Um Ali is a traditional Egyptian dessert that's served with a specific Egyptian bread called rukak رقاق similar to puff pastry. of course I didn’t have it, so I resorted to croissants (or you can also use puff pastry squares) so buttery and will hold their crunch once dried out overnight. It’s often soaked in a mixture of luxurious ingredients; milk and double cream. Studded with raisins or sultanas, coconuts and all sorts of nuts. This dessert has a cool story although not a great story but one that left us with a very sweet ending. Think of this as a french toast on crack so so good. Um Ali in Arabic literally means Ali’s mother. Legend has it that Om Ali is named after Sultan Ezz El Din Aybak’s wife, back in the 13th century. She made it for a victory celebration, and distributed it among the people of the land. Her name stuck to this tasty dish ever since. Here is my humble adaptation of this very cultural dish.
6 large croissants left out to dry overnight (mine measured at 5X5 inch)
4 to 4.5 cups whole milk
7.6 ounces small jar of double cream (double cream is pretty hard to find in the USA it’s thicker and has a higher fat content than whipping cream. If you can’t find double cream. A good substitute is a small 7.6 oz can of the nestle table cream.
I don’t use sugar in my milk because I like to add simple syrup all over the top once cooked.
More traditional options to consider:
Traditionally this dessert is made with an Egyptian bread called rukak رقاق or often substituted with puff pastry
I like to leave my croissants whole but feel free to cut them to bite size pieces
Steep few tablespoons of sugar (adjusting to taste) in the milk and omit the simple syrup.
You can also add 1/2 cup raisins to the milk mixture and
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 assorted nuts
1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon
*I like to make mine simple with just the items listed under ingredients.
1/2 cup Slivered almonds (i used raw as they toast in the oven)
One cup sugar
One cup water
Also optional to infuse your simple syrup:
For this recipe I like to add few strips of orange peel avoiding the white pith (it’s bitter)
4-5 whole cardamom pods slightly crushed
1 tbls of rose petals
squeeze of lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350 Butter an oven proof baking dish. Working with the day old croissants left out to dry overnight. Lay them in one layer in the dish they can overlap slightly. I like to leave them whole to keep their shape but if you prefer to cut them up to bite size pieces go ahead.
Add the 4 up to 4.5 cups whole milk making sure you push the croissants down so they are submerged in the liquid. Add your milk one cup at a time pushing the croissants in the liquid, let it absorb then add your second cup until you used all your milk. Spread the **double cream in a thin layer all over the top.
**Double cream is pretty hard to find in the USA it’s thicker (it almost has the consistency of sour cream) and has a higher fat content and thicker consistency than whipping cream. If you can’t find double cream. A good substitute is a small can of the nestle table cream,. I don’t use sugar in my milk because I like to add simple syrup all over the top once cooked.
Sprinkle almonds all over the top. bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes or so until bubbly, caramelized on top and the croissants had puffed up from all the delicious liquid they absorbed (that's an indication that they are almost done). While they bake its a good time to make your simple syrup.
To make the simple syrup:
Mix all the ingredients together give it a quick stir, and bring to a boil until all the sugar is dissolved. Lower the heat and let the mixture bubble for a few more minutes until the mixture is a bit syrupy. Add the squeeze of lemon at the end about 1/2 tsp. Strain and cool
Once Um Ali is cooked through drizzle it with the 1/2-3/4 a cup of the cooled simple syrup, and serve the rest of the syrup on the side. Garnish with crushed pistachios and rose petals for a gorgeous color.
Please remember this is my humble adaptation of this incredible Egyptian dessert. I am dreaming of the day I will eat this in Egypt, with all the friends I met here, this to me will be the real deal.