Umm Ali ~ Egyptian Dessert

I am pleased to inform that I am hosting the Home Baker's Challenge for the month of May. A heartfelt thank you going out to Priya akka for giving me the opportunity to host this lovely challenge. The first challenge was pizza, and from then on we have had some wonderful challenges with healthy participation. To have a look at what all I have cooked up as a part of this challenge, you can check it out here.

After having some months of only-sweet challenges, I provided participants with a list of Arabic bakes, three savoury and three sweet dishes to enjoy baking and eating, of course!!! It was not easy for me to put up the list, as even though I eat Arabic food quite a lot from out, cooking them was something new to me and I wanted to make this as a base to start my exploration. The three savoury dishes were Spinach Fatayer, Manakesh Zaatar and Mushroom Spinach Cigar Rolls. The three sweet bakes were Umm Ali, Arabic Date Walnut Cake and Lebanese Sesame Cookies. I hope that the members would have enjoyed the challenge as much as I loved putting the recipes together and hosting it, as well!!!

As usual, to do justice to my blog name, I went for a sweet bake and Umm Ali, it had to be! There is a lot of history regarding this dessert, which basically translates as "Mother of Ali". I wouldn't want to dwell about it because irrespective of history, this is one dessert that I just love to the core. Each time we go for an oriental buffet, I am always in for almost half a plate of Umm Ali. There are so many variations of Umm Ali, but basically it's a bread based dessert, loaded with goodness of nuts and coconut, baked after literally soaking it in spiced sugary milk. Get the gyst??? If you want to read more about the history of this yummilicious dessert, you can just click on the link from where I adapted the recipe from and enjoy reading it.

I made a batch which was quite enough for a big gang, so could go into the group of make-ahead desserts for any party. Since it is to be served warm, you can do each step in advance, and just bake it a hour before the meal is about to end. I packed almost half of it for my HD's gang, who appreciated it as a "different" dessert. Remaining was faithfully finished off by all at home. Actually speaking, with the overload of nuts, I guess it can be had as a meal in itself!!! Hehe.... My new glass dish from IKEA was utilized very effectively as it was nice and deep enough to accomodate all the puff pastry and the milk. Moving on to how I made this dessert:

Umm Ali ~ Egyptian Dessert
Serves 8-10
Recipe adapted from here


400 gm pack of puff pastry sheets
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup pistachios
1/4 cup pine seeds*
1/2 cup cashew-nuts
1/2 cup sultanas
1/4 cup coconut, grated
500 ml pack whipping cream
150 ml full fat milk
150 ml water
1 cup sugar
1 tsp cardamom powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg powder


Cook the puff pastry sheets till crisp, as per pack instructions. I baked the pasty sheets in a preheated oven at 200 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Meanwhile, roast the nuts (almonds to cashewnuts) in the hot oven for around 5 minutes. Cool. Put the nuts into a bag and crush using a rolling pin till it breaks into bits - do not powder!

In a saucepan, combine the whipping cream, milk, water, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and bring to heat. Keep stirring till the sugar is melted - no need to boil, it just needs to warm. Switch off the flame.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees for around 10 minutes (the oven may already be warm from the previous puff pastry cooking).

In a deep glass dish, crush the puff pastry. Add the crushed nuts, coconut and sultanas and mix well till evenly distributed. Slowly pour the sweetened milk all over the puff pastry. Bake for 30 minutes till top is golden.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm!!!

Rasha couldn't wait to have her share!

1. You can replace the puff pastry with many many other options - croissants, baked bread, Millefoglie puff pastry biscuits, even cornflakes! But I assure you that puff pastry takes the dish to another level.
2. Adjust sugar to your requirements. 1 cup sugar was a tad on the higher side for us, just a tad...
3. The milk mixture is your choice - you can use a mixture of milk and condensed milk, without using the sugar. Or you can even use just milk and sugar.
4. I really wanted to add 1/4 tsp of cinnamon powder as well, but just missed out! Would have given a lovely flavor...

* I missed to use pine nuts!!! This is a nut used in almost all Arabic baking, whether sweet or savory. Though it was not missed much as there was enough of crunch in the dessert, I would have loved to add it to give it a more authentic feel.

Want to see who all participated in this challenge along with me? Do scroll down to view the entries... :)

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