Capirotada: Sweet Indulgences
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.
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.