This week in Omnivorous, I took a Cuaresma cruise, checking out some of the more unusual meatless and near-meatless Lenten specialties that show up in Mexican restaurants this time of year. One ubiquitous and oddly indulgent dessert everybody seems to feature is capirotada, a mildly sweet-savory, cheesy bread pudding, usually studded with nuts, dried fruit, and shredded coconut and sprinkled with grageas, rainbow-colored cake-decorating candies. Its origins are uncertain; some say it derives from meaty Roman bread puddings, others say it was originally a Spanish dish. Everybody seems to have their own version, but the one constant seems to be that it's not an eggy, custard-based bread pudding but rather soaked with a thick syrup made from unrefined brown sugar piloncillo cones
It's no secret that that Birrieria Zaragoza makes some of the best damn goat in town, but on Fridays during Lent they also put out the most delicious capirotada I tried. Norma Zaragoza's pudding—her mom's recipe—is a crusty, chewy-soft textural marvel studded with raisins, peanuts, and coconut. There's also a secret ingredient in the syrup. Recipe after the jump.
6 corn tortillas
6 bolillos cut in rounds
3/4 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
4 large piloncillo pyramids
3/4 cup raisins
1 1/2 cups of aged cotija cheese cut in cubes
1 stick of Mexican cinnamon
1 1/2 tbs multicolored grageas (cake-decorating candy)
Oil for frying
(1) Heat oven to 350 degrees.
(2) Boil piloncillo, cinnamon, vanilla bean, and tomatillo in 4 cups of water until it reduces to a syrup. Strain.
(3) Heat up oil & fry tortillas. Place on napkins to remove excess oil.
(4) Fry bolillo rounds on both sides. Place on napkins to remove excess oil.
(5) Cut and spread tortillas on rectangular baking dish, add bolillo.
(6) Cover with peanuts, raisins, and cheese.
(7) Repeat layer of tortillas and bolillo.
(8) Add syrup.
(9) Place in a water bath (baño María or bain-marie) until bread softens.
(10) Sprinkle with multicolored grageas (Mexican baking candy).
(11) Optional: add white syrup.
For the sweeter tooth, make a white syrup by boiling the following:
1/4 t vanilla extract
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 t powdered cinnamon
1/2 cup 2 percent milk