Aish El Saraya is one of my go-to no-bake desserts. It's basically a Middle Eastern bread pudding, different from Umm Ali, and can be whipped up in no time with simple ingredients you probably already have at home like bread, cream, milk, and sugar. The bread soaks up a homemade floral sugar syrup and is then topped with fresh, homemade ashta cream. It's garnished with nuts (usually pistachios), and refrigerated. That's basically it! You're gonna love how easy this is to make.
This dessert is always a hit whenever I make it, and I remember loving it since I was a kid. For a sweet treat that requires almost no effort, it's a beautiful mix of textures that will keep you coming back for more.
What I Love About This Recipe
This Aish El Saraya is simple, easy, and absolutely delicious. It's also easy to customize to your own taste (see below for variations and substitutions). I just love the combination of the sweet, soft, soaked bread, with the creamy ashta custardy filling, and the crunchy pistachios on top.
- White bread: It's very common to use stale bread for this recipe, as it soaks up the syrup very well. But you can use any soft, sliced white toast or sandwich bread. If the bread is thin, you might need to double layer it.
- Ashta cream: You can find this at your local Middle Eastern pastry shop, or you can make this easy homemade ashta cream with a few simple ingredients.
- Sugar: To make the sweet syrup you'll soak the bread in.
- Orange Blossom Water: Optional, but this ingredient gives a delicious floral note to the sugar syrup. You can also use vanilla extract or vanilla bean instead.
- Rosewater: Also optional, but rosewater goes amazing with orange blossom water in the sweet sugar syrup.
- Fresh lemon juice: Always use fresh lemon juice, and not the fake-tasting store-bought kind. It will help thicken your syrup and intensify the flavor.
- Nuts: I like topping my Aish El Saraya with crushed pistachios, but you can also use cashews, almonds, pine nuts, or walnuts.
How To Make Aish El Saraya
Make your sugar syrup by mixing the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a small pot on the stove (medium-high heat). Bring to a boil, stirring until it thickens, then add in your rosewater and orange blossom water. Set aside to cool.
Either use store-bought ashta cream or homemade ashta cream.
If making homemade ashta cream, whisk together the milk, cream, flour, and cornstarch in a small pot NOT on any heat. The flour and cornstarch need to be completely dissolved before the stove is turned on.
Turn the heat on medium-high, whisking constantly until it starts to thicken and boil. Once the ashta thickens, whisk for 30 seconds more. Set the homemade ashta cream aside to cool.
Start layering. Cut the crusts off of your bread slices and place them at the bottom of the 9" x 13" serving dish. Pour the sugar syrup on top to allow the bread to soak it up.
Hint: If the bread is really thin and there is extra sugar syrup not soaking into the bread, add a second layer of bread.
Spread the ashta cream onto the sweetened bread layer and top with crushed pistachios. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight to allow the layers to set.
Substitutions And Variations
Make it gluten-free. Swap the white bread for your favorite gluten-free bread. Go for a soft, loaf-like bread instead of the chewier, seedy kinds.
Change up the flavors. This bread pudding is super easy to customize. Here are some ideas:
- Cinnamon Vanilla: Instead of adding rosewater and orange blossom water to your simple syrup, add a cinnamon stick and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. You can also sprinkle some cinnamon and walnuts on top of the Aish El Saraya.
- Lemon: Add a teaspoon and a half of lemon zest to your ashta cream for a citrus note.
- Strawberry: Add half a cup of puréed strawberries to your ashta cream. Top your Aish El Saraya with fresh strawberry slices and chopped pistachios.
Use rusks. I personally prefer a softer bread base, but if you want a slightly spongier, more cake-like bread base, use bread rusks instead. Or toast your bread in a hot oven until crispy.
Play around with the toppings. You can use any of your favorite chopped nuts to garnish this bread pudding, but don't be afraid to get creative with other toppings like chopped dried fruit, pan-fried bananas, candied cherries, chocolate shavings, or even a caramel drizzle.
Store this Aish Al Saraya in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. It doesn't freeze well. You can also just cover the serving dish with plastic wrap.
Use a 9" x 13" glass dish or baking dish. Prepare the simple sugar syrup in a small stovetop pot. Make the homemade ashta in a second stovetop pot with a whisk. Use a spatula to spread the homemade ashta cream. Crush the shelled pistachios using a food processor.
Traditionally, Aish El Saraya is served cold. You can put your own spin on it and serve it warm, though.
I recommend using stale bread for this recipe. It soaks up the syrup much better than fresh bread does. You can leave your bread out on your kitchen counter overnight or give it a quick toast in your oven or toaster to get that effect.