The Tastebud Traveler
52 Desserts of the World in 52 Weeks
From one of the most ancient civilizations comes our dessert for today, Umm Ali. Umm Ali, (or Om Ali, Um Ali) meaning Ali's Mother, is a traditional Egyptian dessert. There are several different stories as to how this treat was invented, the most common is the story about the Sultan's first wife who was murdered because of the jealously & plotting of the Sultans second wife. When the second wife on hearing that her treacherous plans succeeded, ordered this dessert made and distributed throughout the land. One of these lovely ladies is Ali's mother. While I hope there's a less villainous explanation, its still an interesting one and certainly shouldn't scare you off from trying this fantastic dessert.
Unusual historical fact; this is not the first time in researching desserts of the world that I've discovered a dessert made to celebrate a murder and th n becoming famous for it. I wonder what it is about treachery and mayhem that makes the people of history think...... "Sweets for the people!!!" (Maybe a good point of research at a later time.)
Umm Ali is often made with puff pastry, phyllo or toasted croissants. It is very similar to bread pudding here in the States, and when made with phyllo dough is reminiscent of Baklava. I will be using Palmiers for this recipe (a future blog post will cover the history of those caramel-y French treats.)
Um Ali is milk based, often having sweetened condensed milk as the base but, if available, Buffalo milk sounds like the way to go. (unfortunately not readily available here in my neck of the woods)
It is sprinkled with a combination of yumminess like coconut, pistachios, pecans, rasins, etc. and is sometimes infused with cinnamon or vanilla.
I found Cleobuttera's blog entry for the ( click for recipe ➡️ ) "Best ever Om Ali" so I went with that, and boy was that a good decision. It was super yum and her blog entry was a joy to read.
The basic steps go like this: Begin by layering broken up Palmiers in bottom of pan. Sprinkle with your goodies, in my case pistachios, pecans, raisins, and coconut. Next, pour a boiling milk/sugar mixture on top. (See my "Personal Tweaks" note below.)
Then you sprinkle more broken-up Palmiers before topping with the whipped cream and then put in the oven, baking until the top is brown and bubbly, about 10 minutes.
Comes out TO DIE FOR! This is a very good dessert! the coconut gives it a bit of bright flavor, and the nuts add the perfect amount of crunch next to the pudding-ness of the cream soaked Palmier. A must try!
Rating: There is a 100% chance I'm going to seek out some Umm Ali on a trip to Egypt.
1. Recipe called for 1/2 c sugar. I reduced the amount a bit, and it was plenty sweet.
2. When I poured about 1/2 the suggested milk into the dish, the Palmiers were swimming, so I did not add the rest. If you're serving the dish hot and immediately out of the oven, the reduced amount of milk is helpful. However, as the Umm Ali cools, the milk will soak in, so if your eating it later, or cold, I would recommend saving the milk and then pouring it in as needed. I never did use all of the milk for my preferred consistency. You may have different results depending on factors like the milk used etc, but hopefully you'll find this note helpful.
Make it better tip: Make your own whipped cream. Grab the extra heavy cream you'll have on hand from the Umm Ali and vigorously whip. Literally, I timed it, took me two minutes and it's so much better than the store-bought kind.
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