Mesh Om Ali (Phyllo Milk Pie)

Pleated sheets of phyllo dough, soaked and flavored with a luscious combination of sweetened condensed milk and cream, topped with puffs of ground cinnamon and a sprinkle of nuts.  Crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside…simply one of the best easy desserts you will ever make!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dessert of the Year (at least that’s what my family thinks of it).

So what is Mesh Om Ali?

Mesh Om Ali is an incredibly easy to make, delightfully delicious to eat pastry made up of folded sheets of phyllo dough, soaked and flavored with a luscious combo of sweetened condensed milk and whipping cream, then topped with puffs of ground cinnamon and a sprinkle of nuts, if you like.  I mean…can it even get better than this?

The surface is beautifully crunchy, the inside is creamy and milky, and the whole thing is just dreamy.

 

 

Is it Bougatsa? Is it Om Ali?

If Mesh Om Ali’s conjures up visions of Bougatsa (Greek Phyllo Milk Pie) …you’re absolutely right!

When my friend Yasmine, bless her heart, gave me the gift of this recipe, she told me that it’s called ‘Boghasha.’  This was very confusing to me, as the Boghasha I know, is something entirely different; a crisp sweet fritter of some sort, that I’ll actually be sharing here very soon.  But then I remembered how strikingly similar it was in appearance and making process to the Greek Bougatsa, that I stumbled upon in this drool-worthy video.

And this is when the dots started connecting.

I concluded that by the time Greek ‘Bougatsa’ reached Egypt, it became ‘Boghasha’!  Well that’s a totally made-up theory by yours truly, with absolutely zero evidence, that just has to be true.

I mean they’re both made with buttered, scrunched up phyllo that get baked to golden, crunchy perfection, then soaked in a milk mixture and baked again until set.  The main difference that sets them apart, among other things, is that Greek Bougatsa’s milk mixture contains eggs, so the end result is a custardy-like filling in middle rather than milky.

 

 

So what’s with name ‘Mesh Om Ali’?

Mesh Om Ali, meaning ‘Not Om Ali’ in Arabic, is a name that my friends jokingly came up with when they tasted this dish, and it kind of stuck.  It reminded them of Om Ali, a popular Egyptian dessert, while being completely different from it.  So it’s like Om Ali, but not at all…if that makes any sense.  Technically, this dish is more of riff of Bougatsa more than anything else, but try to explain this to a bunch of hungry Egyptians.

Om Ali, an Egyptian bread pudding-like dish that dates far back in history, with a questionable backstory, is typically made with either puff pastry or roaa’ (Egyptian flat bread).  Modern versions have evolved to make it with stale croissants, palmiers (like I did here) and you guessed it…baked phyllo sheets.  It’s then mixed with milk, sugar, nuts and topped with a layer broiled cream.  The final dish is very milky and soupy with slurpy strips of whatever carb you chose to put in it.  So as you can imagine, it does share the same idea of milky creaminess, contrasted by pastry goodness as today’s dish, but that’s where the similarities end.

 

 

Mesh Om Ali has a pronounced caramelized and complex flavor that comes from the sweetened condensed milk, a distinct richness from the cream, and the texture is a completely different ball game.  And truth be told, I love it much more.

I like to think of it as the explosive fusion of Om Ali, Bougatsa, croissant bread pudding (for some reason), and feteer meshaltet (a rich, buttery multi-layered Egyptian pastry).  So whatever you decide to call it…you know it’s gonna be good!

Spoiler alert!  This Mesh Om Ali thing will ruin Om Ali for you.  It has set the bar so high for all Om Alis out there…even mine, which is “the best ever,” if I do say so myself.  So be ready for a game-changer!

 

 

What do you need to make Mesh Om Ali?

You’ll only need 4 ingredients (6 if you add cinnamon and nuts) to make this roll-up-your-eyes-to-the-roof-of-your-head-good-dessert.

 

  1. Phyllo Sheets:  The heart and soul of the dish.
  2. Melted Butter: It’s what helps the phyllo become so crunchy.  Feel free to use ghee or clarified butter instead if you prefer, but I found that good ‘ol butter works really well here.
  3. Sweetened Condensed Milk:  Sweetens the dish and adds that unique flavor we all love.
  4. Whipping Cream:  Also known as heavy cream.  Gives the phyllo its creamy texture and adds richness.  If you’d like to cut the richness (and fat 🙈), you can use half and half (half milk, half cream), but if you want my honest opinion…stick with all cream.  It’s worth the caloric splurge.
  5. Ground Cinnamon:  Dusted on top of the finished dish, it adds a welcomed touch of warmth and coziness.  Feel free to omit it if you’re not into it.  But seriously…who isn’t?
  6. Assorted nuts:  Nuts adds a nice crunch and beautiful colors, so finish off the dish with a handful on top if you like, or serve them on the side. Here I used toasted pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds, raisins and unsweetened shredded coconut (you know…like you would with Om Ali), but add whatever your heart desires.

How to make Mesh Om Ali?

Easiest baked dessert ever!

