Om Ali Vs Bread & Butter Pudding

<Originally Published in Campus Magazine, September 2009>

On the left - Om Ali! On the right - Bread and Butter Pudding!

Ramadan – or as I like to call it: “Radamaddacanman” – is on its way (don’t worry, it takes some time to pronounce correctly). We all know that Ramadan is more about feasting than fasting; and no feast is complete without a rich dessert that sticks to your thighs.

Om Ali is synonymous with richness and a staple of many a Ramadan Fitar table – even though it is readily available at other times of the year. It’s simplest incarnation is toasted Filo pastry pieces, buttered and covered in a spiced milk mixture and baked in a ramekin. Typical toppings include raisins, walnuts and coconut, and some recipes call for cloves or cinnamon in the milk mixture.

The origins of Om Ali have been attributed, in most legends, to Ezz El Din Aybak, the first Mamluk Sultan of Egypt in the mid 13th century. One legend describes how Om Ali was a dish created to celebrate the brutal assassination of Ezz El Din Aybak’s second wife by his first wife. Another legend claims that the Sultan was on a hunting trip, and a peasant woman named Om Ali made him a dessert of leftover bread, sugar and milk as an offering. The sultan liked it, and had the dish permanently named after her.
On the other hand, Food historians have reliably traced back the original bread pudding to the 12th century, as a way for peasants to salvage stale bread. The current incarnation, bread and butter pudding, was developed much later. In the 1845, a cookbook listed one of the earliest known recipes for bread and butter pudding. It was an evolution of the Bread Pudding as the formerly expensive ingredients for the pudding became more affordable and available. Later on, it became a staple of British Christmas dinners.
But the Om Ali Legend I prefer – and the one that makes the most sense – is the one that attributes the creation of the dish to Miss O’Malley, one of Khedive Ismail’s mistresses during the mid 19th Century. She was an Irish woman, and perhaps when she felt amorous, would use stale bread to make her lover a traditional English bread pudding. More likely, however, was that Miss O’Malley cooked a Christmas dinner and served bread and butter pudding during the feast. What’s even more interesting is that Ramadan and Christmas coincided from 1868 till 1870. During this time, Khedive Ismail was in power as Ruler of Egypt, and would have definitely appreciated the introduction of a British Dessert at the Ramadan Fitar Table, in a gesture combining both religious events.
Thankfully, Egyptians back then chose to arabicize her name to “Om Ali” rather than call the dish “Brid Buddin”.
Whatever; both are insanely tasty and rich. The main difference between them is that the Bread and Butter pudding soaks the stale bread in custard; while Om Ali simply uses a spiced milk mixture. The result is that the Om Ali has a thinner consistency than the bread and butter pudding. Whichever you decide to make I can guarantee it will be the perfect denouement to a Protein rich meal.

Om Ali:

You can get prepackaged Om Ali Kits, but you get the best results if you construct this from scratch; the entire preparation time takes less than 10 minutes. For added dimension, I use Sahlab mix to give a rich thick sauce. This particular recipe serves 2 to 3 people.
Dry Ingredients:
• 500gms thawed puff pastry sheets
• ½ cup chopped pecans
• ½ cup chopped hazelnuts
• ½ cup chopped walnuts
• ¼ Cup white Sugar
• ½ cup raisins
• ½ cup flaked coconut

Wet Ingredients:
• ½ cup Sahlab mix
• ½ cup Sugar
• 3 cups Milk
• 1 tsp cinnamon

Topping
• 1 TBSP cold butter, cut into small cubes.

Method
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter a large clay ramekin.
2. Toast the pastry sheets in the ramekin in the oven until crunchy and golden.
3. In a bowl, combine walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, raisins, coconut and sugar. Break toasted pastry into pieces and stir into nut mixture. Place at the bottom of the Ramekin.
4. In a saucepan, prepare the Sahlab mix with the milk and cinnamon, and bring to a boil.
5. Pour the Sahlab over the dry ingredients. It should just cover the dry ingredients.
6. Sprinkle the cold butter cubes over the surface of the mixture.
7. Place dessert in the oven until top is golden brown, about 10 minutes.
8. Serve hot. Devour.

Bread and Butter Pudding

This is a bit more labor intensive than the Om Ali, but the results are still fantastic. It is typically served with some sort of fruit compote, and in the spirit of Ramadan, I’ve included a recipe for cherry-apricot compote. This serves 4 hungry diners.
For the Bread and Butter pudding.
• 300ml Milk
• 600ml whipping cream
• 1 packet vanilla
• 5 Eggs
• 190g caster/powdered sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
• 4 tbsp raisins
• 12 slices of lightly toasted bread, cut into cubes.
• 250g Butter, melted.

