My first job, fresh out of high school, was at a Mexican bakery, “El Mejor Pan,” owned by my best friend Angelica’s parents. I was introduced to the world of Mexican bread! But the first time I tried capirotada, was the following year, when I got a different job in the office of “La Poblana Tortilla Factory.” That, too, was owned by another of my best friend’s parents, Julie Villarreal. Thank goodness for my friend’s parents. They had no idea the inspiration they were instilling in me for everything that is Mexican. They had a very busy lunch counter at “La Poblana” and they would only make capirotada at Easter time and Christmastime. That was my first real experience with eating a real sweet, yet savory dish, that I never forgot! I would like to dedicate this post to my two best friends from my childhood, Angelica and Julissa. We had the best times!
Yields up to 12 servings
2 cups water
Juice and zest from 1 orange
1 cup dark brown sugar or piloncillo
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
1 teaspoon ground anise
1/3 cup raisins
3 ounces butter, plus more for greasing
15 to 20 slices of Mexican bolillos or French bread
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 toasted almonds, chopped
6 ounces Monterey jack, shredded
6 ounces white sharp cheddar, shredded
1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Generously grease, with butter, a 9×13 oven dish, set aside.
2. Heat the water, orange juice, zest, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and anise in a pan over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add raisins and let simmer for 5 minutes without stirring.
3. Spread the butter onto both sides of each slice of bread and arrange butter side up onto baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Turn over and bake the other side for 5 minutes.
4. Line the base of the ovenproof dish with half the toast. Sprinkle over half of the cheese and nuts. Remove and discard cinnamon sticks, spoon 1/2 of raisin mix over toast. Repeat another layer, bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Yields up to 12 servings.
The combination of the sharp cheese flavors with the sweetness of the brown sugar is sooo delicious!