Capirotada is a traditional dessert typically served during Lent season. If you do a search online, you will find that there are many different versions of this popular Latin dessert. Some like to add prunes, and peanuts, others prefer coconut and banana. The method of making it can also vary with each recipe but the general rule of thumb is this: The bread is first toasted then drenched in a sweet piloncillo and cinnamon water base. Everything else is up to you.
If you’ve ever asked a Latina Mama, “How’d you make that?” “Can I have the recipe?” you probably got the same answer everyone always hears. “I don’t know exactly because I just threw everything in there without measuring.” That is how I learned to cook. Through experimentation, smell, taste, texture, and a cucharada (spoonful) of this or that. No one in my family, or any Mexican family for that matter, measures and uses exact ingredients in one dish. It’s the truth, and I absolutely LOVE that style. I’m a visual person; always learning best through hands-on trial and error experiences. That’s why Spanglish Spoon is a step-by-step food blog.
So here’s the Spanglish Spoon take on a traditional Capirotada.
My first try making Capirotada was about a few weeks ago after my Mom, Nina, Grandpa and cousins face-timed me letting me know they were making it together.
Let me first remind you that I don’t live near them anymore. It takes me about an hour to get to their town.
When they called, I was in the middle of making dinner and one kiddo was already in the shower. My husband just got home from work and I wasn’t planning on going anywhere the rest of the night. You know how it is. I was done for the night. Then they called me (insert sad face here). I wanted to be there so badly that I thought about whether I should go or not for a good half an hour.
In the end I drove myself crazy to the point of not going because I couldn’t make up my mind and was left with the determination that this year I WILL make my own.
I’m not sure how my relatives would have liked my version of Capirotada since it’s not exactly like the one they make, but I loved mine! I loved it so much I made it again to measure everything so that I can share it here. Even then (after a second batch), I still wasn’t sure about the measurements because, like an old-school Latina cook, I didn’t measure anything the first time and had to guesstimate the second time. But it’s ok! Capirotada is a forgiving dessert. You don’t need to be exact!
Start by toasting some bread slices in the oven at 300 degrees for about 20 minutes each side. You want to make sure they are completely dried. We typically use a sweet bread like bolillo or french bread. Here I used about half of a large french baguette sliced into roughly 1/2″ slices (no more than 3/4″). Spread some melted butter over each slice.
In a 2-quart sauce pan boil together 3 1/2 cups water, 1 large piloncillo cone, 2 cinnamon sticks, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract until all the piloncillo has dissolved and the water has reduced by at least 1/3.
Turn off the heat and pour 1 cup half & half in. Mix with a spoon.
Capirotada is kinda like a lasagna. Everyone layers the ingredients differently. At first I was going to go with the layering method my Mom and Nina explained to me, but by the time it came to the layering step, half of it was backwards. I gave up and just went with my own method. My point is, don’t worry about being precise so much. I’ve learned that cooking is often more fun when we put our own ideas and flavors in it. Cooking should be personal, and enjoyable. Follow the basics but don’t be afraid to make it your own.
Pour the rest of the piloncillo and cinnamon milk over everything and add the rest of the shredded cheese. You might not use all the milk. As a matter of fact, if you have some of this milk leftover, save it and make yourself a cup of coffee to go with the capirotada and use the piloncillo and cinnamon milk as your creamer. It’s soooooo good!
Now here’s the difference between mine and everyone else’s Capirotada.
I don’t put it in the oven just yet. I found that if you let the bread soak in all the liquid, you’ll end up with an evenly soaked bread pudding. I personally like to have all the bread soaked and moist. Sometimes I like to have dry pieces in there as well, but sometimes, I want something different. So this batch had an all around moist (but not soggy) bread pudding consistency.
You can see the difference below. The first picture is ready for the oven without letting it soak. The second is the same Capirotada, except I allowed it to rest in the fridge for an entire day. Huge difference!
If you don’t want to wait a whole day, all you have to do is reduce the amount of liquid you use. I used almost three cups for this capirotada.
Cover with foil and bake in the oven (350 degrees) for 35 minutes. After 35 minutes, remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes depending on how crispy you want the cheese to get on top. I recommend checking it after 10 minutes. Mine came out a little too crispy on top for my taste, so definitely check it after 10 minutes. Maybe 8.
Trial and error, baby. Trial and error. 😉
Capirotada with chocolate, almonds, and dried fruit
- 1/2 pound large french baguette sliced into 1/2" thick slices
- 3 1/2 cups water
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 large piloncillo cone
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup half & half
- 1/2 stick butter melted
- 1 cup dried banana chips
- 3/4 cup dried cranberries
- 3/4 cup chocolate covered raisin or diced plums
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 2 cups Monterey Jack cheese shredded
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees
- Slice half of a large French baguette into 1/2 inch thick slices. Lay them flat evenly on a baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes.
- While the bread is toasting, in a 2 quart pot, bring the water, piloncillo, cinnamon, and vanilla extract to a low boil. Simmer until the liquid reduces by at least 1/3 (about 20 minutes). Turn off the burner, add the half and half.
- Check the bread slices and flip them over to bake the other side another 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove from the oven, set aside. Raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
- In a small bowl, melt the butter. Arrange half the bread slices inside a 8x8 baking dish in a single layer. Spread half the butter over the bread slices with a pastry brush. Then add half of each: dried banana chips, cranberries, chocolate covered fruit pieces and shredded cheese. Pour about a cup and a half of the piloncillo and cinnamon milk water over the bread and dried fruit, making sure to soak each slice. Repeat for the second layer.
- Cover with foil paper and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. After 35 minutes remove the foil. Bake another 15 minutes.
- Enjoy with an ice cold glass of milk, or a hot cup of coffee!