Lenten Recipes: Capirotada

To say there is a definitive version of the dish capirotada would be to blatantly lie. There are as many variations of this lenten sweet bread pudding as there are ingredients in it. Ingredients such as buttered toasted bread, brown sugar syrup, dried fruits, garlic, onions, cilantro and tomato…. Wait, what? Yes, and all topped with grated salty cheese.

These recipes, combining savory and sweet ingredients in a bread pudding go back to very early versions of the dish, 4th century or so, where day old bread was softened with stock, honey combined with meats and baked. In Mexico, the native tomato was added, as well as day old corn tortillas.

Early in the 20th century, the dish took on a sweeter characteristic, yet it seems as if some regions of Mexico forgot to remove some of the more savory ingredients. I recommend you do, unless you really like your desserts to end with the delightful taste of white onions.

capirotada
Capirotada.

 

 

 

Capirotada is consumed on Fridays during Lent, the toasted sweet bread a consolation price for missing out on beef for the day. There is however, no reason to leave this dessert for just those Lenten Fridays. This particular recipe gets rid of the typical layered look of the dish for a more jumbled tossed together appearance. There is nothing more disappointing than scooping out a hefty portion of capirotada and finding a large gap in the middle,  created by the curved shape of the bread slices. The ingredients are tossed in the syrup, rather than drizzled on top while layering, so the syrup is more evenly soaked in, rather than accumulating at the bottom.

Capirotada

  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

  • 500 g (2 1/2 cup packed) brown sugar, or 3 piloncillo cones
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 stick Mexican cinnamon
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 or 2 cloves
  • 5 ot 6 bolillos, or 1 baguette, day old
  • 1 ripe plantain
  • Approx. 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 each: raisins, golden raisins, diced prunes, diced dry figs, chopped roasted almonds
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • Parchment paper, as needed

Place the brown sugar, spices and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook at a strong simmer until a light syrup consistency is achieved. Test swiping a clean finger across the back of a spoon dipped into the syrup; there should be no drip across this line.

Cut the bread into 1/2″ slices. Place on parchment paper lined or nonstick baking sheets and brush with softened butter. Bake at 400ºF until golden. When cool enough to handle, brush the underside with more butter.

Cut the ends of the plantain and score the skin lengthwise to aid in peeling. Cut into thick rounds, then cut into half rounds. Heat the canola oil with a large dollop of butter until foaming. Cook the plantains for a minute or two on each side, or until they are lightly golden. Remove from the heat.

Tear the bread into large chunks and place in a large bowl along with the dried fruits and nuts. Toss together to combine. When the syrup is ready, strain 2/3 of the syrup over the bread mixture. Mix well, adding syrup if it appears too dry. Mix very well. Reserve any remaining syrup for garnishing.

Lightly oil the bottom of a large baking dish and line with parchment paper. Butter the paper and all sides well. Pour the bread mixture into the dish, pressing down slightly if needed. Top with the fried plantains. Bake at 400ºF for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the bread begins to crisp again.

Serve warm with a drizzle of the brown sugar syrup and sweetened condensed milk, if desired.

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