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Abuelita Toña’s Capirotada, Mexican Bread Pudding for Easter

capirotada bread pudding Mexican

This capirotada—traditional Mexican bread pudding made every Easter made with piloncillo and other sweet sabores—was the star of Abuelita Toña’s Pascua spread every year. It is delicious, hearty and the perfect traditional treat to fill the hearts and bellies of her family and neighbors.

”The point of having the capirotada: We eat it on Easter Friday when we don’t eat meat,” says her daughter, Naomi Rodriguez. ”So on Easter, my grandmother and mom would also make tortas de camarón [or shrimp] with mole and nopales. And then the dessert would be this capirotada.”

Always.

”This is a very traditional dish for Mexican people—and it’s amazing,” says Naomi. Which is why she, her sister Beatriz, and the rest of their family in the East Los Angeles area looked forward all year to taking that first dulce bite of her mother’s family-famous dessert.

capirotada bread pudding for easter
Naomi and Beatriz look forward all year long to making their mother’s traditional bread for Easter.

Her mother, Antonia, called Toña or Toñita by everyone, was born in Guadalajara and moved to Los Angeles when she was a teen. She was famous for making this in huge portions, so there would be lots of leftovers.

The family feasted on capirotada for days. ”My mom would start preparing it for the Friday Passover and we’d keep eating it all the rest of Easter weekend. It is just so good with a cup of coffee,” Naomi says, sighing at the comida memory.

My mother made her capirotada differently. Other people would put bananas and all this stuff in. And to me it was ugly and mushy, too sweet, too soggy. I didn’t like it. But my mom’s: Oh my God. Everyone loved her capirotada. It was just so good.

—Naomi Rodriguez of her mother’s family-famous Easter week capirotada

A Favorite Family Recipe That Was Almost Lost

This capirotada is such an important dish in her family, Naomi made sure to sit down with her mother to record it in a special binder she created, filled with Toña’s recipes.

”I tried to write things down when my mother was alive. But I thought that I had lost this. One day I was sitting down and I was going, ’Gosh, how I miss my mom’s capirotada.’ Because she had just passed. And I forgot that I had actually written it down. I just started glancing through the cookbook I made and said, ’Oh my God, I did write it down. I did.”

”And then that memory just came and flared. It opened up like a window. And then I remembered that day. That’s right! I sat down with her and went through all of it. That’s when I realized that I had forgotten some of the stuff that was in the original recipe. And now we have it all.”

capirotada bolillos
Crusty on the outside, soft on the inside, these traditional bolillos are a key ingredients in making a great capirotada.

Begin With the Bread: Use Fresh Bolillos

This most important items to track down when making capirotada are real Mexican bolillos, those traditional, crusty small loaves of fresh white bread. They are used to make tortas, molletes and used as the daily pan in Mexican households back home and here in the States.

”Go to the Mexican bakery near you and get the freshest bolillos you can,” advises Naomi. If you can’t find them, you can substitute a baguette—but make sure it is a good one, or your capirotada will turn mushy. It needs a crisp crust and quality flour to shine.

Naomi knows what she is talking about when it comes to bread. ”I come from a family of bakers,” she says. Her grandmother, mother and stepfather each ran a baked-goods business in the East L.A. area.

And here is the other thing about Abuelita Toña’s capirotada: It wasn’t like anyone else’s. ”My mother made her capirotada different,” says Naomi. ”Other people would put bananas and all this stuff in. And to me, it was just ugly, mushy, too sweet and too soggy. I didn’t like it. But my mom’s: Oh my God. Everyone loved her capirotada. It was just so good.”

naomi capirotada
This recipe for capirotada is unusual (and extra delicioso) in its use of coconut and baked prunes.

The surprising ingredients in Doña Toña’s recipe are grated coconut and prunes. ”The prunes for sure. The baked prunes. It was so nice to eat them. To bite into them…” Naomi’s voice trails off, savoring the food memory. And missing her mother.

