Om Ali (Egyptian Bread Pudding)

5 from 9 votes
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Om Ali/Umm Ali (Egyptian Bread Pudding) is a classic Egyptian recipe made with bread or pastry soaked in sweetened milk and mixed with nuts and shredded coconut. It’s a crispy, crunchy, sweet, creamy, moreish Egyptian dessert!

A spoonful of om ali dessert

What is Om Ali?

Historically speaking, Om Ali has an interesting legend behind it. This Egyptian dessert is said (although just one of several stories) to be named after the first wife of Sultan Ezz El Din Aybek, in celebration of the death of Shajar Al-Durr (the sultan’s second wife). The second wife plotted and carried out the murder of the sultan and was subsequently killed herself. To celebrate her death, his first wife (known as Om Ali) asked the chefs to create a delicious dessert, which was distributed among the local people and became popular throughout the country.

What actually is it, though? Om Ali is known under several names, including Om Ali, um Ali, umm Ali, oumm Ali, and omali (meaning “Mother of Ali”). It refers to an Egyptian “bread pudding” traditionally made with pastry (or bread), pistachios, raisins, coconut flakes/shreds, and a sweet milk (and often cream) mixture. After assembling, the Egyptian dessert is baked until golden brown. It’s similar to British “bread pudding,” but with no eggs, meaning it’s lighter and looser (not “set”) in texture rather than thick and custardy.

Om ali served on a plate

For this om Ali recipe, I’ve used phyllo dough. However, this versatile dessert can be prepared with several types of pastry or even bread (as you’ll see below). Likewise, there are several ways to vary the filling, including the nuts used and more. There is no “one recipe.” Keep reading for my preferred version and favorite optional add-ins!

After enjoying this Arabic bread pudding, feel free to check out other popular desserts, including qatayef ashta (filled pancakes), Lebanese rice pudding, and easy knafeh!

A serving of om ali

The Ingredients

While there are several variations of umm Ali recipe, this is my favorite:

  • Phyllo dough: the “bread” used for this Egyptian bread pudding is pretty versatile. Along with phyllo dough, you could use puff pastry, brioche, leftover croissants, Egyptian flatbread, or even palmiers/lunettes. Use gluten-free pastry/bread if needed.
  • Butter: you’ll need unsalted butter, melted, to brush over the pastry.
  • Milk: use whole milk for the creamiest results. Feel free to use dairy-free milk if preferred, but the flavor will vary.
  • Condensed milk: use store-bought or homemade sweetened condensed milk. Alternatively, you can just add sugar to the milk.
  • Rosewater: technically optional, but rose water adds a wonderfully delicate floral flavor to the umm Ali recipe.
  • Nuts: I like to use a combination of mixed nuts, ensuring that pistachios are part of the blend. You can use walnuts, slithered almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, etc. For a nut-free version, use pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and/or pine nuts.
  • Raisins: use regular or golden raisins. The latter is the traditional option and usually slightly softer/plumper.
  • Shredded coconut: I use homemade unsweetened shredded coconut, but you can use sweetened if preferred.
  • Cream: I recommend using double/heavy cream (whipping cream) for the creamiest results. However, use single cream for a lighter version. You could also use eshta/ashta.
Ingredients for om ali

Optional Add-ins and Variations

  • Cinnamon: a sprinkle of cinnamon is a traditional topping added before baking.
  • Cardamom: a small pinch could be added to the hot milk mixture.
  • Vanilla extract: you could add a small amount to the milk.
  • Sugar: I find I don’t need any additional sugar in the dessert, as the condensed milk is sweet enough. However, if you have more of a sweet tooth, add extra sugar to the warmed milk mixture and/or sprinkle some over the top of the desert before baking.
  • Orange blossom: a small amount of orange blossom (to taste) added to the warm milk mixture tastes absolutely delicious. It can be used alone or alongside the rose water.
  • Vegan: use dairy-free butter, creamy plant milk, and vegan condensed milk (like this coconut condensed milk). The flavor will vary slightly but still taste delicious!

There are also plenty of non-traditional additions to this umm Ali recipe that you could experiment with, including:

  • Chopped apple/pear,
  • Berries – blueberries, raspberries, chopped strawberries,
  • Chocolate chips/chunks,
  • Other dried fruit – like dates or dried apricots.

How to Make Om Ali?

First, preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC and lightly butter a baking dish/pan. I recommend using a 9×13 in(23×33 cm) rectangular pan OR a 12 in/30 cm round pan.

