April 1, 2012

Easy capirotada

Capirotada is a really sweet Mexican bread pudding - a little-of-this, little-of-that sort of dish - that's traditionally served during Lent.

And realizing that it's about to be Easter, I decided to make a batch.

The religious connections aren't super clear for me. I've read that the ingredients used in capirotada are symbolic, calling to mind the Passion story. Others suggest that the cheese mixed into the pudding helps  fortify faithful Catholics who are abstaining from meat.

I'll be honest. Although Lent is when my grandmother usually made capirotada, I associate the dessert with something else entirely:

My husband and I went to graduate school in London where we found that our bread lasted only a few days before it went stale. Lacking the foresight to buy half-loaves (Which were readily available, by the way - we were silly.), and reluctant to waste food, we were often scrambling to use up a bunch of bread in a hurry.

So I called home, asked for the capirotada recipe and copied it into a notebook I was carrying around at the time. (That I still have!)

We ate it at least every couple of weeks.

While there doesn't seem to be a definitive capirotada recipe, I should tell you that mine definitely strays from what's considered traditional.

For one thing, most recipes call for French bread or bolillos, not stale sandwich bread. Then again, French bread doesn't bring back memories of younger, more frugal days. So I say, use what you have. It'll be fine.

You'll need:
8 slices of bread, toasted
2 cups water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup regular, granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup grated cheese (I realize cheese might be kind of a leap of faith here. Take it. I used a cheddar/jack blend most recently, but again, use what you have).
1 cup fruit (Raisins are traditional, but I can't stand them. I used diced apples this time because there were apples in our CSA box, but lots of fruits will work well. I've used dried apricots and canned peaches in the past. Given the cinnamon and nutmeg, I bet grated carrots would be really good).
4 tablespoons butter/margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Step 1: Cut your bread into 1- to 2-inch chunks. Mix with fruit and cheese, then pour into a Dutch oven or casserole and set aside.

Step 2: Stir sugar, spices, flour, salt and butter into the water. Pour into a saucepan and boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. When syrup has thickened, stir in vanilla extract.

Step 3: Pour syrup over the bread mixture, and bake for about 25 minutes.

That's it. (P.S. This is good right out of the oven, but I prefer capirotada after it's been in the refrigerator overnight).
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