Capirotada

Capiro-Mattbites-Bon-Appetit

Growing up there were just some things that this little pudgy boy would not eat. High on the short list of food items, along with sour cream and avocados, was this recipe called Capirotada. No matter how hard they tried I just wouldn’t move past the strange blend of ingredients that went into this Mexican bread pudding.

Now it’s the only thing I want to eat.

Capirotada is a Mexican bread pudding that’s normally served during Lent. Because of this it has always featured any ingredients that were on hand and someone on the humble side of desserts — a tad bit plain and not too sweet. And like most recipes coming from a country as diverse as Mexico, it’s also infinitely adaptable. It’s hard to find the same recipe for Capirotada when you begin to look around and speak with Mexican cooks.

There are a few things you can count on with Capirotada. It’s made with leftover stale bread, most often in the form of Bolillos, those small loaves you’ll find in panaderias and markets. It always always has cinnamon and spices and its sweetness comes in the form of piloncillo, the pylon-shaped cones of unrefined solid cane sugar. Some add peanuts and dried fruit as well. After this point Capirotada takes the most interesting turn and one that I just couldn’t wrap my head around as a child: cheese. Flavorful, sharp cheese, that is. Some folks even add tomatoes and onions and pepper to their bread pudding which adds a totally new dimension, but even now I just can’t seem to enjoy making it too savory.

Piloncillo-stacks

I’ll be the first to admit that sweet, cinnamony bread pudding with cheddar cheese or manchego sounds odd, and I suppose it could be. But to me it’s no more odd than adding cream cheese to frosting and cheese cake or a slice of cheddar on top of apple pie as the same principles are at work. The slight saltiness and the tangy hint of cheese become tempered by the sugar and the contrast becomes something absolutely delicious. It’s not unusual for me to make a few batches of this around the holidays, but this year I wanted to do something a bit different. Because traditional Capirotadas use a sugar syrup made with water as the base I began to wonder what it might be like to recreate it with a custard base, similar to other bread puddings. It made this simple dessert a bit more of a holiday affair. And when I say holiday affair I mean it’s a perfectly acceptable time to add more fat in the form of heavy cream and eggs to just about everything and not feel a tinge of guilt. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself!

Bread pudding is so homey in nature, the antithesis of a fancy dessert. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t tried dressing it up. Have you met me? Hello! After letting my dessert set for a bit after baking I’ll take a ring cookie cutter to create round servings of bread pudding and then drizzle dulce de leche on top because really, isn’t everything better with caramel over it?

Capirotada Bread Pudding

Capiro-small
If there’s a Latin market nearby you’re in luck. You’ll be able to find Piloncillos, the cone-shaped sugar that is universal to this dish. If not you can always use brown sugar in its place. And almost any bread works although bolillos are very close to small French bread loaves. You’ll want to make sure they’re stale or else you’ll end up with a different texture — very soft and uniform bread pudding which actually ain’t half that bad when you think about it. It’s all about preference. And feel free to experiment with the spices as you may want more cinnamon, less raisins, a bit more cheese, even a clove or two, whatever. The beauty of this recipe is that it’s exceptionally forgiving.

Ingredients:
4 bolillos or 1 loaf of french bread
3/4 cup raisins
4 sticks of cinnamon
3 star anise
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
4 piloncillos (use 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar if piloncillos aren’t available)
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups of cream or half and half

Method
In a saucepan add water, the piloncillos, cinnamon and star anise. Heat until the liquid simmers and cover until the sugar has dissolved, about 10-15 minutes. Once the sugar has dissolved completely, strain the syrup, discard the cinnamon and anise and let cool completely.

In a mixing bowl beat 4 eggs and add the cream. Slowly add the cooled sugar syrup, a little bit at a time, mixing well. Once fully mixed pour the egg & sugar mixture over torn pieces of bolillos in a large bowl, making sure that each piece of bread is covered with liquid. Depending on the staleness of your bread you’ll want to let it set for a few minutes to fully absorb the liquid.

Once absorbed, add the raisins and half of the cheddar cheese and toss to mix all ingredients. Again, if your bread isn’t stale be careful not to break the chunks up too much as you want pieces to comprise the pudding and not a bread mush. Add the mixture evenly to a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese on top. Bake at 350˚F for 30-40 minutes or until the eggs have set and the top begins to brown. I check for doneness by touching the top; it should be a tiny bit crusty and not so spongey.

Let cool and then serve. It’s great with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, dulce de leche, more cheddar cheese, ice cream, whipped cream, nutmeg, whatever. But not all at the same time. Or maybe if you’re all indulgent like that. Don’t look at me.

Comments

  1. says

    I am now fixated with getting my hands on piloncillos (and trying this recipe out). I love your opening image!

