Easter: Capirotada

My coworker, who's from Mexico, told me about a traditional Mexican dessert that he had as a kid called Capirotada (there's a whole story and history to why and how it's made). It's essentially bread pudding with the added surprise ingredient of CHEESE. Yes, cheese. I was intrigued so I asked him how to make it and along with his advice and using a recipe I found online as a rough guide, I attempted to make it over the Easter holiday weekend.

A few of the ingredients may be hard to find so I've included a bunch of things you can substitute and I've underlined what I used.

Ingredients [makes 8 servings]:
4 bollilo rolls OR 1 loaf of Italian bread OR 1 baguette - you want bread that's has a crisp crusty crust and a soft and fluffy interior, and day old stale bread is better to use than fresh bread (it'll soak up the syrup better)
8 oz. queso fresco OR queso blanco OR farmer's cheese OR monterrey jack
1 granny smith apple (an apple that will hold up when cooked)
1/4 cup raisins
3 or 4 large piloncillo cones (raw cane sugar) OR 1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans OR almonds OR peanuts - can be omitted altogether
1/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes - can be omitted
2 cinnamon sticks
1 clove, if you have them
2 cups water
1/2 stick of butter
Start with the syrup. Place the piloncillos or sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves (if you have them), and water in a saucepan and warm it up over a medium heat. Stir gently and once the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat and let it cool.

The next step is to slice and toast the bread. It's probably more efficient to just put all the slices (1 cm thick) on a sheet pan and toast them in the oven but I did each piece individually on a griddle with a little bit of butter. I actually put a little slice of butter on each piece so that I knew they'd each get an equal amount of butter (which equals flavor).
Slice the granny smith apples into thin pieces. I peeled it because I don't like the consistency of the skin when it's cooked but it's up to you.
Chop the pecans into small sprinkle-able pieces.
And then it's time to assemble the capirotada. Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees and buttering a casserole or baking dish. I used a 9" x 9" but 9" x 13" is fine as well. Place a layer of bread on the bottom - I cut up the pieces to make it fit. Then layer in the apples, pecans, raisins, coconut, and cheese. Since I used farmer's cheese, I crumbled in a layer but if you're using a harder cheese, cut it into bite-sized cubes and sprinkle it around. Then repeat - bread, apples, pecans, raisins, coconut, cheese again and again until you've used up all the ingredients and you've reached the top of the dish (I was able to do 3 layers of each). Then, gently pour the syrup over the top, working slowly to let all of the bread soak up the syrup. Place the cinnamon sticks on top so that it'll keep perfuming the bread as it bakes. Put it in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until the cheese on top looks toasty.
Looks delicious, doesn't it?
Scoop and serve using a big spoon, making sure to cut through all the layers
And enjoy! The cheese takes on a really lovely texture when it's baked and adds a bit of saltiness, which I love. The bread is soft but still in tact (since it's nice and hearty) and the apples and raisins add a lot of sweetness. Seriously a delicious dish and it doesn't have to be reserved for lent!


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