Like No Other Bread Pudding I’ve Ever Tasted – Not Even Close.
I guess I’ve been on a quest for a great bread pudding for as long as I can remember. This is one of those dishes where the idea has always intrigued me more than the actual outcome. It always turns out too thick and solid. I started reducing the amount of eggs awhile ago and that helped, but it still was too solid for my personal taste. I always wanted it to be looser and creamier.
I don’t know how I’d never heard of Egyptian Bread Pudding (Om Ali). It’s actually the national dessert of Egypt and there are tons and tons of recipes for it. It’s either made with puff pastry or homemade or purchased palmiers. I loved the idea of the crisp puff pastry, but here’s what really got my attention. There are NO eggs in it. Only milk and cream. Talk about a revelation. From the time I first ran into this dish, I had it on the table in 2 days. I could not wait to try it.
Quite a few recipes called for sweetened condensed milk, but I knew that was not what I wanted. Sweetened condensed milk would put this in way too sweet territory for what I had in mind. After looking at a bunch of recipes, I knew I was going to have to come up with my own recipe in order to get it to be exactly what I had in mind. So, I don’t even remotely claim any authenticity. This is only my interpretation of this classic dish.
Almost all the recipes called for raisins. A lot of raisins. Instead, I chose to use dried apricots. The really good soft ones. The recipes also always call for nuts, usually a mixture. I opted for pistachios and whole chopped almonds. Some had coconut, but I decided to eliminate it from mine. I really guessed at the amounts of milk and cream, leaning towards more, rather than less. After batting around flavor ideas with my son, I went way off base and steeped some dried ground lavender buds in the warm milk, cream, granulated sugar, and brown sugar because it seemed like a logical and lovely flavor addition to us.
Now, to the pastry. I have access to great store bought puff pastry – Dufour All Butter Puff Pastry. I unfolded it onto a parchment lined sheet pan, sliced it into squares, brushed it with a couple tablespoons of brown butter, sprinkled it with a little sugar and baked it until it was thoroughly browned and crisp.
I let it cool, cut it up into smaller pieces, placed it into a baking dish, and topped it with the nuts and apricots, holding back a few of the pastry pieces to place on top.
After pouring the warm milk mixture over everything in the dish, I baked it for little less than a half hour, until it was nicely crisped and bubbling. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about tasting something. I couldn’t wait to see how this turned out.
Well, here it is, folks. It’s the bread pudding of my dreams. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that eggs simply aren’t needed. They only make it too heavy. This was super creamy on the inside and the puff pastry is out of this world in both texture and flavor. I sprinkled additional lavender buds on top because their floral flavor perfectly punctuated all the other flavors. I will make this again and again. I think it will be good with other nuts, too. Hazelnuts come to mind, but I think I’ll always include pistachios because their sweetness is perfect here. As to the apricots, I’ll always use them. Their inherent sweetness and tartness really brought this bread pudding to life. But in the end, it was really all about that glorious texture.