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Mexican Bread Pudding (Capirotada)

This rich, creamy bread pudding flavored with brown sugar, cinnamon, pecans and golden raisins is a wonderful way to end a meal or star in your next brunch.
  • 1 pound loaf of two- to three-day old white bread, crusts removed, cut in 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch cubes (about 8 or 9 cups)
  • 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), divided
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup farmer cheese
  • 1/3 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar (or, if you can find it, panela)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (3-inch piece)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter a 9x13-inch baking dish.

Put the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl. Melt half of the butter (4 tablespoons) and mix it with 2 tablespoons of the canola oil. Drizzle the mixture over the bread, tossing to distribute evenly.

Add the pecans, raisins, and cheeses to the bread in the mixing bowl. Sprinkle mixture with cinnamon, stir, and transfer to prepared baking dish.

Bring to a boil the water, brown sugar (or panela) and cinnamon stick, and boil for 5 to 10 minutes, or until syrupy and caramel colored.

Whisk together the brown sugar syrup and remaining butter and oil. Drizzle evenly over the bread mixture, stirring gently. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes. Remove from oven.

Beat the eggs until thick and lemon colored. Gradually beat in the milk and vanilla. Pour mixture over baked bread mixture, and return to the oven for 1 hour.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Note: French or Italian bread, with crusts removed, works well with this recipe. If your bread is less than a day old, you can "age" it by placing slices in a 300°F oven for 15 or 20 minutes, or until some of the moisture is baked out.

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