  • You’ll first start by gathering up and scrunching one sheet of phyllo at a time into a loose fan-like strip. Don’t obsess to much about folding it into perfect pleats or if it tears; it’s meant to look messy and voluminous, so that it properly fills up the dish.

  • Then transfer the scrunched phyllo to a buttered dish and brush with melted butter!  Try not to think too much about the amount of butter going in.  Just close your eyes and do it!  What can I say…phyllo loves fat.  Without it, they won’t have that gorgeous flaky texture…they’ll just be dry and hard.  Get in there with the brush and make sure that as much of the phyllo is well saturated with the butter.

  • Then transfer the dish to the oven, and bake until the phyllo turns deep golden brown in color; 20 to 25 minutes. The darker you go (without burning it of course) the crunchier the outside with be; so don’t be afraid to push it to its limit.
  • After that…drizzle with the sweetened condensed milk, followed by the whipping cream.

  • Return to the oven, and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, just until the edges start bubble, the phyllo has soaked in most of the milk/cream mixture and is no longer soupy.

And there she is!  Our warm beauty, dressed in a pleated dressed, accessorized with a light coating of cinnamon, a side of nuts, awaiting to be devoured.

 

Mesh Om Ali (Phyllo Milk Pie)

Pleated sheets of phyllo dough, soaked and flavored with a luscious combination of sweetened condensed milk and cream, topped with puffs of ground cinnamon and a sprinkle of nuts.  Crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside…simply one of the best easy desserts you will ever make!

Prep Time 10 minutes

Cook Time 30 minutes

Additional Time 10 minutes

Total Time 50 minutes

Ingredients

For the Milk Pie:

  • 1 (500g) package phyllo sheets, thawed*
  • 3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, melted*
  • 1 (14oz/ 397g) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups (500ml) whipping cream (heavy cream)*

For Serving:

  • Ground cinnamon, for dusting on top (optional but recommended)
  • Nuts of your choice (optional)*

Instructions

To prepare the phyllo milk pie:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 200C/390F.
  2. Brush some of the melted butter all over the bottom and sides of a large baking dish. The dish should be about the same length as your phyllo and wide enough not keep the phyllo relaxed (I used an 11″X15″/ 28cmX38cm rectangular dish). Set aside.
  3. Working with one sheet of phyllo at a time, with the long side facing you, gather up the sheet and scrunch it into a loose fan-like strip. Don’t worry about folding it into perfect pleats or if it tears; it’s meant to look messy and voluminous, so that it properly fills up the dish.
  4. Transfer the scrunched phyllo sheet to one side of the buttered dish. Repeat with the remaining phyllo sheets, arranging them one next to the other.
  5. Brush the remaining melted butter all over and in between the scrunched phyllo. Get the brush into the nooks and crannies of the phyllo, making sure that all the sheets are evenly coated throughout with the butter.
  6. Transfer the dish to the oven, and bake until the phyllo turns deep golden brown in color; 20 to 25 minutes. The darker you go (without burning it of course) the crunchier the outside with be; so don’t be afraid to push it to its limit.
  7. Take the dish out of the oven, and drizzle the surface with the sweetened condensed milk, followed by the whipping cream; the mixture will hiss and sizzle.
  8. Transfer the dish back to the oven and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, just until the edges start bubble, the phyllo has soaked in most of the milk/cream mixture and is no longer soupy.

To finish the dish:

  1. Sprinkle the surface with a light dusting of ground cinnamon and nuts (if desired). Allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes, then serve right away, hot or at warm room temperature.
  2. While its best served warm, leftovers are still pretty good enjoyed at room temperature; just a different experience from its warm self. Do not reheat cooled portions in the microwave, as it causes the cream to separate. Store leftovers, covered tightly in plastic wrap or in an airtight container in the fridge.

Recipe Notes

  1. Make sure that the phyllo is fully thawed before using. Leave it in the refrigerator overnight or on the countertop for four to five hours. Do NOT microwave. Always keep the phyllo well covered until right before using.
  2. Melted butter may be substituted with clarified butter or ghee. If using butter, be sure to give it an occasional stir with the brush as you’re working with it, to evenly distribute the milk solids with the fat.
  3. For a lighter option 😂🙈, you may use a combination of 1 cup whipping cream and 1 cup milk (or half ‘n half) instead of the 2 cups whipping cream called for in the recipe. We personally prefer the richness of all whipping cream.
  4. I usually either omit the nuts or serve them on the side (I have some serious nuts-in-dessert-haters in my house), but I liked the way they looked in the pictures. I used pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds, raisins and unsweetened shredded coconut. Amount is according to personal preference.
  5. To make ahead: You have 2 options; 1) Place the scrunched phyllo in the buttered pan, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature (if baking within a few hours) or up to a day in the fridge. Forty minutes before you plan to serve it, proceed with step 5. 2) Alternatively, you can make the recipe up until step 6, and set aside to cool. About 30 minutes before you plan to serve it, heat together the condensed milk and cream until hot and thoroughly combined. Pour over the hot milk mixture over the the baked phyllo, then bake until set and bubbling, about 10 to15 minutes.

Recipe from https://cleobuttera.com/middle-eastern/mesh-om-ali-phyllo-milk-pie/