American Capirotada

by Kathryn Baldwin

What do you think about when you dredge a slice of bread in whipped eggs, milk, cinnamon, and sugar? Do you think of French Toast? Well, I would like to propose a recipe that will alter your vision of French Toast forever.

Here’s the story:

It all began when I realized that my aunt’s famous “French Toast Casserole” is an American version of the Capirotada. According to my Mexican cuisine cookbook, the Capirotada was designed as a delicious way to use up last night’s leftovers:  cinnamon syrup is made over the stove and poured in a casserole dish that’s already filled with stale bread slices, raisins, almonds, and some cream. The bread and parched toppings soak up the syrup and, voila, leftovers never screamed “EAT ME!” so loud in their lives! Casseroles in the U.S. have a similar history: wilted green beans don’t look half-bad once they’ve been baking in cream of mushroom soup for an hour (hence the green bean casserole…).

Thus, inspired by the blending of cultures, I decided to try making my aunt’s American Capirotada. At about 9pm the night before, I sliced up a loaf of French bread and staggered the slices in a buttered casserole dish. In a separate bowl, I whisked together 8 eggs, 1 cup of half and half, a cup of sugar, about a tablespoon of cinnamon, and a couple dashes of nutmeg. After pouring the egg mixture over the staggered bread, I put the soaking bread in the fridge and climbed in bed…

Lying in bed, I thought about that dry bread soaking up its flavor. “Lucky bread…” I thought. But hey! Why can’t we all be like that French bread before bed?

Sometimes, when I’m finally headed to my bed late at night, I’m feeling exhausted, limp, uninspired: dry, if you will. Why can’t I soak up all the flavor of my life right before bed, just like that dry bread did before taking his spot on the refrigerator shelf? Why can’t I lie on my soft, cool bed and soak in every positive thought from my life as I wait for dreamland’s arrival?

We CAN be like that French bread. When I soak up (or think about) all the greatest things in life right before bed, just like that dry French bread did, I spend all night blanketed in positivity. Then, what am I like in the morning? I am as inspired, as refreshed, and as vibrant as the flavor, texture, and smell of my Aunt’s American Capirotada in the morning.

As for the Casserole, in the morning, just:

1) Mix a stick of butter, a cup of oatmeal, a cup of brown sugar, and ½ cup of white sugar (will be a clumpy, crumbly goodness!).

2) Scatter the mixture over the soggy bread.

3) Bake at 350 degrees, covered loosely with foil, for an hour.

4) Serve with warm syrup and the option of slivered almonds and/or raisins to sprinkle on top.

So, as your dry bread settles in its flavor over night, you can climb under the covers of positivity and happy thoughts. Call it your night time Prayer of Gratefulness, your Meditation of Gratitude, or even your Happy Place.

I call it my American Capirotada.

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