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CAPIROTADA CON QUESO 
Capirotada is traditional for Lent. This version is layered with cheese, raisins, nuts and bananas.

1/2 (1 lb.) loaf French bread
4 tbsp. butter
4 c. water
8 oz. piloncillo or 1 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole cloves
1 tbsp. butter
8 oz. Longhorn or mild Cheddar cheese, shredded (2 c.)
1/2 c. roasted unsalted peanuts
1/4 c. slivered blanched almonds
1/2 c. raisins
1 lg. banana, thinly sliced
Ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut a thin slice off heel of bread; reserve for another use. Cut remaining bread in 1/2 inch slices. Butter slices on 1 side with 4 tablespoons butter. Place buttered side up in a single layer on 1 or 2 baking sheets. Bake 15 minutes, until lightly toasted and dry. Remove and cool. Combine water, piloncillo or brown sugar, cinnamon sticks and cloves in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer syrup uncovered 20 minutes. Strain out cinnamon sticks and cloves; set syrup aside. Capirotada may be prepared in advance to this point and the bread left out overnight to dry. Grease a deep 2 1/2 quart baking dish with about 1/2 tablespoon butter. Reserve remaining 1/2 tablespoons butter, 1/4 cup cheese and 2 tablespoons peanuts for topping.

In prepared baking dish, layer ingredients in the following order: a third of the toasted bread slices, half of the remaining peanuts, half of the almonds, half of the raisins and half of the banana slices. Cover with half of the remaining cheese. Pour 1 cup syrup evenly over cheese. Layer another third of the bread, remaining peanuts, almonds, raisins and banana slices. Cover with remaining cheese. Again pour 1 cup syrup evenly over cheese. Top with remaining bread. Sprinkle with reserved cheese and peanuts. Pour remaining syrup evenly over pudding. Dot with remaining butter and sprinkle lightly with ground cinnamon. Cover and bake 45 minutes. Let stand covered 30 minutes to 1 hour before serving. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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