When I was growing up, my grandmother would prepare Capirotada around Easter every year. Capirotada is a layered dessert prepared with buttered bread, corn tortillas, raisins, nuts, fruits and cheese, all soaked in a homemade syrup and baked to delicious perfection.
While it was a seasonal dessert for us, it can be prepared year round and adapt it to your taste. For example, you may switch the pears for apples, and moreover, you can add more or less of the layered ingredients depending on the size of your mould and your preferences. The following recipe is greatly inspired by the blog "La Cocina de Norma" (available in Spanish only), and I've added a few twists based on my personal liking.
- 5 hard-crusted day-old dinner rolls
- 3/4 cups butter
- 3 corn tortillas
- 250 grams "piloncillo" or "panela" (hardened brown sugar blocks, sold in stores that carry Latin American products)
- 200 grams fresh cheese (panela-style cheese if you like a soft cheese flavour) or chihuahua cheese (if you like a hard tangy and cheddar-like flavour)
- 60 grams slivered almonds
- 60 grams of quartered walnuts
- 60 grams of raisins
- 3 tablespoons dark rum
- 2 pears
- 2-1/2 cups water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 cloves
- 1 cup of whole milk
- Optional coloured sprinkles
The only special equipment you will need is a mould to hold the capirotada. I used a deep pie dish, but you can use a pan, a charlotte mould, or a casserole dish.
While this recipe is easy to prepare, you will spend most of the time preparing the different components. So I highly recommend doing your mise en place for this one.
Preparing the Layering Components
Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
Using a foil-lined aluminum pan, place the walnuts and almonds and bake for 9 minutes until fragrant and slightly browned. Toasting the nuts in the oven releases the oils in the nuts and brings out their flavour. The photo below is how they look once we remove them from the oven.
Soak the raisins in the rum. This way they will absorb most of the liquid and it will add a nice depth to the dessert. Since we will place it in the oven, the baking will make the alcohol evaporate, leaving you with a sweet hint of rum.
Grate the cheese in a dish to make it easy to sprinkle later on.
Peel, quarter and slice the two pears in 1/4 inch slices or thinner.
Preparing the Syrup
Prepare the syrup by placing the water, piloncillo (hardened sugar), cinnamon and cloves in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
Stir and boil until the syrup thickens and it is reduced in half. Off heat, add the milk and leave aside to cool while you prepare the tortillas and bread.
Preparing the corn tortillas, bread and pears
In a pan over medium heat, add two tablespoons of butter and add the tortillas to soften them. Take care not to fry the tortillas. Remove once softened.
Slice the bread (1-inch thick slices work best) and add more butter to your pan. Place slices over butter and cook on one side until very slightly golden, and then turn to cook other side. Prepare all the slices in butter and place aside.
In the same pan, add more butter and cook the pears until you can pierce through them easily, taking care that they retain their shape and do not turn into mush. Remove from heat.
Layering the Capirotada
As shown above, place your prepared components within easy reach. Start by placing the buttered tortillas in the bottom of your mould, and spoon some of the syrup over it.
Take the slices of bread and soak in the syrup on both sides, place in a layer over the tortillas in the mould.
Add half of the raisins, nuts, cheese and sprinkles (if using) over the first layer of bread.
Add another layer of syrup-soaked bread over the first layer. This is the layer your guests will see, so work it into a nice pattern.
Cover with the remaining cheese, raisins, nuts and a bit of sprinkles.
Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes.
Notice I place the mould over a baking sheet. With any dessert that cooks in syrup, there is always a risk of some syrup overflowing, so it is best that is falls on the baking sheet as opposed to your oven, which will just turn your kitchen into a smoky mess.
Remove the Capirotada from the oven, remove foil and let cool.
The dessert can be eaten warm or at room temperature.