Sunday, December 27, 2009

Umm Ali: An Egyptian Bread Pudding

Nupur's Recipe Marathon - Day 3

Very recently I began sampling lot of Middle Eastern cuisines. Middle East Cuisines have a fine spread of some tasty dishes which have caught my fascination and next year around I will try to experiment with all of them. My first tryst with Middle East cuisines and their understanding began with Diana Abu Jaber's - The Language of Baklava. Diana, an American-Jordanian residing is US has beautifully explained her experience on her first visit to Jordan and this also binds in various opportunities she got to understand her Arabian roots through the medium of Food. You could read one of her articles here and here where a brief summary of her love for Middle East cuisines is beautifully narrated; Her interview speaks volumes about her attempt to discover her Jordanian roots through food and culture. She says her ability to find the "in-betweenness" is always something she strives for - the line between which she straddles two cultures - that of her American Mother and Jordanian Father.

I first tasted Falafel at The New Yorker in Bangalore. I felt the sandwich was the creamiest with a dash of spice, greens and vegetables. I enjoyed the taste to the fullest. Even to date, I thank my dear friend M who dragged me this place much to my tantrum and hullabaloo for not tasting anything but Indian cuisines. This day opened new vistas to my taste buds and helped me appreciate myriad other cuisines. I wanted to prepare this dessert for a long time and had been delaying. Pantry cleaning and the Marathon gave a perfect opportunity to try out the dish and I am glad I did so.

Middle Eastern cuisines have many a gorgeous dishes - Few which appear in my list are - Fattoosh (a Middle East salad), Baklava (a crusty roll with nutty fillings), Cream Caramel (a classic dessert which you will find in most Middle East restuarants), Tabbouleh (a wheat-y tasty dish), Arabian Lime Ridge filled Dates, Sulaimaani Chai (black tea with a hint of mint), Shish Taoouk (bites of meat kebabs rubbed with spices and grilled to perfection), spice rubs/spices such as Zaatar, Loomi and Sumac; last but not the least one of my favorites - Umm Ali (Ali's Mother - pronounced as Umm Aa-li).

A friend of mine from Middle East told me that it literally means - Ali's Mother. The story that goes behind is this dish is simply fascinating. Apparently, Ali (the great Prophet) came over hungry one day at his house and his Mom had nothing but Rotis, Milk and some Nuts. She concocted all of them together to make this sumptuous dish which is a famous Egyptian Bread Pudding. I tried this from Mercedes's Desert Candy Blog. The taste was simply heavenly! This is my first attempt on Egyptian fare especially the decadent creamy and milky dessert types. This also turns out to be one of Hubby's favorite dessert item. Umm Ali also serves as a great dessert for friends and family get-togethers. The items are relatively easy to find in your own pantry (I bought only 2 items - Puff Pastry sheets and Heavy cream).

Today is also a milestone as this is my 150th post. Congratulations to my dear Konkani Foodie. Here's a sweet fare for the sheer indulgence of the Foodie in me and my family.

Recipe Courtesy: Desert Candy with few changes
Preparation time: 60 minutes

Pastry Puff sheet - 1
Whole Milk - 1 1/2 cup
Butter (Non-salted) - 2-3 teaspoon
Heavy Cream - 1 1/2 cup
Dry Fruits (Mixed and chopped) - Almonds, Walnuts, Apricot, Pine nuts and Raisins
Vanilla Extract - 1/2 teaspoon
Sugar - 1/4 to 1/2 cup
Saffron - few starands (crushed in 1-2 teaspoons of milk)
Coconut powder or sweet flaky coconut (optional) - 2-4 teaspoons
Almonds (halved) or Silvered Almonds - For garnishing
MTR Badam Powder - 1 teaspoon
Essentials: Parchment paper
Contraption: Glass Bakeware preferably one withstanding heavy baking and high temperature

Thaw the Puff Pastry sheet to room temperature. Pre-heat the oven for 10 minutes. Lightly grease the pastry sheets with Butter (non-salted) or oil, stretch the dough little by a rolling pin's help. Take a baking tray, line up with parchment paper and spread the pastry sheet on it. Bake for 20-25 minutes or till the pastry sheet turns fluffy and crispy.

On the side, heat milk, heavy cream, sugar, coconut, badam powder, saffron and vanilla extract and stir continuously. Take care to avoid lumps and the liquid becomes an even consistency. Bring to a gentle boil (on low to medium flame) and turn off the heat. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. By then, the pastry sheets would be done. Crumple the sheets to tiny bits and spread on a glass bake ware. Add the mixed fruits and spread on the crumpled sheets. Pour the cooled milk mix on this and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn over to broil thereafter for 3 minutes at 325 degrees for a perfect browning on the crust and the sides.

Check for doneness with the following: upper crust completely golden-to-brown and milk would be cooked to perfection. Serve warm (not too hot nor too cold) by scooping a ladle full of Umm Ali goodness.

Outcome: The pudding was yummy and creamy. Milk cooked and baked well. A very milky dessert and quite easy if you keep a watchful eye on the oven.

Note: 1. Umm Ali, the way I had sampled it, has a broiled look with the perfect browning and crust. So, a little broiling at the end helps to get the right taste.
2. Traditionally, its made with Pine nuts as one of the nuts and sweetened flaky coconut, I decided to omit both because I did not have them stocked.


  1. congrats on your 150th post..Pudding looks delicious with lots dry fruits and nuts.

  2. Yummmm.. That is a very decadent & delicious dessert.. Congrats on your 150th post..

  3. @ Madhu - Thanks a bunch. I just finished gobbling the pudding, am enjoying it!

    @ Pavani - First time around I can say that I can bake a dessert. Thanks again.

  4. Hey Ashwini.... Congrats on ur 150th post... hope to see u more nd more in blogging...nd tht m in Midleast i kno the dishes but havent tried :(..... kudos to u :)

  5. @ Aps - Thanks dear. I have recently started cooking Middle East food and I love it with all my heart. Surely, more to come next year around.

  6. This looks wonderful. Middle eastern is one of my favourite cuisines and this looks like a do-able foray :).


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