By the TWiP collective
The dessert Um Ali may originally have been an Egyptian dish, but it is prepared in kitchens throughout Palestine and cherished on all kinds of occasions, especially when it is cold outside. The recipe is said to have been created by Um Ali to celebrate the killing of Shajarat al-Durr – who was murdered at Um Ali’s command in revenge after Shajarat had killed their husband.
Beautiful Shajarat was kidnapped and sold as a concubine to Sultan Assalih, the last Egyptian ruler of the Ayyubid dynasty. She lured him with charm and wit, bore him a son, and became his wife. As intelligent as she was beautiful, Shajarat, a few years later, initially concealed his death and ruled in his place; her army defeated the French king, effectively ending the Seventh Crusade. Shajarat then married the general Izzeldin Aybak, who became the first Mamluk sultan in Egypt – whom she killed when she heard he wanted to marry again. In this dark tale of power struggles, intrigue, and revenge, Shajarat was then murdered by Um Ali, Aybak’s first wife.
Today, this dessert is enjoyed at any celebration – and not everyone is aware of its dark origin.
1 pound frozen puff pastry (thawed) or croissants
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup chopped almonds
½ cup chopped pistachios
½ cup raisins
¼ cup coconut flakes
1 cup sugar (or less), divided
3½ cups milk
½ tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup whipping cream
- Preheat the oven to 175°C and butter a 20 x 30 cm baking pan.
- Place the puff pastry onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper; use a fork to poke holes in the pastry; bake until golden brown and crunchy, about 15 minutes, turning it once, watching closely. If you use croissants, warm them for only a few minutes.
- In a bowl, mix the nuts and raisins with ¼ cup of sugar (you can add hazelnuts or pecans, even fruit if you’d like and/or leave out the sugar for a healthier version).
- Preheat the oven’s broiler (top heat).
- Break or cut the puff pastry or croissants into pieces and place two-thirds into the baking pan.
- Add the nut mixture, and cover with the remaining puff pastry or croissants.
- Bring the milk and ½ cup of sugar almost to a boil and pour over the mixture; let it soak for a few minutes.
- Beat the whipping cream and ¼ cup of sugar until stiff peaks form (be careful not to overbeat) and spread evenly on top of the mixture.
- Place the baking pan into the oven and broil until golden brown, about 8–10 minutes.
- Serve hot with more (sweet) hot milk (and fresh fruit) to taste.