  2. Denise says

    I grew up with this staple (during Lent of course) and my Gram would make this with similar ingredients as you’ve mentioned, French Bread, raisins, peanuts and of course cheese, Jack Cheese. I don’t know if she made it with piloncillos though, she always said it was syrup, so I assumed Aunt Jemima! LOL! I hope someone in the family knows (our Gram left us July 4, 2007) but if not, I will give your recipe a try and cross my fingers it is close to hers. We have a huge family and she would make hers in a turkey roaster though – I can’t imagine her using a tiny casserole dish for all of us, lol! Thank you for the memories! :)

  3. says

    Hi Matt!

    How diverse and awesome is the Mexican cuisine!
    I’ll have to try it, looks phenomenal.
    By the way, with dulce de leche turns totally heavenly :)

    Gera .:. sweetsfoods

  4. says

    Lived on the Mexico border in SoCal and capirotada seemed like it was popular during Christmas more than Lent. I love the addition of cheese in it- and you’re right… try this dish from five cooks and you’ll have a very different capirotada each time!

  5. says

    ooo you make me drooling here Matt :)

    btw, do you think piloncillos can be subsituted by Javanese sugar?
    Javanese sugar is made from palmyra palm and the color is darker than piloncillos)

  6. says

    Wow, that looks good! I even have some of those cones just asking to get used for something!! It kind of reminds me of some delicious phillipino rolls that someone brought into work with the orange cheddar on top and a sweet filling.

  7. says

    Matt, this sounds incredible!!
    And, such delicious photos, too!!!

    I am going to have to make this in petite ramekins so I can try it with multiple cheeses, including cheddar and manchego, as well some milder fresh cheeses. You have my imagination racing with this one, Matt!
    Thank you!!!

    And, I love those dark sugar cones… With caramel on top! ;)

    Cheers,

    ~ Paula
    (of Ambrosia Quest)

  8. says

    my dad grew up in Oklahoma and one of the best desserts he ever gave me was cinnamon toast with American cheese on top! I don’t know why the combination was so intoxicating, but it completely worked! I’m very interested in this recipe, it reminds me of my daddy! :D

  9. says

    I have seen piloncillos on the shelf at my grocery store and never knew what it was of how to use it. Thanks for the recipe so I now have a reason to buy it.

  10. says

    I have never heard of this before! It does sound a little odd, and I can see why growing up you wouldn’t eat it.. I did like regular bread pudding either.

    Great photos as usual mate.

  11. says

    The salty sweet combo is perfect- surprisngly addictive, like poco dolce filled dark chocolates sprinkled with sea salt made in sf, manchego and membrillo, or peanut butter and chocolate.
    I’ve had piloncillos in my cabinet for, umm… three to ____ years, hoping that a recipe would just pop up to inspire me. I’ll be using them soon now. That is, how long would you estimate they last?

  12. says

    Hola Matt!

    First time reading your blog, but promise won’t be the last one!. I love it, the recipes, (of course) the design, those amazing pictures, and your witring. Eres un encanto!.But no worries, I’m not stalking you (even if it sounded like that)is just you are inspiring!

    Ah, finally, adoro the piloncillo’s picture! Lo que nunca he adorado is capirotada, is one of those things my mom used to do to us too but we never ate it.

  13. Diane says

    I love savory/sweet combinations. This looks yummy.

    I wonder – can you use jaggery instead of piloncillo? I have that around, and it’s essentially the same thing but from India – solidified cane juice. If so, would it also be the same amount as brown sugar – 1.5 cups?

  14. LILLY says

    MATT!!! I love your blog!! Como estas corazon! Espero que vengas a Orlando, remember Arroz con pollo!!!! Cuidate!!

    Love,

    Lilly

  15. says

    I adore this dish! Used to teach it to kids in my “cooking around the world” classes. SO fun. Cheddar is an interesting addition. Congrats on the award. I’m linking to you from my little food blog in Portland, OR

  16. Jenn says

    I also had this all my life. I also dressed it up to suit my sweet palate (used cajeta). Matt are you my brother? I love capi as my tia called it. We even have it in the hospital cafeteria in Lent.
    I definitely will be looking more into your web site. Thanks

  17. NenisQ says

    Hola me ha encantado tu blog.
    En cuanto a esta receta te sugiero que añadas cacahuatesasi como pones las pasas de uva, pon cacahuates, la rectea de mi abuela es muy antigua y lleva cacahuates y coco rallado intentalo y veras que queda muy sabroso.

    un saludo desde el ortro lado de la frontera!!

  18. Antonia says

    My mom always made Capirotada for Lent and as a kid I loved the way she made it. She got the recipe from grandma, and grandma got it from her Great grandma who helped raise her because her mother died when she was 7. My mom’s recipe was somewhat different, she used the dark raisins, walnuts – chopped, and Canela (Mexican Cinnamon sticks), Monterey Jack cheese (white), and no eggs, no cream.

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