Capirotada is a traditional dessert bread pudding made during Lent.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (divided)
5 to 6 bolillos (sweet French bread) (cut into 1-inch cubes)
1 pound piloncillo (raw sugar cane) (grated)
8 cups water
1/4 cup dark raisins
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
1 whole star anise
3 large bananas (peeled and cut into 1/2-inch diagonal slices)
1 to 2 large ripe mangoes (peeled and diced; about 2 cups)
1 cup queso fresco (crumbled)
2/3 cup peanuts (dry roasted)
Garnish: Powdered sugar or nonpareil sprinkles
Gather the ingredients. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Melt 5 tablespoons of the butter in the microwave or in a small saucepan. Spread the bread cubes in an even layer on two large baking sheets and drizzle with the melted butter. Toss to coat.
Toast the bread cubes in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
While the bread toasts, grate the piloncillo.
In a large saucepan, combine the grated piloncillo with the water, raisins, cinnamon stick, cloves, and star anise. Heat over medium-high heat until it comes to a gentle boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, or until reduced by half.
Turn off the heat and remove the cinnamon stick, star anise, and cloves. Set the piloncillo syrup aside to cool.
Use the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter to grease a 9×13-inch baking dish. Add a third of the toasted bread to make the first layer covering the bottom of the baking dish.
Distribute half of the bananas, half of the diced mango, half of the queso fresco, and half of the peanuts over the bread layer.
Pour on about a third of the piloncillo syrup.
Start another layer, adding a third of the bread and the remaining half of the bananas, mango, queso fresco, and peanuts. Pour on another third of the syrup.
Finally, cover with the remaining third of the bread and pour the rest of the syrup on top.
Cover with aluminum foil. Bake the capirotada in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes remove it from the oven, carefully uncover, and press down with a spatula to make sure the syrup saturates all of the bread. Cover again with aluminum foil and return to the oven. After another 25 minutes, carefully remove the foil, and bake for about 10 minutes more so the top browns.
Cool slightly before serving. Dust the top with powdered sugar and garnish with non-pareil sprinkles, if desired.