Some say Capirotada was invented as a way to use up leftovers before beginning the Lenten fast. For those of us who observe Lent, it is also a way to include protein in meals in form of cheese, since meat is forbidden during Holy week and Fridays leading up to Easter.
Every year, I look forward to eating capirotada for Lent. There really is no proclaimed authentic capirotada recipe that I know of. Every Mexican family has their own version, but there are a few staples that must be included—without stale bread, piloncillo syrup, and cheese, it just isn’t Mexican Capirotada. Many include tomatoes, onions and even tortillas, adding to its rich and delicious complexity.
I tend to make a capirotada at least once a year. But every time I assemble one, I substitute or add a different ingredient from the previous year’s recipe. This Lenten season, I added dried kiwi slices and strawberry juice-soaked cranberries I found at the farmer’s market.
Other variations and substitutions include:
- chopped bananas or apples
- chopped walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts
- grated orange or lemon peel
- For bolillos, substitute with day old French bread.
- For piloncillo, substitute packed dark brown sugar.
- Any mild melting cheese will do (monterrey jack, white cheddar)
You can’t go wrong with any of these ingredients. Capirotada is an easy, humble dessert anyone can prepare for Lent or spring.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 1/2 cup water
- 2 piloncillo cones
- 1 4-inch cinnamon stick
- 3 whole cloves
- 6 stale bolillos (about 9 cups), torn in 1/2- inch pieces
- 1 cup peanuts
- 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
- 1/2 Munster cheese, cut in in small cubes
- 1 can of pineapple chunks, drained
- 1 cup coconut, shredded
- 10 slices dried kiwi fruit
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries soaked in strawberry juice
- 10 dried white figs sliced
- 4 tablespoons of nonpareils (grajea)
- Heat oven to 350° F
- Butter a 9"x13" baking dish.
- In a medium saucepan, mix water, piloncillo, cinnamon and cloves. Bring to a boil, then simmer 5-10 minutes or until slightly thickened into a syrup. Strain to remove cinnamon sticks and cloves. Keep syrup warm.
- In the buttered casserole dish, layer 1/3 of the bread pieces. Sprinkle with 1/3 each of nuts, cheese, pineapple, coconut, dried kiwi, cranberries and figs. Drizzle about 1/4 or less of the syrup over this layer, letting it soak into the bread. Continue layering bread, nuts, pineapple, coconut and cheese, sprinkling each with syrup and letting it soak. Finish with a layer of cheese. Pour the rest of the syrup over the whole dish.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top layer of cheese is bubbling and browned. Serve warm. Garnish with nonpareils.
I was lucky enough to find already toasted bread chunks, but if you decide to toast your own, place separately under the broiler for 5 minutes or until browned. Remove from broiler and set aside.