Traditional Lenten Bread and Cheese Casserole with Blackberries (Capirotada de Zarzamora)

Capirotada is a family favorite on most Latin tables during Lent. Many of the traditional recipes can be complicated, but we have pared down the ingredient list and prep time in a new flavor twist of a centuries old recipe. We even used the convenience of a modern toaster to simplify. The flavors of crisp buttery slices of bread soaked in brown sugar and spices, with dollops of blackberry jam are pushed over the top with the subtle, traditional nuances of onions, cheese and black pepper. To some, this might be an unusual combination of flavors; we just call it divino!


Ingredients
8
ounces
day-old dense artisanal white bread (such as a French baguette) sliced in ¼ slices
3
tablespoons
butter (softened)
1/3
cup
blackberry jam
2
ounces
queso freco (crumbled)
1/3
cup
small whole pecans
Syrup
1
cup
water
1
cup
brown sugar, packed
1
stick
cinnamon
1
pinch
ground cloves
1
pinch
ground black pepper
1/4
onion, sliced
1/2
pint
fresh blackberries, washed
Directions
Toast all of the bread in your toaster, until it is golden brown. Butter each slice of bread, and set aside.
In a 1 quart saucepan, combine the water, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and onion. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick and onion, reserving the syrup.
Heat your oven to 350°. Assemble the capirotada by placing a single layer of the buttered toast in the bottom of a 1 ½ quart glass or ceramic loaf pan. Dollop half of the blackberry jam by the teaspoonful over the toasted bread, then sprinkle over half of the queso fresco and pecans. Cover with another layer of the toasted bread, then repeating the addition of the jam, cheese and pecans, topping the capirotada with a layer of toasted bread. Pour the prepared syrup over the capirotada, and then cover with aluminum foil.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the syrup has bubbled through most of the layers. Remove from the oven, and cool before serving. Garnish with fresh blackberries.

The base number of servings for this recipe is 6
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