A modest dish that combines humble ingredients with holy symbolism makes a special Mexican dessert beloved during Lent and at Easter.
It's capirotada, a simple bread pudding that forgoes the common egg-milk custard base that we all recognize. Instead, capirotada gains its moisture from a deeply flavored clove-and-cinnamon-spiked sugar syrup. Capirotada may also include dried fruits (such as raisins, chopped apricot or chopped dates), fresh fruits (such as banana or pineapple), nuts (such as pine nuts, slivered almonds or chopped walnuts) — but many families' versions include neither fruits nor nuts.
Like all bread puddings, capirotada's origins are ancient, dating to 15th century Spain or perhaps even earlier. In its earliest incarnations, capirotada was a Moorish-influenced sweet-and-savory dish. Bread pudding surely arose from kitchen economy, when bread going stale was rescued from ruin, but it originally wasn't a dessert dish. Rather, it was a sopa seca, a "dry soup," or a savory dish served at the beginning of a meal. Some versions of capirotada include tomato and onion, even today. This combination of what Westerners traditionally consider "sweet" spices — cinnamon and clove — with savory ingredients is commonplace in Moroccan cooking, for example.
Its constants, then, are the bread, symbolizing the body of Christ; the dark syrup, echoing Christ's blood; the cinnamon sticks, symbolizing the wood of the cross; the cloves, representing the nails used in the Crucifixion; and the cheese that cloaks the dish, suggesting the holy shroud. Beyond that, it seems, any amount of customization is allowable and acceptable.
Read the rest and get the recipe at Chicago Tribune.
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