Om Ali – Egyptian Bread Pudding, a scrumptious, traditional, Egyptian dessert, equivalent to North America’s bread pudding. Our monthly challenge “Around the World in 12 Plates” took us to beautiful Egypt!
Song of the day: Walk Like an Egyptian, by The Bangles.
Just a few years ago, and for quite some time, both my parents were part of a polyphonic choir, where they sang as a tenor, my dad, and a contralto, my mom. I was so proud of them, they got to sing in many Italian Cathedrals, (including Saint Peter’s in Rome), Palaces, City Halls, and tour some parts of the globe.
Since my love for traveling started at an early age and never backed down, I took every chance I got to travel to different destinations with different “partners in crime”. So when my parents told me the choir was going to Egypt for a 5-day “sing and sightsee” tour, in specific to Cairo and Alexandria, I decided to come aboard and join their adventure.
I had already been to Egypt a couple of times, in the late 90’s; first time, a week spent in a resort in Sharm el-Sheikh, a popular destination on the Red Sea, with beautiful waters and spectacular coral reefs, practicing the laborious tasks of sun-bathing, swimming/snorkeling, reading, eating and shopping. Not very much sightseeing on the inland, but lots of sea adventures. The second time, I hopped on a cruise to do the renowned Nile cruise, and although not a fan (still to date) of any kind of cruises, the places we touched were breathtaking and the river cruise itself very calming and soothing (in contrast with the tight schedule and “run run” of the typical day with the tour guide). Aswan and Luxor, especially, left an imprint in my memory, so majestic and heart-stopping (you would think I was used to the magnificence coming from an amazing city like Rome, but I was in awe, dumbfounded and with my eyes wide open trying to take it all in). The seven-day cruise allowed a couple days in Cairo and I fell in love with the hustle and bustle of the city (which was ten times the “craziness” you’d find in Rome), the vibrant market of Khan el-Khalili, the spectacular Giza plateau, the beautiful Egyptian Museum. I have many pictures that are reminders of those days. Real pictures that I took with an old film camera, that I had to get developed and that now sit together with pictures of other incredible places in a beautiful tin box in my apartment in Rome. My love for Cairo was the reason why I decided to join my parents in their Egyptian experience.
The first night the choir and some of their family members, including me, reached the hotel in Cairo, they served us (about 40 people) a late supper which consisted in -what seemed to me- some fairly dry and pale chicken (which of course I was not interested in), some steamed vegetables, far from appetizing but which I ate anyway, and finally, a luxuriously creamy dessert, that I discovered being a bread pudding. Now, in Italy, we make and eat a lot of bread, but bread pudding is just not in the picture. Shame on us! I was lost in eating one spoonful after another, trying to decipher each component: milk, nuts and fruits, some kind of pastry, sugar, and possibly a lot of cream. From that day on, I had bread pudding in a few other good places in Egypt, and my eyes rolled back in delight every time.
I’d like to digress, here, a little bit. Reminiscing these beautiful times in some of the most amazing sights in the world, has me thinking of how much the world has changed, and for the worse. Those were times when you could go anywhere in the world without a worry (other than, maybe, avoid drinking tap water). Back then the doors to learning cultures and traditions were wide open, while at present day, fear has taken over due to revolutions, civil wars, and terrorist movements, which make us leary to want to travel to certain destinations more than others. And which brings a deep sadness to my traveler’s heart.
Back to present time, in our home in Edmonton, Canada, you can imagine my joy when our blogger friend Gabby, The Food Girl in Town, disclosed the destination of our next “Around the World in 12 Plates”. To beautiful Egypt! Here it was my chance to make that dessert that had opened my eyes on bread pudding, a dessert that had never crossed my mind trying.
Looking on the Internet for recipes to help me make an Egyptian bread pudding, I learned it is called Om Ali, Um Ali, or Oumm Ali, meaning “Ali’s mother”, and it is probably the most popular dessert in Egypt. (And from now on it will also be in this household). Staple ingredients common to many recipes seemed to be buffalo milk (which unfortunately I couldn’t find here); some kind of phyllo or puff pastry; nuts and raisins; sugar; some kind of heavy cream. Easy, in my eyes. But then, when searching on Pinterest I was lured by a beautiful picture of a gorgeous Om Ali, one that I would have liked to have in front of me at that exact same moment. That recipe, from Cleobuttera, added a variable to the ingredients that had my heart sing: palmiers. Yes, you read that right. Those buttery, sugary, melt-in-your-mouth French pastry in a palm leaf/butterfly/heart shape. Whatever it resembles to you, they are delicious! And just what this recipe for Om Ali needed to become over the top.
