Before I moved to the UK and actually tried bread pudding, I thought it was the weirdest, most foreign concept ever. Who would want to eat soggy bread? It wasn't until I tried it that I said, "This reminds me of Um Ali!"
I have very mixed feelings about Um Ali. When made correctly, it is amazing, both hot and cold. But there is a very fine line between soggy sugary mess and perfect Um Ali and I feel like everyone who makes it or eats it tries to find that perfect balance. Not to sound arrogant, but I think I found that perfect balance that everyone is looking for.
What's my secret you ask? Croissants! I mean, who doesn't love them? I, for one, usually have them lying around my house and although they rarely last long enough to go stale, when they do, my heart breaks…until I remember that they are the perfect vehicle for the cinnamon scented milk and nuts that makes up Um Ali!
This recipe is definitely straightforward, fast and most of the time you have most of the ingredients in your pantry. Of course you don't have to wait for your croissants to go stale in order to make this. Just pop some fresh ones into the oven until they crisp up and you're good to go!
I usually buy mine a day or two ahead, put them on a plate uncovered and let nature do its work. The best part is that this recipe is customisable to everyone's taste. The nuts I used here are my favourite, but of course everyone has their own, so I encourage you to throw your favourite things into this and enjoy!
- 1 ¼ litres full fat milk
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 10 large stale croissants
- ¾ cup flaked coconut
- ¾ cup peeled pistachios
- ¾ cup flaked almonds
- ½ cup sultanas
- 340 grams cream (ishta)
1. Mix the milk, sugar, cinnamon sticks, vanilla and butter in a small pot and put on medium heat, making sure to mix regularly until the mixture comes to a boil.
2. While the milk mixture is heating, in a deep, medium greased baking tray, tear half of the croissants and cover the bottom of the tray.
3. Sprinkle half of the coconut, pistachios, almonds and sultanas over the croissants. Make sure to distribute this evenly.
4. Tear the other half of the croissants over the tray and add the remaining nuts and coconut.
5. Once the milk mixture has boiled, remove the cinnamon stick and evenly pour the mixture over the croissants, making sure to press the croissants down as you pour.
6. Top the tray with dollops of cream and spread evenly over the croissant mixture.
7. Bake at 200 C, or 180 C for a fan-assisted oven, for 25-30 minutes, or until the milk is absorbed and the top is browned. You can also put the tray under the broiler for a few minutes if the milk is absorbed but the top hasn't browned. Enjoy!