Bread pudding is one of those comfort foods that have rustic origins. It was a way to use up old stale bread instead of throwing it out and letting it go to waste. It was always thought of as a “poor man’s” dessert, but my… have times changed! You can now find bread pudding on the dessert menu of many up-scale restaurants.
When most people think of bread pudding, they picture the British version: stale pieces of cubed bread soaked and baked in a custard served alone or with fresh fruit. Little known fact: there is also a middle-eastern version of this dish: Om Ali.
The history of this bread pudding is slightly more illustrious. As the legendary story goes, Om Ali was the first wife of the Sultan Ezz El Din Aybek. When the sultan died, his second wife quarreled with Om Ali over whose son would become the Sultan’s successor. The sultan’s sons were still young, making the ruling son’s mother guardian and all powerful until the young boy would come of age and become sultan himself.
The story goes that Om Ali plotted and had the second wife killed. Om Ali made this dish to celebrate her victory and she shared it among the people of the land.
Whether you believe this wild story or not, believe me – this bread pudding is pretty decadent and delicious. With hints of cinnamon and cardamom and studded with nuts, raisins and dried apricots, your guests won’t realize how easy this dessert is to put together.
Egyptian Bread Pudding (Om Ali) with Raisins
2 sheets frozen puff pastry dough, thawed (1.1 lbs)
1/3 cup shelled pistachios, chopped
1/3 cup almond slices
1/3 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
1/2 cup Sun-Maid raisins
1/2 cup Sun-Maid dried apricots
4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tsp (separated)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp dried rose petals, crushed (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400ºF. Place thawed puff pastry dough onto one large baking sheet lined with silicone baking mat. If they do not fit on one baking sheet, you will need to bake on two baking sheets or bake one at a time.
- Bake until puff pastry is golden, about 10 minutes. Let puff pastry sit until cool to touch.
- In a small bowl combine nuts and dried fruit.
- Apply non-stick spray or butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch ceramic pie dish or casserole dish. Rip and crumble puff pastry into 1-inch pieces.
- Place approximately one-third of the puff pastry pieces onto the bottom of the pie dish. Sprinkle one-third of the nut-fruit mixture over it. Continue layering the puff pastry pieces and dried fruit mixture until everything is in the pie dish.
- Whip together heavy whipping cream with 2 tsp sugar until stiff peaks are formed.
- In a heavy pot over medium-high heat add milk, 1/2 cup sugar, vanilla, cardamom and cinnamon. Whisk until sugar is dissolved and milk is hot and frothy.
- Slowly pour the hot milk over the puff pastry pieces until all is absorbed.
- Carefully spread half of the whipped cream over the top.
- Bake in oven at 400ºF until browned and bubbly, approximately 10 minutes. Garnish with dried rose petals (optional).
- Serve hot with the remaining whipped cream.