Don’t you just love the shape of these palmiers? Look at that texture, the honey sheen coming off the surface, and better yet shaped like a heart, and this Om Ali has definitely wone my heart over!
Om Ali – Egyptian Bread Pudding, the ingredients we used:
- cane sugar
- full fat cow milk
- hazelnuts, toasted
- golden raisins
- raw pistachios (unsalted)
- shredded coconut (unsweetened)
- double Devon cream (the closest relative to clotted cream)
Om Ali is such an easy dessert to make! Even with some adjustments to the ingredients available where you live, it is straightforward, fast and so rewarding in the end. The “most strenuous” task, for us, was to crack the hazelnuts and toast them in the oven, followed by breaking the palmiers and trying to avoid eating too many. We did not even chop the pistachios, but we did chop the hazelnuts, then what was left to do was to boil some milk and sugar in a pot.
A layer of palmiers at the bottom, the nuts, raisins, and coconut mixed in, the hot milk and sugar mixture poured in, some more palmiers crumbled on top of the milk-soaked palmiers and finished off with dollops of double cream. The smell is already amazing, and the look anticipates the taste.
The smell, when I took the bread pudding out of the oven, was heavenly. Look at that beautiful golden brown crispy glazed top, doesn’t it look inviting? All those sugars and that nice browned top produces an aroma of caramel. I quickly got a spoon and dove right in. OMG, that silky milky pudding is so rich and buttery. The palmiers adding moist luxury and crisp decadence. I love all the textures with the pistachios and hazelnuts adding a nice crunch. Then, when you think the taste roller coaster ride is over, these wonderful plump raisins just explode flavor into your mouth. My taste buds are doing a dance and I am so in love with this dessert. I asked Loreto, who has a spoonful of the Om Ali, when we can make it again and he says “we can have it any time we want” and by the way he is licking his spoon, I think he also loves this Egyptian dessert!
If you ever wanted to go to Egypt but couldn’t, bring a little Egypt to you and bake up a bowl of this incredible Om Ali – Egyptian Bread Pudding. Like Egypt, it is magnificent!
Song of the day: Walk Like an Egyptian, by The Bangles.Print
Om Ali – Egyptian Bread Pudding, a scrumptious, traditional, Egyptian dessert, equivalent to North America’s bread pudding.
Recipe adapted from Best Ever Om Ali
- 250 g store bought palmiers
- 500 ml (1/2 lt) full fat (3.25%) milk
- 1/4 cup cane sugar
- 1/2 cup double cream (or clotted cream)
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1/4 cup raw shelled pistachios
- 1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
- 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- Place hazelnuts on a baking dish and toast at 350° F for about 4 minutes, keeping an eye on them, they do not have to brown too much. Remove from oven. Place onto a clean dish towel, then rub them to remove the skin. Chop them and set aside
- Adjust the oven rack to medium position and preheat the low broiler to 390° F (200° C).
- In an oven safe baking dish (we used a 6-inch diameter and 3-inch deep round baking dish), break in half 3/4 of the amount of the palmiers, and arrange in the dish.
- Set aside the remaining 1/4 of the palmiers.
- Add in the nuts.
- In a medium saucepan, over medium-high heat, stir together the milk and sugar. Whisk until the sugar dissolves, then bring to a boil.
- Pour the boiling milk/sugar mixture over the palmiers.
- Top the surface of the milk-soaked palmiers with the reserved amount of palmiers.
- Dot the surface with spoons of double cream.
- Place the dish on low broiler until bubbling around the edges and the top turns golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Keep a close eye on it as it might brown too much.
- Serve hot.
Any leftovers keep in the fridge for a couple days and can be reheated in the oven.
Make sure you check out the other recipes created by the amazing bloggers that participated in this monthly challenge featuring Egypt!
Gabby – The Food Girl in Town went savory and made Koshari;
Bernice – Dish ‘n the Kitchen went sweet and made Basbousa, an Egyptian semolina cake.
P.s. We have a recipe for Semolina Cake soaked in Orange Blossom Syrup as well. It is from Israel, you can check out the differences and lots of similarities with the Egyptian version!