I don’t cook to impress people, I cook to make people happy. Yes, I am old fashioned that way! When I think of creating happiness, bread puddings come in the top 10 of my most favourite comfort foods. And I love all possible variations, be it the English bread and butter pudding, the South Asian Shahi Tukrey or the Egyptian Classic Umm Ali. If you will make me choose at gun point, I’ll definitely go for the last one.
Why? Because it has oodles of crushed puff pastry (one of my big weaknesses but don’t tell anyone), lots of mixed nuts and dried fruits, creamy silky inside with hot sweetened milk and crispy caramelised top broiled to perfection. No, that’s not all. This divine dessert, in all it’s moorish glory, is simpler, easier and quicker to make than any other pudding. At least my version is!
Umm Ali is made with already baked puff pastry instead of any other regular bread and eggs are not added to the milk syrup that goes in. Now you can take the longer route and bake some puff pastry or you can use any of the baked products made with puff pastry to save time as I do. Croissants and Palmiers ( heart shaped French pastry) are two good options. Since croissants are more easily available everywhere all the time, I mostly go for them.
I am a pretty humble person when it comes to boasting about any success but this easy Umm Ali recipe is really worth taking my chances. Seriously this is one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten and I have high hopes that you will agree once you have tried it for yourself!
The name is very strange though, right! Umm Ali means Ali’s Mother. To make the long and dark story short, the dessert was created in 13th century Egypt. The time was of political turmoil due to the power struggle within a Sultan’s entourage and Harems. Umm Ali was the first wife of Sultan Aybek. The Sultan was killed by his second wife Shajar Al Durr, who was also plotting to kill Umm Ali’s son, the successor to the Sultan. To protect her son, Umm Ali had Shajar Al Durr imprisoned and later killed.
A new and delicious dessert was created and distributed among common people to announce the celebration of the death of previous queen and reign of new Sultan. Um Ali, the dessert got associated with the name of that lady and became known as the dessert of celebrations in Egypt and gradually all over Middle East.
Now that you know the story, I think it’s time you put on the apron and get baking this easy Umm Ali recipe to simply celebrate good food, life without politics and family that’s not planning to kill you!
1+1/2 cup condensed milk
1+1/2 cup full fat milk
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1/4 cup pistachios
1/4 cup almonds
1/2 cup raisins
A few drops almond essence(optional)
1/2 cup heavy cream or clotted cream
This Is What You Do:
Tear up croissants into chunks roughly by hand. Crush, pistachios and almonds.
Mix pieces from three croissants, coconut, raisins, half of crushed almonds and pistachios in an oven proof dish. Choose a flat bottom, shallow dish not a very deep bowl. It helps even cooking.
Heat milk, condensed milk and almond essence in a saucepan till warm and blended together. Pour the milk mixture over the croissants in the bowl. Leave for 5 minutes to allow the pastry to soak up some of the milk mixture.
Now add bits from the fourth croissant on top. So that it stays above the liquid part and gets extra crispy in the oven. Dot with cream or clotted cream.
Place the dish under the broiler for five minutes or bake uncovered for 8-10 minutes till the sweet sauce is bubbling on the sides and the top turns nicely golden brown.
Turn off the heat but still leave the pudding in the hot oven for another 5 minutes.
Remove from oven. Garnish with remaining nuts and serve warm.