If you are into salty,sweet, soft, crunchy, spongy mixed all together with a dash of spice, this is for you. Yes, this concoction sounds really weird, but it is an explosion of flavors in your mouth. According to some books, this recipe is a long-lost relative to one served in the Middle Ages. Even thought I prefer to think that a very savvy woman seeing the approach of lent decided to make a good use of what she has leftover in the kitchen before the fasting days of Lent, and then Capirotada was created. Just picture her looking at the dry pieces of bread. Wondering what to do to make a good use of it. Searching into her baskets for anything else to add. There she found a dry piece of salty cheese and some raisins. But still the bread was 2 days old, well add some water to soften it, and since water is just too plain, then sweeten the water the only way they knew, with piloncillo. And what goes great with piloncillo? Cinnamon and clove! Shall we add it? Of course! And what about those peanuts over the top shelf? That sounds like a great idea, let’s add them too. And Viola! Let’s call it “Capirotada”.
The true is that I don’t care what they called, as long as you let me have the a huge portion on my dish.
I wonder how many times you find yourself in the same situation, looking at your freezer with the door wide open. Thinking what to do with that lonely package of meat or chicken, then searching in your vegetables drawers and the spice’s jars asking yourself what to do with it. Then after and hour or so you have created a dish that now is your family favorite. Has that ever happened to you? If so, let me know if the comments/ I would love to hear about it.
And now to the recipe which is a basic one, see notes below for substitutions and other additions.
12 Ounces ( About 1 1/4 cup) of piloncillo or dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cup of water
1 stick of cinnamon
3 Tablespoons of melted butter
3 Tablespoons of vegetable oil
16 slices 1/3” thick of Bolillo or French bread at least 2 days old
3/4 cup of Cotija Cheese
1/4 cup of roasted peanut
1/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons of butter cut in small cubes
Notes on some variations to this recipe:
- Traditionally the bread is first fried instead of toasted in the oven. Choose the method that better fit your taste.
- Italian or French bread can be used even challah bread. In Northern Mexico even toasted corn tortillas are added.
_ Some cooks also add anise seed to the syrup, if you would like to do so 1/4 teaspoon will be fine for this amount of bread.
- Fruits are also found in some recipes, the most common are fried plantain, bananas and apples.
- Tomatoes and onion is also common in some of the syrup recipes
- Prunes, cranberries, or other dried fruit are also used instead of the raisins, even shredded coconut.
_ The same applies to the peanuts, any other nuts like almonds, pecans, walnuts, pine nuts are used.
- Other cheeses used as substitute are Mexican Manchego, Monterrey Jack and Mild White Cheddar and even parmesan mixed with Mexican Queso Fresco.
1.Preheat oven at 350F. In a medium size pot place the Piloncillo, cinnamon stick, cloves and water. Place in the stove and melt in a medium heat.( If you have a hard time cutting the piloncillo for the amount needed, place it in your microwave for intervals of 30 seconds until it is soften enough to cut. Be careful while removing it out of the microwave since it gets extremely hot.)
2. Mix the melted butter with the oil and brush over the slices of bread. Place in a baking tray and bake 8 minutes and then turn over to bake 5 more minutes. The bread should have a deep golden color.
3. Start assembling the slices of bread in an round oven proof dish. With the help of a ladle slowly pour syrup over the bread making sure the bread absorbs the syrup, do not let it go to the bottom of the dish in order to have enough syrup to moist all the bread pieces. Better yet dip the bread into the syrup to get and even moist crumb.
4. Top the first layer of bread with cheese, raisins and peanut or any other fruit or nuts you would like to add according to the suggestions given above or your own.
5. Place another layer or bread and continue the process as in step 4.
6. Pour the remaining syrup over the last layer of bread and top with the cheese, raisings and peanut. Dot with the 2 tablespoons of butter cut in small cubes. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in your preheated oven for 45 minutes until the top crust is golden and the lower layers are moist. Serve warm or cold.