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Eatymology: Capirotada

Eatymology: Capirotada
Written by Keia Mastrianni | Photos by Shannon O'Hara


[kapiro’ tada]

n: A sweet and savory Mexican bread pudding traditionally eaten on Good Friday

For many Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, the Lenten season—Good Friday, in particular—is affiliated with an indulgence called capirotada. The sweet and savory bread pudding has origins in fifteenth-century Spain where it was known as capirotada de vigilia; recipes for the dish purportedly exist in the archives of the Holy Office of the Inquisition. At its most basic, it consists of stale or toasted bread (traditionally bolillo), layered with dried fruit, nuts, and cheese (the unique savory element). The combination is soaked in a sweet, spiced syrup made of piloncillo—unrefined cane sugar—and spices, usually clove and cinnamon, then baked until caramelized, fragrant, and melty. The dish is rife with religious symbolism: bread, for the body of Christ; the spiced syrup represents his blood, cloves symbolize the nails; and whole cinnamon sticks represent the cross.

As with most traditional food items, capirotada has as many variations as there are abuelas in the world. Some add tomato and onion to the sugar syrup, while others add cilantro, bay leaf, banana, and top with sprinkles for a festive look. At La Casa Bakery in Houston, Texas, owner and baker Trinidad Garza prepares his capirotada with peanuts, raisins, and colorful sprinkles, then finishes it with a layer of plantain and coconut shavings.


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