using either puff pastry or croissants. I've tried both ways and loved them both, but my preferred is the puff pastry. I find it has just a little bit more body to it. But when you have stale croissants lying around, this is also one of the best ways to use them.
Ingredients You'll Need to Make Umm Ali
The ingredients you'll need are very straight forward:
- Milk, I use 2% but 3% works too.
- Whipping cream; this comes in liquid form and around 35% fat... this is going to make our milk mixture luxuriously decadent.
- Sweetened condensed milk. I didn't use to add condensed milk, but after testing the recipe with it, I never went back. It adds another layer of decadence and just the right amount of sweetness.
- Granulated Sugar (not pictured) for more sweetness. You can adjust this to your liking (don't add it until after simmering the cream mix and adjust as you like).
- Thick table cream for dolloping on top; this is optional so if you can't find it, you can also skip it.
- Cardamom and Cinnamon; again these are optional but I love the subtle flavour they add.
- Puff pastry. I recommend you buy it already rolled and cut into squares if you can find it (if not, just spend the extra few minutes). The Sunbulah brand is a great one.
- Almonds, Pistachios, Raisins and Coconut. All of these will be layered in the pudding plus added on top when serving!
How to Make Umm Ali, Step by Step
Here are the easy steps to making this desserts:
Start by thawing your puff pastry in the fridge overnight if its frozen, or leave it on the counter for a few hours. Then, bake it per package directions until it turns golden brown and gets really crispy. Make sure you crisp it up well so it can hold up to the liquid.
Next, mix together the milk, whipping cream, spices, condensed milk and sugar in a pot. Place on medium high heat and bring to a boil, stirring often.
Once boiling, remove from the stove. Time this so that your milk mixture is hot when the puff pastry has cooled down.
Next, break up the puff pastry into smaller pieces and pile them into your baking dish. You can use any oven-safe baking dish; for this recipe amount I typically use a 9x13 inch dish.
Add some nuts and raisins in between the puff pastry layers, so that the nuts are dispersed across the whole pudding and not just on top.
Next, pour the milk mixture and spread it evenly all over the puff pastry. The pastry will start to soak up the liquid.
Top it with more nuts and coconut, but don't add any raisins yet, otherwise they will burn (I learned this the hard way). Instead, we will add them when its almost finished baking. Add the thick cream in spoonfuls all over, smearing them slightly.
Bake it in the oven, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes. Broil the top for 5-10 minutes. Add the raisins just before you take it out by a few minutes to get them nice and toasty! Load it with more of the nuts and raisins, then serve it immediately, piping hot, along with extra nuts, raisins and coconut on the side.
How to make Umm Ali with Croissants
If you don't have puff pastry, or more importantly, if you have stale croissants lying around, then use them! All you have to do is cut them up into large chunks, then bake them in the oven to dry them out and crisp them up. This step will make it easier for them to hold up in the milk mixture. Then, just follow the rest of the steps the same way.
Make Ahead Instructions
Can you make Umm Ali ahead of time? Good question! The answer is yes. You can definitely prepare the puff pastry as well as the milk mixture ahead of time and assemble it closer to serving time.
If you are hosting or taking it to a friend's house, I recommend you bake the puff pastry and tear it up, then layer in the baking dish. Leave it on the counter, loosely covered with plastic wrap.
Then, separately, mix the milk mixture and bring to a boil. Set it aside. Thirty minutes before you are ready to serve, warm up the milk mixture on the stove, then pour it over the puff pastry, top with nuts and bake.
The main thing to keep in mind is to serve it right out of the oven; you definitely don't want to delay that. Once it cools down it is less tasty (still good... but not perfect).
Other Recipes You Will Enjoy
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Authentic Homemade Umm Ali (Egyptian Bread Pudding)
- 1 package puff pastry (400g, 15 square pieces)
- 1.5 liter milk 2% or 3%
- 473 mL 35% whipping cream
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon cardamom
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk (300ml)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 can table cream or ashta (nestle/puck brands) (170g)
- 1 cup almonds
- 1 cup pistachios
- 1 cup raisins
- ½ cup shredded coconut
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Start by baking the puff pastry per package instructions until golden and crispy. If your puff pastry is not already cut, roll it out and cut into squares. Lay them on a large baking sheet and bake until puffed and crispy (roughly 15-20 minutes).
- Meanwhile mix together the milk, whipping cream, condensed milk, sugar, cardamom and cinnamon then place in a saucepan on medium heat and cook until just boiling (stirring frequently). Remove from the heat after a few seconds of boiling.
- Once the puff pastry has cooled, break each square into small pieces and place in a large casserole (9x13 inches).
- Layer with the nuts and shredded coconut, reserving some of each for garnish. Don't add the raisins yet or they will burn.
- Pour the hot milk mixture over the casserole, spreading evenly.
- Spread the can of table cream over the surface, placing dollops and smoothing them out as best as you can.
- Bake in the oven for approximately 15-20 mins until hot and bubbling, then broil for 5-10 mins until surface is golden brown. Add the raisins a few minutes before removing from the oven to toast them.
- Serve immediately, with more nuts on the side for topping.
- If you don't have puff pastry, feel free to use croissants. Especially if you have some stale ones lying around. Cut the croissants into large chunks and dry out in the oven until crispy, then follow the same steps
- You can make this ahead of time and re-bake just before serving (check the make ahead instructions section in the post), but it is the best freshly out of the oven!
- You can use many different types of nuts, make it your own!