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Warm the milk and cream with the vanilla in a pan until lukewarm. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl.
2. Add the warm milk and cream to the egg and sugar mixture, whisking well. This is very important, because you do not want the eggs to scramble. Set aside until lukewarm.
3. Put a tablespoon of raisins each into a casserole dish. Then dip the slices of bread into the melted butter and add to the casserole dish.
4. Pour the cream mixture over the bread; it must be lukewarm not cold when poured to prevent the butter from hardening.
5. Leave the bread to soak up the cream mixture for about 15 minutes, then add more mixture until the bread is very soft and gooey. Sprinkle over some caster sugar.
6. Place the casserole dish in a deep roasting tray, pour hot water into the tray around the casserole dish and bake until set, around 25-30 minutes. You can tell the pudding has set by gently shaking the casserole dish – it should “jiggle” like a jelly, but not be too runny. The top should also be golden brown.

Cherry-Apricot compote

This is a great addition to any Ramadan dessert, especially since cherries happen to be in season at the moment. Use this with either of the two desserts, or with cereal for a fantastic sohour option. It can be made a day in advance, and keeps well in the fridge for upto a week.

• 1 1/4 cups sugar
• 1 cup water
• 1 cup unsweetened orange juice
• 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
• 500gms dried apricots, chopped
• 500gms fresh cherries; pitted and halved.

Method
1. Combine first 4 ingredients in heavy large saucepan.
2. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to boil.
3. Add apricots and cherries; simmer until fruit is tender, about 5 minutes.
4. Transfer to bowl. Chill until cold, about 2 hours.
5. Serve over dessert or get a spoon and enjoy!

Cooking Time – 35 minutes

Ramadan, or as I like to call it, Radamaddacanman is on his way (don’t worry, it takes some time to pronounce correctly). And we all know that Ramadan is more about feasting than fasting; and no feast is complete without a rich dessert that sticks to your thighs. Om Ali is synonymous with richness, and a staple of many a Ramadan Fitar table, even though it is readily available at other times of the year. It’s simplest incarnation is baked Filo pastry pieces, buttered and covered in a spiced milk mixture and baked in a ramekin. Typical toppings include raisins, walnuts and coconut, and some recipes call for cloves or cinnamon in the milk mixture.

The origins of Om Ali have been attributed, in most legends, to Ezz El Din Aybak, the first Mamluk Sultan of Egypt in the mid 13th century. One legend describes how Om Ali was a dish created to celebrate the brutal assassination of Ezz El Din Aybak’s second wife by his first wife. Another legend claims that the Sultan was on a hunting trip, and a peasant woman named Om Ali made him a dessert of leftover bread, sugar and milk as an offering. The sultan liked it, and had the dish permanently named after her.

Food historians have reliably traced back the original bread pudding to the 12th century, as a way for peasants to salvage stale bread. The current incarnation, bread and butter pudding, was developed much later. In the 1845, a cookbook listed one of the earliest known recipes for bread and butter pudding. It was an evolution of the Bread Pudding as the formerly expensive ingredients for the pudding became more affordable and available. Later on, it became a staple of British Christmas dinners.

But the Om Ali Legend I prefer – and the one that makes the most sense – is the one that attributes the creation of the dish to Miss O’Malley, one of Khedive Ismail’s mistresses during the mid 19th Century. She was an Irish woman, and perhaps when she felt amorous, would use stale bread to make her lover a traditional English bread pudding. More likely, however, was that Miss O’Malley cooked a Christmas dinner and served bread and butter pudding during the feast. What’s even more interesting is that Ramadan and Christmas coincided from 1868 till 1870. During this time, Khedive Ismail was in power as Ruler of Egypt, and would have definitely appreciated the introduction of a British Dessert at the Ramadan Fitar Table, in a gesture combining both religious events.

Thankfully, Egyptians back then chose to arabicize her name to “Om Ali” rather than call the dish “Brid Buddin”.

Whatever; both are insanely tasty and rich. The main difference between them is that the Bread and Butter pudding soaks the stale bread in custard; while Om Ali simply uses a spiced milk mixture. The result is that the Om Ali has a thinner consistency than the bread and butter pudding. Whichever you decide to make I can guarantee it will be the perfect denouement to a Protein rich meal.

