Capirotada: Sweet Indulgences

By Tessa Lemos

Lent is a period of reflection, sacrifice and getting closer to God. Like all other seasons, food is part of the mix. Over the years, to me, it has meant giving up some foods or fasting, but one food tradition has remained — one I can remember back to childhood: the indulgence of making capirotada, a delicious Mexican bread pudding.

Besides satisfying my sweet tooth, I loved working in the kitchen with my mother. She would bring out the simple, inexpensive ingredients and combine them in a way that always brought a smile to my face.

As a child, I loved the smell of the canela simmering on the stove and making a dark, simple syrup as the raisins plumped and danced around the cinnamon sticks floating in the pot. I’d stand above the pot inhaling the sweet steam.

To move me away from the oven, Mom would set up the toaster and give me a loaf of white bread to toast while the canela simmered and as she sliced the cheddar cheese — or in some instances, Velveeta. Once I finished toasting, I filled a plastick bag with walnuts and crushed them with Mom’s rolling pin. Each of the ingredients was placed in separate dishes before us so we could begin the layering process.

Together, we always made our layered dessert in a large Corningware dish. First, I lined the dish with a layer of toast. Then mom, added a layer of cheddar cheese. Next, I sprinkled the crushed walnuts. To complete the last layer, Mom ladled the raisins soaked in canela along with plenty of the syrup to cover all of the bread with the liquid.

We repeated this process until the dish was full or we ran out of ingredients. Our final step was to pour more of the canela syrup over the dish. We baked the covered capirotada for half an hour, mas o menos, at 350 degrees. While the bread was puffing and the cheese was melting, Mom would put on another pot of canela for us to drink when it was time to serve the capirotada.

As a parent, I look forward to this break in the season when I get to indulge and play with my kids in the kitchen. I hope someday they will look back on this time with sweet memories too.

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For more on capirotada visit these links at What’s Cooking; Matt Bites; and Sunmaid raisins.

Do you have a favorite capirotada recipe or memory to share?

Tessa Lemos Del Pino is a Chicana who grew up in the Pacific Northwest. She is a lawyer by training, executive administrator by profession, and organizer by habit. She and her beautiful family live in Nashville, TN.

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By Contributor on March 2, 2010 · Posted in casa + cultura, food

6 Comments | Post Comment

Yasmine says:

This looks so yummy, I’m already salivating…The recipe seams very simple, I have to try this.
.-= Yasmine´s last blog ..Make Your Own ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ Poster For Free =-.

Posted on March 2nd, 2010

Carrie says:

Ay, Tessa…I am not a huge fan of bread pudding, but I want to eat this out of tradition…It sounds great.

Posted on March 3rd, 2010

Tessa says:

Maybe that is a Cuban thing. My part-cuban husband is not a fan at all of any bread pudding.

I love any version of it. And because no one I know uses a recipe, it is always a unique experience to step into someone’s tradition when I get to sample their family version. One grandma added diced apples and diced bananas. One friend uses peanuts instead of walnuts. I have a friend from El Paso who uses pineapple in her family recipe. I know one Latino who uses brie cheese instead of cheddar, white wine instead of canela, and dried cranberries instead of raisins, and french baguettes instead of Wonder.

Posted on March 4th, 2010

angelica perez says:

Humm…this sounds like a recipe that my teen daughter and I can cook together. The canela part on your post did it for me…there is nothing more home-y than the smell of canela, and cooking together with mom…

Posted on March 4th, 2010

Tessa says:

My 5 year old daughter and I made this for the first time this season. She even remembered how it was made. She was in charge of toasting and assembled the whole dish. I bought shredded cheese to save a step. All I had to do was make the canela and pop it in the oven. She was so proud of herself for making dessert today.

I wasn’t sure what my 2 year old son would think of it; he has his dad’s taste buds and is sort of picky about texture. Two bowls later, he was still asking for more.

It is a good thing it is easy and quick it is to make. The kids and I ate almost the entire dish after dinner today.

Posted on March 6th, 2010

Yvette says:

We posted our family recipe on Ash Wednesday! And I’m eating the leftovers as I type this. I love how food has such lasting memories for so many of us. Loved your story!!!
Yvette´s last [fabulousness] ..Capirotada Mexican Bread Pudding

Posted on March 11th, 2011