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Ashes. Ashes. We all fork down… on Capirotada! (Not “capri pants”. We’re talking wonderful food here.) For my non-Catholic readers, the first day of Lent is called Ash Wednesday. I’ll give you a summary of the day. We start by getting ashes put on our foreheads. Then there’s lots of praying – I’m talkin’ on-your-knees intense prayer fest. Some people will fast. (My husband says that he doesn’t do fasting. He prefers “slowing” instead). As a kid, we would have planned for months what we were giving up for Lent – chocolate, pizza, TV. It’s a very religious time, but for me, the good foodie that I am, I loved the food. People can get very creative in the kitchen during Lent. My favorite dish: Capirotada, or Mexican Bread Pudding.
There are variations of this dish. Capirotada is either made with a milk or water base. The recipe my mother’s Venegas family makes is with water which is how I’m making it here. We also make it on the stove in a pot. It’s not baked. My father’s Unzueta family makes a baked version of this dish using milk that I’ll post at a later time. The water base Capirotada, or Mexican Bread Pudding, is what I grew up with, and is super easy to make – easy peasy, never sleazy. You make the sweet syrup first using a full piloncillo stick. If you can’t find piloncillo, you can substitute with 1 cup of brown sugar and stir as it cooks.
During Lent, Mexican bakeries will sell sliced up bread just for Capirotada, or Mexican Bread Pudding. Typically, we use old bolillo. If you can’t find either, a cut up French Baguette works well too. (That’s “Oui! Oui!” instead of “Si! Si!”).
Last but not least are the toppings. My mom always put banana and nuts. To be festive, we add candy sprinkles. My favorite part of Capirotada, or Mexican Bread Pudding, is the cheese – probably cuz I’m a bit cheesey myself. 🙂 Pour the sweet syrup into the pan with the bread mixture and cook on very LOW heat. We normally eat Capirotada on Fridays when we don’t eat meat and only a light fish meal. Enjoy! Lent ahoy!
- 4 cups of water
- 1 stick piloncillo (or 1 cup of brown sugar)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star of anise
- 4 bolillos, cubed (or french bread)
- 1 banana, sliced
- ½ cup peanuts
- 1 lb Monterey Jack cheese
- 2 tablespoons candy decoration
- raisins (optional)
- shredded coconut (optional)
- In a pot, add the water, piloncillo, cinnamon stick, and star of anise.
- Bring to boil and let simmer for 5 minutes, or until everything is dissolved.
- In the meantime, get the other ingredients ready.
- In a large stockpot, add a layer of bread, bananas, nuts, and cheese.
- Keep layering until there are no remaining ingredients.
- Add the hot liquid to the pot.
- Place the pot on the stove top.
- Make sure it’s on LOW heat and cook for 5 minutes or until the liquid is completely absorbed.
- Turn off the stove and let sit for another 5 minutes before serving.