Wesam may be found cooking cow, fish, fowl, but no pig over at nothungrycuziate.wordpress.com

Om Ali:

You can get prepackaged Om Ali Kits, but you can get the best results if you construct this from scratch – entire preparation time takes less than 10 minutes. For added dimension, I use Sahlab mix to give a rich thick sauce. This particular recipe serves 2 to 3 people.

Dry Ingredients:

  • 500gms thawed puff pastry sheets
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ½ cup chopped hazelnuts
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ Cup white Sugar
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup flaked coconut

Wet Ingredients:

  • ½ cup Sahlab mix
  • ½ cup Sugar
  • 3 cups Milk
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Topping

· 1 TBSP cold butter, cut into small cubes.

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter a large clay ramekin.
  2. Toast the pastry sheets in the ramekin in the oven until crunchy and golden.
  3. In a bowl, combine walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, raisins, coconut and sugar. Break toasted pastry into pieces and stir into nut mixture. Place at the bottom of the Ramekin.
  4. In a saucepan, prepare the Sahlab mix with the milk and cinnamon, and bring to a boil.
  5. Pour the Sahlab over the dry ingredients. It should just cover the dry ingredients.
  6. Sprinkle the cold butter cubes over the surface of the mixture.
  7. Place dessert in the oven until top is golden brown, about 10 minutes.
  8. Serve hot. Devour.

Bread and Butter Pudding

This is a bit more labor intensive than the Om Ali, but the results are still fantastic. It is typically served with some sort of fruit compote, and in the spirit of Ramadan, I’ve included a recipe for cherry-apricot compote. This serves 4 hungry diners.

For the Bread and Butter pudding.

  • 300ml Milk
  • 600ml whipping cream
  • 1 packet vanilla
  • 5 Eggs
  • 190g caster/powdered sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 4 tbsp raisins
  • 12 slices of lightly toasted bread, cut into cubes.
  • 250g Butter, melted.

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Warm the milk and cream with the vanilla in a pan until lukewarm. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl.

2. Add the warm milk and cream to the egg and sugar mixture, whisking well. This is very important, because you do not want the eggs to scramble. Set aside until lukewarm.

3. Put a tablespoon of raisins each into a casserole dish. Then dip the slices of bread into the melted butter and add to the casserole dish.

4. Pour the cream mixture over the bread; it must be lukewarm not cold when poured to prevent the butter from hardening.

5. Leave the bread to soak up the cream mixture for about 15 minutes, then add more mixture until the bread is very soft and gooey. Sprinkle over some caster sugar.

6. Place the casserole dish in a deep roasting tray, pour hot water into the tray around the casserole dish and bake until set, around 25-30 minutes. You can tell the pudding has set by gently shaking the casserole dish – it should “jiggle” like a jelly, but not be too runny. The top should also be golden brown.

Cherry-Apricot compote

This is a great addition to any Ramadan dessert, especially since cherries happen to be in season at the moment. Use this with either of the two desserts, or with cereal for a fantastic sohour option. It can be made a day in advance, and keeps well in the fridge for upto a week.

· 1 1/4 cups sugar

· 1 cup water

· 1 cup unsweetened orange juice

· 2 teaspoons grated orange peel

· 500gms dried apricots, chopped

· 500gms fresh cherries; pitted and halved.

Method

1. Combine first 4 ingredients in heavy large saucepan.

2. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to boil.

3. Add apricots and cherries; simmer until fruit is tender, about 5 minutes.

4. Transfer to bowl. Chill until cold, about 2 hours.

5. Serve over dessert or get a spoon and enjoy!

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About Wesam E Masoud
Chef Patron of @chefsmarketmasr, Host of @CBCSofra's #matbakh101. I have one degree in Medicine & 3rd degree burns from cooking.

3 Responses to Om Ali Vs Bread & Butter Pudding

  1. anne-marie says:

    o’malley was your tale of choice?! your telling of the story makes it much more plausible and romantic. i like your recipe much better

  2. Wesam Masoud says:

    Thanks for the compliment; I’ve developed another recipe for Bread and Butter pudding as part of the NHCIA Test Kitchen series; I’ll be posting it with pictures at some point.

    I still need to try out your recipes – when I get a new maid 😉

  3. Sarah says:

    This was a fun read. I’m genuinely interested in this theory now and will start discussing it further with others to see what we can find.

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