Then, place the phyllo sheets on a large baking tray, either whole or broken up into smaller pieces (if you don’t break them now, you’ll do it later). Brush with the melted butter.

Transfer the baking tray to the oven and bake for just a few minutes until the phyllo dough becomes golden and crispy. Then remove the baking sheet from the oven.

Steps for baking phyllo pastry

Depending on what pastry you’re using, some methods will have you remove the top layers as they turn crisp, allowing each layer beneath to crisp up too. That wasn’t necessary for this thin phyllo dough but it may be for puff pastry.

Meanwhile, combine the milk and condensed milk in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until just below a boil. Once hot, remove the mixture from the heat.

Milk and condensed milk mixture in a bowl

To assemble the umm Ali, place a layer of the phyllo pastry (about ½ of it) in your prepared baking dish and top with half of the nuts, coconut, and raisins. Then pour over the warmed milk mixture. Top with another layer of pastry and nut mixture, before pouring over the cream.

Steps for preparing om ali dessert

An alternative method has you beat the heavy cream to stiff peaks (or use eshta), then spread or dollop it over the dessert in the last few minutes, turning on the broiler.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until well browned. Then remove and allow it to rest for a few minutes before spooning/slicing, and serving!

Freshly baked om ali

You can optionally broil the Egyptian bread pudding for an even crispier topping.

How Make Ahead and Store?

Make ahead: The texture of the assembled Om Ali will change the longer it sits, so I don’t recommend preparing it ahead if you want optimal texture. However, you could prepare the crispy pastry and combined milk mixture in advance. Then, when you’re ready to bake the om Ali, just reheat the milk, assemble, and bake!

Store: The bread pudding will have the crispiest texture within the first hour or two after baking. However, feel free to allow it to cool and then store, covered, in the refrigerator for an additional 1-2 days. It will thicken/soften as it sits and can then be enjoyed cold or reheated.

Reheat: you can either reheat individual servings in the microwave (1-2 minutes usually) or place the entire dish back in the oven until heated through. Broil the topping once more to bring back a little crisp texture.

A serving of om ali dessert

Recipe Notes

  • Use a shallow, wide dish: rather than a taller narrow dish. This will give more surface space on the top for lots of crunchy topping and the best overall texture.
  • Adjust the amount of sugar: I didn’t add any extra sugar on top of the condensed milk. However, this Egyptian dessert is traditionally very sweet. So feel free to adjust the amount to taste.
  • The cream topping: the type of cream you use will vary the dish. Pouring over heavy cream is rich and creamy. However, using dollops of whipped cream or eshta added before broiling will only lightly melt and will brown and cook in a specific way that is delicious and helps to make a caramelized, crisp top of the dessert.
  • Individual serve: Feel free to adapt this to single-serve versions using ramekins. Adjust the cooking time as necessary.
  • Can I omit the nuts/coconut? You can use them just as a topping or even omit them entirely.
  • The bread you use: bake the phyllo/puff pastry until crisp, then break into small pieces. For croissants, break them into small pieces before baking. When using regular bread, no need to bake first. For palmiers, no need to bake at all. Instead, just broil it until golden and crispy.

More Dessert Recipes

If you try this Egyptian om Ali recipe, I’d love to hear your thoughts/questions below. Also, I’d appreciate a recipe card rating below, and tag me in your recipe recreations on Instagram @Alphafoodie!

Om Ali (Egyptian Bread Pudding)

5 from 9 votes
By: Samira
Om Ali/Umm Ali (Egyptian Bread Pudding) is a classic Egyptian recipe made with bread or pastry soaked in sweetened milk and mixed with nuts and shredded coconut. It's a crispy, crunchy, sweet, creamy, moreish Egyptian dessert!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients 
 

  • 1.1 lb pastry I used phyllo. Alternatively, use puff pastry, brioche, leftover croissants, Egyptian flatbread, or even palmiers/lunettes; use gluten-free pastry/bread if needed
  • 1/4 cup butter unsalted, melted
  • 2 cups milk whole is best; use dairy-free if preferred
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk use store-bought or homemade
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (double cream) OR whipped cream/eshta
  • 1/2 cup nuts use a combination of nuts such as pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, etc.; for a nut-free version, use pine nuts/sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup raisins or sultanas
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut unsweetened or sweetened (I use unsweetened)
  • 1 Tsp rose water optional

Check the Recipe Notes below for optional add-ins and variations!

