It is funny how one's palate changes over time. I remember how much my mom used to try to get me to like Capirotada, a Mexican bread pudding she prepares during Lent time. I never liked it! Or, at least that 's what I thought.
Capirotada is a dessert made with weird ingredients. I was reading in an old cook book called "Nuevo Cocinero Mexicano en Forma de Diccionario" a recipe for Capirotada that calls for tortillas, onion, garlic, tomatoes and cheese - how weird is that? This book was first published in 1888 (my copy is from 2007) so new versions of Capirotada had emerged since then. My mom never used garlic but I remember one of her versions with onions, tomatoes, cheese and tortillas. In the last years, to make it more appealing to her grandchildren, she dropped the onion and tomatoes but she kept the cheese and tortillas. I still didn't like it. The only thing I ate from her dish was the tortillas; they always tasted good to me.
People in my family look forward to Good Friday and Easter Sunday because this is the only time Capirotada is made in our homes. This week I was reading about the syrup made for this dish. It is made with water and piloncillo and it is very simple but very good. This got me thinking and I decided to make my own version of this Lenten food. I came up with two recipes that my family liked and I will be able to enjoy in years to come. You can find a more traditional recipe in this link but here is one of my not so traditional recipes.
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon ground Mexican canela (ground cinnamon)
8 ounces piloncillo (can be substituted by 1 cup of brown sugar or maple sugar)
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1 stick of Mexican canela (cinnamon stick)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 french bread sliced and toasted
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon maple sugar
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup slivered almonds
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
In a large bowl beat the eggs with the ground cinnamon and set aside. In a deep saucepan place the piloncillo, milk and cinnamon stick. Heat slowly until all the piloncillo has melted creating a syrup. Simmer for a few more minutes stirring with a wooden spoon to prevent scorching the milk. Turn off the heat, remove the cinnamon stick and stir in the vanilla. Allow to cool to room temperature and add to the eggs.
In a greased baking dish, spread half of the toasted bread in a single layer. In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta cheese with 1 tablespoon of maple sugar and spread the mixture on top of the bread. Arrange the dried fruit and nuts on top of the cheese. Top with a second layer of bread, dried fruit and nuts. Pour the egg and milk mixture evenly over the surface. Cover with plastic wrap and, with your hands press bread gently to soak the liquid. Cover with foil and let rest overnight or at least three hours in the refrigerator.When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350°F, remove the plastic wrap and bake for 35 minutes covered with foil. Reduce the temperature to 300°F, brush the melted butter on top of the pudding and continue baking for another 20-30 minutes longer or until the bread is completely set.
Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. It is good warm or at room temperature.