The contrast between the creamy bread pudding and the crunchy nuts, and the mild sweet milk and cream versus the spicy tone of the cinnamon and cardamom makes this dessert irresistible warm or cold. The nut mix you put into the Um Ali is entirely up to your taste; you can use one, some or all of the nuts listed in the recipe. You can also combine puff pastry with toasted phyllo sheets, use phyllo alone, or even croissants for your base.
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*Note: Feel free to vary the amount of sugar according to your preference.
- 1 1/2 Cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 10 small, square puff pastry sheets
- 4 -4 1/2 cups milk
- 1/2 -2/3 cup sugar*
- 1 Teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 Teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
- 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 Cup sliced, unsalted almonds
- 1/4 Cup unsalted walnuts
- 1/4 Cup unsalted pistachios
- 1/4 Cup sultanas
- 1/4 Cup shredded coconut
- Additional mixed ground nuts, for garnish
Remove the puff pastry from the freezer 2 hours before using and thaw. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and position the rack in the center. Meanwhile, place 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the heavy cream in a small pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Keep a watchful eye on the cream and reduce by half. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Lay out the puff pastry slices on a baking sheet and then place them in the oven for 5-10 minutes (you want them to be puffed up and golden brown). Remove from the oven and let cool. In a pot, combine the milk, remaining heavy cream, sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom and bring to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat.
Add the vanilla extract and reduced cream and remove from the heat. Break the puff pastry into small pieces and place half the amount in a 9-by-5-inch baking dish. Top with the almonds, walnuts, pistachios, sultanas, and shredded coconut. Top with the other half of the puff pastry.
Slowly add the milk mixture, one ladle at a time, until the milk fully covers the puff pastry. Let rest for 10 minutes as the puff pastry absorbs some of the milk. Add the milk again until it covers the puff pastry. Bake on the center rack for 15 minutes. Place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes to get a golden top. For a nice presentation, spoon into individual ramekins and top with additional ground nuts.