    Instructions 

    • Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC and lightly butter a baking dish/pan. I recommend using a 9×13 in(23×33 cm) rectangular pan OR a 12 in/30 cm round pan. 
    • Place the phyllo sheets on a large baking tray, either whole or broken up into smaller pieces (if you don’t break them now, you’ll do it later). Brush with the melted butter.
    • Transfer the baking tray to the oven and bake for just a few minutes until the top layer of phyllo dough becomes golden and crispy. Then remove the baking sheet from the oven.
      Depending on what pastry you're using, some methods will have you remove the top layers as they turn crisp, allowing each layer beneath to crisp up too. That wasn’t necessary for thin phyllo dough but it may be for puff pastry.
    • Meanwhile, combine the milk and condensed milk in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until just below a boil. Once hot, remove the mixture from the heat.
    • To assemble the Om Ali, place a layer of the phyllo pastry (about ½ of it) in your prepared baking dish and top with half of the nuts, coconut, and raisins. Then pour over the warmed milk mixture. Top with another layer of pastry and nut mixture, before pouring over the cream.
      An alternative method has you beat the heavy cream to stiff peaks (or use eshta), then spread or dollop it over the dessert in the last few minutes, turning on the broiler.
    • Bake in the oven at 350ºF/180ºC for 15-20 minutes, or until well browned. Then remove and allow it to rest for a few minutes before spooning/slicing, and serving!
      You can optionally broil the bread pudding for an even crispier topping.

    How to Make Ahead and Store?

    • Make ahead: the texture of the assembled Om Ali will change the longer it sits, so I don't recommend preparing it ahead if you want optimal texture. However, you could prepare the crispy pastry and combined milk mixture in advance. Then, when you're ready to bake, just reheat the milk, assemble, and bake!
      Store: the Egyptian bread pudding will have the crispiest texture within the first hour or two after baking. However, feel free to allow it to cool and then store, covered, in the refrigerator for an additional 1-2 days. It will thicken/soften as it sits and can then be enjoyed cold or reheated.
      Reheat: you can either reheat individual servings in the microwave (1-2 minutes usually) or place the entire dish back in the oven until heated through. Broil the topping once more to bring back a little crisp texture.

    Notes

    • Use a shallow, wide dish, rather than a taller narrow dish. This will give more surface space on the top for lots of crunchy topping and the best overall texture.
    • Adjust the amount of sugar: I didn’t add any extra sugar on top of the condensed milk. However, this Egyptian dessert is traditionally very sweet. So feel free to adjust the amount to taste.
    • The cream topping: the type of cream you use will vary the dish. Pouring over heavy cream is rich and creamy. However, using dollops of whipped cream or eshta added before broiling will only lightly melt and will brown and cook in a specific way that is delicious and helps to make a caramelized, crisp top of the dessert.
    • Individual serve: feel free to adapt this to single-serve versions using ramekins. Adjust the cooking time as necessary.
    • Can I omit the nuts/coconut? You can use them just as a topping or even omit them entirely.
    • The bread you use: bake the phyllo/puff pastry until crisp, then break into small pieces. For croissants, break them into small pieces before baking. For regular bread, no need to bake first. For palmiers, no need to bake at all. Instead, just broil it until golden and crispy.
    Optional Add-ins and Variations:
    • Cinnamon: a sprinkle of cinnamon is a traditional topping added e before baking.
    • Cardamom: a small pinch could be added to the hot milk mixture.
    • Vanilla extract: you could add a small amount to the milk.
    • Sugar: I find I don’t need any additional sugar in the dessert, as the condensed milk is sweet enough. However, if you have more of a sweet tooth, add extra sugar to the warmed milk mixture and/or sprinkle some over the top of the desert before it’s baked.
    • Orange blossom: a small amount of orange blossom (to taste) added to the warm milk mixture tastes absolutely delicious. It can be used alone or alongside the rose water.
    • Vegan: use dairy-free butter, creamy plant milk, and vegan condensed milk (like this coconut condensed milk). The flavor will vary slightly but still taste delicious!
    Check the blog post for more tips and optional non-traditional toppings!
    Course: Dessert
    Cuisine: African, Arab, Egyptian
    Freezer friendly: No
    Shelf life: 1-2 Days

    Nutrition

    Calories: 486kcal, Carbohydrates: 66g, Protein: 14g, Fat: 21g, Saturated Fat: 11g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 47mg, Sodium: 119mg, Potassium: 493mg, Fiber: 8g, Sugar: 15g, Vitamin A: 514IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 166mg, Iron: 3mg

    Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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