Monday, March 19, 2012

Capirotada (Mexican Bread Pudding)

There are TONS of recipes for making Capirotada, every family, household, or individual seems to have a different style of making it, different ingredients they add, etc. BUT the element I've noticed present in ALL of them is SUGAR, CINNAMON, CLOVES, and sometype of cheese and of course hard toasted bread that sucks up the syrup and becomes tender, the rest can vary greatly. It is popular around Lent for Catholic Mexicans, and well whoever grew up with this dish.

This is my grandmother's recipe (from my mother's side her name is Leonor) her and her family are from Guadalajara (Jalisco), Mexico, and of Spanish descent. This recipe is my grandmother's grandmother's recipe so it's probably been in my family since 1800's, over time the addition of condensed milk is my mother's idea, and she uses it to replace part of the sugar in the recipe and for extra richness, my grandmother uses evaporated milk in place of the heavy cream because it is almost always stocked in our pantry, but I'm sure in the old day's it was heavy cream :)

I noticed a lot of people use a simple syrup with just piloncillo, water, cinnamon and cloves, it's a dark watery syrup, that the bread is soaked in, but my families way of making it we always add whole milk, and cream and such making it more decadent and giving it more body... we layer it with a fresh tender cows milk cheese called "Queso Fresco" the variety we use is very tender for this dish, it also includes in between the layers ripe plantains, pecans, and raisins.

For some using cheese in a dessert may sound weird, but it's really common, Cubans pair Gouda or other types of white cheeses with sweet fruit compotes, marmalade's, and fruit pastes, in Spain a fresh cheese called "mato" is paired with honey and walnuts and called "mato y mel", or I've seen french cheese platters with raisin type bread, fresh fruit, etc. so it's not really an odd concept, at least not to me and many others. HOWEVER ...

and it is a BIG HOWEVER there's one thing that even left me saying what the &*#$ when I was learning to make this... my grandmother adds a piece of onion, and fresh tomato that she later strains out pf the syrup, I mean well I know they both have some sugars/ sweet components to them, but it is odd, trust me though they don't over power the dish AT ALL, they add a very subtle flavor but it doesn't taste like tomato or onion just adds a special note, I know it sounds weird but give it a try, and if it really freaks you out, I'm sure you can leave it out and still get a delicious result. I really thought my grandma had lost her bonkers but I googled around and found some recipes include the onion and tomato in their syrup and it works.

Main Ingredients:

-1 1/2 lbs french bread or bolillo bread or "birote"
-about 1 cup pecans (more or less as needed you'll see later)
-2 large plantains (frying bananas)
-raisins about 1 cup (depends how much you want)
-1/2 lb. fresh cows milk cheese/ "Queso Fresco" (a type of fresh soft cows milk cheese)
-butter (to grease baking dish)
-corn tortillas (as needed to line up baking dish or vessel)

Ingredients for syrup:
-1 liter/ 4 cups whole milk
-2 14 oz. cans of evaporated milk or heavy cream (about 4 cups if using heavy cream)
-2 14 oz cans of water (use the evaporated milk to measure it out)
-1 can of sweetened condensed milk (optional replace it with 1 large cone of piloncillo or 1 cup dark brown sugar if you don't have it or want to use it)
-2 large cones of "Piloncillo" (cones of unrefined solid cane sugar, you can use dark brown sugar if you don't have it, the equivalent of 2 cups to replace it)
-3 cinnamon sticks
-4 cloves
-1/2 onion chopped into big chunks
-1 large tomato cut into chunks

(1) Mix all syrup ingredients (milk, evaporated milk, water, 1/2 onion, tomato, cinnamon, cloves, and piloncillo along with condensed milk if using) in a large pot, stir occasionally and bring to a boil (takes awhile to get there) , lower heat to low and allow to simmer uncovered for 5- 10 minutes, turn off heat.

(2) Meanwhile, get several deep- baking dishes, we used 1 large one, one medium one, and 1 small one (we just kept layering and making until we ran out of syrup, my grandmother didn't really measure it was all approximated). Get the baking dishes you are using, and brush heavily all over with melted butter (put ALOT!) and line it with corn tortillas, including the edges (you'll have to cut some in half) that way line the sides with it.
(3) Now that you have your dishes/ mold/ vessel ready (greased and with a layer of corn tortillas) add 1 layer of the toasted hard bread, grab the syrup mixture and ladel it with a strainer over the bread slices, so you don't get any of the solids in the syrup, ladel it little by little over bread NOT all of it, just moisten the bread slightly.

(4) Springle with raisins, pecans, fresh cheese crumbled, and plantain slices. Add another layer of bread and ladel some of the syrup over it with a st, and sprinkle again with raisins, pecans, fresh cheese, plantain slices, and finally add the the other layer and sprinkle with the raisins, fresh cheese, plantain slices, etc. ladel syrup again

Basically you are making layers, the amount of layers you have depends on how deep your vessel/ dish is.
(5) When your done with all your layers, and stuff, the remaining syrup ladel it over your bread pudding dishes MAKING sure to strain it (you don't want to bite into a clove, or piece of cinnamon or worse a tomato or onion... lol.)

(6) Bake covered in an oven for 40 minutes, at 350 degrees, then uncover and allow to bake an additional 10 minutes.
Turn off heat, remove and allow to cool down.

(1) The bread we used was already hard, it was already toasted, fried, etc. during this time of the year you find it in any of the Mexican/ Latin groceries stores here in LA/ Southern California. They sell 1 lbs. bags, if you don't live in an area where it is readily available, simply buy a large loaf of good french bread, slice it into thick pieces, and let it stay out over night so it turns hard and stale, then toast in a pan by frying all sides with some oil. or rub it with butter and bake it. It makes for more work though...

(2) This can be done on stove top, use a deep thick pot, make your layers, cover over high heat, then lower heat to very low and leave it 20- 25 minutes, then remove from heat and let it rest. This is usually done in a clay pot. I used an oven. Originally my grandma said her family would make it in large clay pots over a fire outdoors, with a large heavy comal (type of griddle) over it with a wood fire happening on it it would heat the top and bottom. I have no clue how to do it like that though...

(3) This makes a pretty large amount feel free to cut the recipe in 1/2, it's not really a recipe that needs measuring to be honest, like you taste the syrup if you want it sweeter well you add more sugar, etc. the raisins, pecans, cheese, plantain you add as much or as little as you like, if you don't like some of them well omit it.