Umm Joe (Umm Ali Recipe)

Umm Ali done the Umm Joe way

Umm Ali done the Umm Joe way

What is authentic anyway?

The first time I remember having Umm Ali, was ten years ago in Saudi Arabia. We were staying at a hotel for a few days (for hajj), and Umm Ali was served every morning with breakfast. I had it every day during my stay (and also gained 5 pounds!). Simply put, I was obsessed. This inspired me to make my own American version of the Arab dessert. This Umm Joe is a brioche bread pudding recipe, but it still has the creamy, buttery, toasty, crunchy qualities of Umm Ali. 

Not a daily breakfast item…

The story of where this dessert gets its name from is steeped in Arab lore. According to the story, a princess is spurned by her husband. Sometime after, either her husband or his second wife dies (sources differ on this). As a result, the princess creates Umm Ali and serves it to her people in celebration. The princess’ son, Ali (for which the dish is named), takes over the throne soon after. In Arabic, “Umm”, “Om”, or “Omm” translates as ‘mother’ or ‘mother of’. Thus, we get the name Umm Ali, which means ‘mother of Ali’. Now, perhaps you’re like me and find it initially unappealing that the ideas of betrayal and death are the raison d’etre for this dessert. However, this is all forgotten the minute you take a bite of Umm Ali. 

Introducing Umm Joe…

The beauty of authentic cooking is that it’s always transforming under the influence of different cultures and environments. This version of Umm Ali is authentically American because it’s been transformed into a brioche bread pudding recipe. It contains many of the core components of Umm Ali, such as milk, heavy cream, white sugar, and nuts. However, it’s less sweet and served with sour cream. It provides versatility in its ingredients and uses a buttery French bread as its base. Incidentally, all but one of its ingredients can be found at Trader Joe’s, which is why we think ‘Joe’ is the perfect American name for this brioche bread pudding recipe. Rose water is the only ingredient that we needed to obtain elsewhere. (This recipe is not sponsored by Trader Joe’s.)

umm ali.jpg

Brioche bread

Is the perfect bread for this recipe. We love its soft richness and fluffiness.

Umm Joe (Umm Ali Recipe)

In Egypt, this dessert is usually prepared with a mix of nuts and sometimes raisins too. I like to keep the flavors distinct by only using one type of nut and not finely chopping them. Pistachios are considered the most "authentic" option. However, toasted or honey roasted nuts that are sliced or halved deliver the best flavor and texture combination.

by The Lore | January 2019

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 40 hours
  • Total time: 55 minutes

Servings: 8


  • 16 ounces heavy cream* (2 cups, 475 ml)
  • 16 ounces whole milk* (2 cups, 475 ml)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces sugar (1/2 cup, 115g)
  • 4 ounces rose water (1/2 cup, 120 ml)
  • 1 loaf sliced brioche bread
  • 1 cup toasted sliced almonds*
  • Optional for serving: rosewater honey, sour cream* (see note 1)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Adjust the oven rack to the middle (or lower middle) position.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the heavy cream, milk, sugar, rosewater, and vanilla to a simmer.
  3. Stir until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.
  4. Break up the brioche slices into small bits (1-2 inches) and line the bottom of a 3-4 quart baking pan.
  5. Drizzle with at least one cup of the cream-milk mixture and sprinkle 1/2 cup of toasted almonds on top.
  6. Break up the remainder of the brioche slices and layer them on top of the almonds, creating a tight cover over the cream-milk mixture.
  7. Drizzle the remainder of the cream-milk mixture on top. Do it slowly to ensure that every piece of brioche soaks up as much of the liquid as possible.
  8. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Take Umm Joe out of the oven, sprinkle the remainder of the almonds on top, and drizzle with honey and/or rosewater. Serve warm.


  1. To make rosewater honey, combine 1/2 cup rosewater and 1/2 cup honey in small saucepan. Stir over medium to low heat until well combined, about 2 minutes. Let it cool before serving.
  2. Creme fraiche can be used instead of sour cream.
  3. If you don't have heavy cream, use 1 cup melted butter and 1 cup whole milk.

Denotes items that we prefer to be organic. Read more about it here: Items to buy organic when grocery shopping.