February 15, 2008

Capirotada (Mexican Bread Pudding)

Happy Valentine’s Day.
Capirotada is what we had last night for dessert. Some credit for this dessert has to go to Sunita because she set me off looking for something different to make using star anise. I was gifted a bottle of this sometime back and have used it only to make biryani, so far. I found a few unusual recipes with star anise but Capirotada caught my fancy. It has an exotic name and then the recipe had so many flavors in it that it seemed impossible they could all complement each other in one dish.
Capirotada is a bread pudding that is common in Mexico and traditionally eaten during Lent. It is made of layers of toasted bread soaked in syrup and with raisins, peanuts, fruit (banana and/ or apple)) and cheese. The syrup is made from water to which a Mexican brown sugar called Piloncillo and spices like cinnamon, cloves, star anise, etc have been added.
Apparently, there are as many variations of this pudding as there are people who make it! What is constant in every Capirotada recipe is a bread base with a spice infused sweet syrup, fruit, nuts and lots of cheese. A salty cheese, and in a large quantity, would seem to be an odd thing to add to a dessert. But there are versions which have onions and tomatoes, too!!

Here’s my version and an Indian edition of Capirotada.

1 medium loaf of day-old sliced bread
(usually bread rolls called “bollillos” are used)
3 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp
4 ½ cups water
1 ¾ cups jaggery (instead of pilonchillo/ brown sugar)
2 sticks of cinnamon
4 cloves
3 star anise
2 cups grated mild cheddar cheese
½ cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
¼ cup slivered blanched almonds
½ cup raisins
2 medium sized bananas, thinly sliced
(you can use thin apple slices as well, proportionately reducing the banana)

If using sliced bread (as I did), remove crusts and butter the slices on one side. Cut each slice into two and place on a cookie sheet (or two sheets) with buttered side facing up. Bake at 180C for 10 -15 minutes till golden brown. I pulsed the peanuts and almonds, separately, in my mixer/ blender jar to just crush them. Otherwise chop them up into pieces.
I used jaggery here as it seems similar to pilonchillo. I also like the flavor that jaggery lends to sweet dishes.
Put the jaggery and water in a pan, stir, and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, add the cinnamon, cloves and star anise and simmer for about 20 minutes, uncovered. Turn off the heat and allow to cool. The flavours of the spices would have infused into the syrup. Remove the whole spices.

Grease a deep pie dish with ½ tbsp butter (I used my 6” by 6” by 2 ½ “cake tin).
Keep aside about 2 tbsp of the peanuts and ¼ cup grated cheese.
Spread one third of the bread to cover the bottom of the pie dish. Sprinkle half of the remaining peanuts and half of the almonds over this. Now layer half the sliced banana and then half of the remaining cheese over this. Now pour 1 cup of the syrup all over this so that the bread can soak it up.
Repeat this process with another one third the bread, remaining peanuts, almonds, sliced bananas, grated cheese and another 1 cup of syrup.
Now arrange the last one third of the bread pieces. Sprinkle the grated cheese and peanuts that was initially kept aside. Pour the last 1 cup of syrup over this and dot with remaining ½ tbsp butter.
Cover with aluminium foil and bake at 180C for about 25 minutes. Allow to cool for about ½ hour or longer.
Serve warm or cold. This recipe makes 6 portions.

This pudding tastes somewhat like an apple pie in a bread pudding. The flavors of the spice infused syrup were interesting and unusual and there was only a hint of the presence of the cheese.
My daughter wouldn’t go anywhere near it after the first mouthful!
My husband was away on work, again, and managed to make it home just in time for dinner and dessert, which is his favorite part of any meal. He and I liked our dessert and I would definitely be making this again. We also felt that the Capirotada tasted better after being refrigerated (than warm) and the flavours came out better the next day.
So this is being sent across to Sunita for this month’s Think spice, Think Star Anise. Check this link for some more info and a nice write up on Capirotada.
Updated (21st May, 2008):
DK of Culinary Bazaar has been kind enough to include this bread pudding to her A.W.E.D. -Viva Mexicana event which is a collection of Mexican recipes.

Here is the lovely rose Rosie sent me for Valentine's Day. Thank you , Rosie.


Nags said...

wow! its really awesome that you tried out something so new :)

sra said...

Peanuts in bread pudding, now that's really unusual. Think this is on my to-make list.

Asha said...

Beautiful dessert for your Valentine!Hope you enjoyed it!:)

Happy cook said...

Wonderfull dessert. And a excelent way of using the star anise

Rachel said...

neat use of star anise....

bee said...

love bread puddings, and this one's unique. thanks for the recipe.

Uma said...

lovely pudding! I have to try this!

DEEPA said...

wow!!!nice one ....it is very yummy ....

Miri said...

That looks very interesting and very brave of you to try it - glad it turned out to be something you liked!

Sagari said...

beautifullll pic and unique recipe aparna

sunita said...

Aparna, thanks for this beautiful pudding.

Mike of Mike's Table said...

I love bread pudding--there are so many great things you can do with it and this is a fantastic testament to that. I'd never heard of Capirotada, but I'll have to try it out!

Mansi Desai said...

we make bread pudding a lot; I generally add berries and chocolate, never tried a spiced version, but your recipe has inspired me Aparna! nicely done girl:)

Anonymous said...

My Mom used to make it every year when I was a kid to eat during Easter. The only thing different she would do was to add almond slivers instead of peanuts, which I find preferrable. Maybe it's because I grew up on her style so I'm a bit biased.

Lydia said...

I grew up on Capirotada and the receipe I have is from my grandmother. She used walnuts,raisens and long horn cheese. We always had it for Easter and only Easter. My Dad is noe 85yrs. old and I will be making it for him this Easter. He's pretty excited to know that I know how to make it.