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!
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. Pretty cool story! You may also find it spelled as "Om Ali" or "Um Ali".
Now you know I love me a great Egyptian recipe. 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.
And this Umm Ali is my favourite Egyptian dessert! I actually didn't love it 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. Definitely a lot of texture for a bread pudding!
You can make this recipe using either puff pastry or croissants. I've tried both and loved both, but my preferred is the puff pastry. I find it has just a little bit more body to it. But hey, if you have stale croissants lying around... make this.
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 luxurious
- Sweetened condensed milk. This is an addition from yours truly; I never used to add it but I find it adds another layer of flavour!
- Granulated Sugar (not pictured)
- Thick table cream for smothering on top; this is optional so if you can't find it don't sweat
- 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
Okay, you've got this. Its really simple. Just follow these steps!
- 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 crispy 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, its time to break up the puff pastry into smaller pieces and pile them into your baking dish. You can use any medium oven-safe baking dish. Ensure you sprinkle the raisins, coconut and nuts between the puff pastry so its layered (vs just on top)
- Next, you can pour in the milk 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 - instead we will add them when its almost finished)
- 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.
Or you can actually fully bake it ahead of time (like in the morning), cover and place it in the fridge, then re-heat it later that day before serving. If you're doing that, I would add more of the milk and cream mixture to it before re-heating to give it some extra moisture. I had to do this one day when I was shooting it and was worried it wouldn't work out, but it actually worked perfectly!
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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- 1 package package puff pastry (400g, 15 pieces)
- 1.5 liter milk 2% or 3%
- 473 mL 35% whipping cream
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon cardamom
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk (300 ml)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 can table cream
- 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 not already cut, cut into squares then bake.
- Meanwhile mix together the milk, whipping cream, condensed milk, sugar, cardamom and cinnamon then place on medium heat and cook until just boiling (stirring frequently). Remove after a few seconds of boiling.
- Once puff pastry has cooled, break into small pieces and place in a large casserole.
- 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.
- 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 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)
- You can use many different types of nuts, make it your own!