”I normally don’t make it, because I am really careful with my weight,” she says. But this year, she will be making the Easter family capirotada. And you can bet she will savor every bite—down to the last baked prune, she says.

”I only make it once a year, so I am going to enjoy it. If I am going to make it once a year, I go all the way. I don’t substitute. I put in everything. Just like when we make our family tamales once a year. I don’t substitute. I make it just like it is called for.”

Naomi will also follow her mother’s lead in making a lot of it: doubling or tripling the recipe to make a ”really big” capirotada. ”Oh my God, It is so good. It’s definitely a treat. I will give some to my brother, to my sister, to my niece,” says Naomi. ”Everyone loves it.”

For more of Naomi’s family dishes, check out their equally family-famous Abuelita Paz’s secret mole recipe.

Ready to Bake Abuelita Toña’s Easter Week Capirotada?

Abuelita Toña’s Capirotada—Mexican Bread Pudding for Easter

4 from 3 votes
Recipe by Abuelita Toña, Naomi Rodriguez’s mother Cuisine: Mexican
Servings

10

servings
Prep time

20

minutes
Cooking time

1

hour 

5

minutes

Ingredients

  • 10 10 bolillos, small Mexican bread loaves

  • 1 1/2 gallons 1 1/2 water

  • 4 sticks 4 cinnamon

  • 24 oz 24 piloncillo (3 large cones)

  • 8 oz 8 evaporated milk

  • 3 3 tomatillos

  • 3 cups 3 peanuts, unroasted

  • 10 10 prunes, dried

  • 1 1/2 cups 1 1/2 raisins

  • 4 4 cloves

  • 1 1/2 cups 1 1/2 coconut, shredded

  • 16 oz 16 monterey jack cheese

  • 2 Tbsp 2 butter, to grease the baking pan

Directions

  • Cut each bolillo into half, and each half into 4 pieces—for a total of 80 pieces. Butter and toast them in the oven. Set aside.
  • In a large pot, pour the water. Add the cinnamon sticks and piloncillo cones.
  • Bring to a boil for 10 minutes.
  • Add the evaporated milk, tomatillos, peanuts, prunes, raisins and cloves to the boiling water.
  • Stir together and let the liquid mixture boil for 35 minutes or until the peanuts are soft. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool. Strain through a colander. Pick out the cinnamon sticks and cloves and return everything else to the pot.
  • Preheat oven to 300°. Generously grease a large baking pan with butter.
  • Spread toasted bread pieces to evenly cover 1 layer of the buttered baking pan.
  • Pour the liquid mixture over the bread until it soaks it thoroughly. Sprinkle the layer with 1/2 of the grated coconut. Sprinkle 1/2 of the cheese over the grated coconut.
  • Reserve the extra liquid mixture in case the capirotada looks a bit too dry when it finishes baking.
  • Add a second layer of the bread, using all the pieces. Pour enough of the liquid mixture to soak the bread generously. Sprinkle the remaining coconut, followed by the rest of the cheese, until the bread is soaked through and the ingredients and liquid reach just below the top of the baking dish.
  • Cover with a lid or tin foil and bake at 300° for 15 to 20 minutes. Uncover for the last 5 minutes and serve hot.

Notes

  • Capirotada and coffee or Mexican hot chocolate are made for each other.
  • We placed a sheet tray under the baking pan to catch drips from the brown sugary liquid. It helped with cleanup.
Naomi mole capirotada
Toña, center, with her two daughters, Naomi, left, and Beatriz, right. Her hijas miss her every day and honor her memory by making her family-famous traditional Mexican dishes.
capirotada
Naomi carefully recorded all her mother’s favorite recipes, preserving them for future generations, including this one!
capirotada Naomi Beatriz
Naomi and Beatriz honor the memory of their deeply missed mother Toña by baking her family-famous capirotada every Holy Week.
capirotada
Capirotada is filling and sweet—a welcome treat for the last meatless Friday of Lent for many Mexican families.

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