The great hero of Cinco de Mayo, victoriously leading the Mexican army against the French invasion in the Battle of Puebla on May 5th, 1862, was General Ignacio Zaragoza. He was born in 1829, in Bahía del Espíritu Santo, a small town in the then Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas, today Goliad, Texas (see map below.) Shortly before Texas became an independent republic, the Zaragoza family relocated to remain in Mexican territory. The northern Mexican states were re-aligned, and one section was later renamed in his honour as the Mexican state of Coahuila de Zaragoza (green area in the map.) Sadly, General Zaragoza fell ill shortly after the battle of Puebla, and died in September of 1862; the city of Puebla was re-named Puebla de Zaragoza, also in his honour.
(Next post – Fourth Stop: US Southern States)
My third culinary stop is the Mexican Northern state of Coahuila, Mexico’s top mining state, with a flourishing steel and automotive industry, as well. My grandfather arrived in Palaú, Coahuila (see map above) to work in the coal mines in 1906, near the end of one of the largest Japanese migrations to Mexico . After the Mexican Revolution War (1910-1921), he moved to Agujita, where he worked at a general store, and a few years later, he opened his own. My grandmother arrived from Japan, already married to my grandfather in absentia, and my mother was born a year later. To this day, my mom’s favourite dessert is Capirotada, a bread pudding with cheese, which she remembers since her childhood as a traditional dish her mother often cooked. My mom made it sometimes when I was growing up, especially during Lent, and now I am introducing it to my daughters, the fourth generation to enjoy my grandmother’s recipe, as it was prepared in my mom’s hometown.
Agujita Style Bread Pudding
– Capirotada estilo Agujita
About the ingredients:
The sugar traditionally used for the syrup is shaped into cones, and is called piloncillo; I could not find this ingredient, but dark brown sugar worked fine. I was lucky to find Chihuahua style cheese made in Ingersoll, Ontario (left photo), but other cheeses such as Gouda or Havarti will work well with this recipe (slices of Chihuahua cheese shown next to slices of Canadian Gouda):
1 cup dark brown sugar (or 1 cone of piloncillo)
4 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves, whole
½ cup raisins, soaked in ¼ cup hot water
½ lb (230 g) Chihuahua style cheese (or Havarti or Gouda), sliced into strips
¼ cup butter, sliced thinly
4 stale buns (or 1 baguette cut into quarters)
Rainbow round sprinkles
Place sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat; stir until sugar dissolves. Add cinnamon stick and cloves, reduce heat and let simmer until liquid thickens and becomes slightly sticky, about 20 minutes. Remove spices and add soaked raisins:
Let simmer for another 10 minutes, then remove from heat, cover and reserve.
Slice each piece of bread, leaving about 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) intact at the bottom end; insert a thin piece of butter in between slices:
Place the buttered bread fans on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven at 375°F (190°C) until crispy but not dark. After toasting, place a slice of cheese in each slit, then tightly arrange the toasted and stuffed buns in a deep oven-proof dish:
Pour syrup and raisins over, trying to reach in between the slices of bread, and all around. Cover with Al foil and bake in a 375°F (190°C) oven for 20 minutes:
Uncover and place back in the oven, under the broiler, for ten minutes. Decorate with rainbow round sprinkles, and serve warm or at room temperature: