Friday, February 22, 2008

Capirotada (Mexican Bread Pudding)

What do you all think of this new application I'm using, is it helpful? Can you please let me know in a comment/message? Thanks! :)

I think the best family heirlooms are recipes. Unlike jewelry, they can comfort us with their warmth, conjure up loving memories with their scents, and leave us both emotionally and physically satisfied. Even though jewelry can be sized to fit the person receiving the heirloom, it still doesn't compare to inheriting a recipe that each generation can add to while still keeping the main ingredient, love. On that note, a few weekends ago I gave my grandmother a call to see how she was doing and ask her for a few cooking tips. I borrowed a tiny book from the library filled with just enough classic Mexican food recipes to experiment with. My intention was to use some of these recipes as guides while attempting to get my own grandmother's recipes right. She was very detailed about what ingredients to use, even how to cook each item I wanted to make, but as far as the measurements...well, it seems over the years her fingers have developed taste buds so that she doesn't actually have to measure the exact ingredients, they know that a pinch of this and dash of that will do just fine. My fingers aren't so clever. Though they can be trusted at times, they tend to be a bit more on the clumsy side whenever I'm trying to replicate something my grandmother has already perfected.

The first recipe I asked my grandma for was that of her Capirotada dish. Capirotada is a rich bread pudding with a kick. Its sweet base is balanced out with a hearty sprinkle of salty Cotija cheese. As a kid, I had a love/hate relationship with this cheese; its pungent smell is a lot stronger than most typical cheeses used in American dishes, but its taste is also a lot more flavorful and earthy. I only sprinkled a bit on top, just enough for its saltiness to counteract the sweetness of the piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar). Here are the rest of the ingredients I used, along with the cooking/baking instructions.

1/2 of a loaf of 2 day old Challah bread cut into bite-size pieces (This is a traditional Jewish bread, but I had quite a bit leftover from earlier in the week and I didn't want to waste. I think it worked really well with this dessert. Traditionally, day old Mexican bread is used; my grandmother uses a french roll.)
1 1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 piloncillo stick
2 TBSP butter
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon
1 small fuji apple, chopped
1/8 cup crumbled cotija cheese
1/4 cup golden raisins

After slicing off the piloncillo (I can't think of the proper term for this job, but it was a tough one!) I put the shavings into a medium sized pot with the evaporated milk and butter. The two ingredients slowly simmered together as I mixed in the nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. I then added in the bread pieces and continued mixing the ingredients until the bread absorbed all the liquid, then I tossed in the apple pieces. I transfered the concoction to a square, 9 inch oven safe platter, then sprinkled the raisins and cheese on top. To give the pudding a bit more bite, I put it in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. I also sprinkled some nuts on top, after the baking process. The apples and nuts were not part of my grandma's recipe, she is a fan of golden raisins. I decided to add less raisins and include some apples because they always taste so good in baked goods!