04182019Thu
Last updateFri, 12 Apr 2019 2pm

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Ajijic’s captivating capirotada festival

Mexican foodies and adventurous foreigners will enjoy tickling their taste buds at the fifth annual Feria de la Capirotada, Saturday, April 6.

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The unique food fest will be held on the grounds of Ajijic’s waterfront park, starting at 3 p.m.

Capirotada is a toothsome south-of-the-border version of bread pudding that is a classic dessert prepared exclusively during the seven weeks of Lent.

Essentially it’s a concoction composed by layering toasted slices of bread that are bathed in home brewed syrup and enhanced with spices, fruits and nuts. But like nearly all “traditional” recipes, ingredients and cooking techniques vary radically according to family customs and personal tastes.

A classic capirotada is made with bolillo rolls, similar to the French baguette, piloncillo (unrefined brown sugar cones) melted into a dark treacle infused with cloves and cinnamon sticks, a variety of dried and fresh fruits, and a slightly salty cheese topping.

Some cooks flavor the syrup with tomato and onion. Although that sounds like an odd component for a dessert recipe, it really boosts the pudding’s umami factor. Raisins, prunes, dates, chunks of plantain, apple, guava and other fruits, along with peanuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds or pine nuts may be incorporated to add other flavor profiles. Different types of fresh or aged white cheese are selected for the salty component strewn over the top layer.

A sweeter kind of pudding is capirotada blanca, made up with similar ingredients combined with picones or other pan dulce (sweet bread) rolls and heavily doused with fresh or condensed milk. Modern day gourmet cooks may go out on a limb with recipes calling for exotic ingredients and fanciful presentations.

Old school cooks prepare the capirotada in a large clay cazuela lined with tortillas, set to stew over a wood fire in an outdoor kitchen or alternately, on a modern stovetop dialed to a low flame. Others prefer piling the ingredients into glass or metal casseroles or setting the containers to bake in the gas oven.

Like so many creative culinary endeavors related to holidays in this country, capirotada has a symbolic side, linked in this case to the Easter season. The bread is said to represent the body of Christ and the sweet syrup his holy blood. Cinnamon sticks symbolize the wooden cross of crucifixion, while the raisins are reminders of its nails. The cheese covering is an interpretation of the Holy Shroud.

Ajijic’s Capirotada Fair is the brainchild of Lee Hopper, an American citizen who grew up here and started the pudding fest to promote the preservation of the traditional Lental fare enjoyed in his youth. Cooks participating in the event have the option of signing up for a double-pronged contest with prizes awarded at the close the day. Winners are named on the basis of scoring by a panel of qualified judges as well as a People’s Choice tasting and voting system. Others pudding makers register only to set a stand to sell samples of the rich the dessert.

On-going entertainment further enhances the festive atmosphere of the distinctive village happening.