Last September when I visited New York City, there was one place I really wanted to check out, La Newyorkina. Besides being super close to where we were staying, a place that serves paletas (Mexican style popsicles) and other Mexican influenced ice treats was not something I wanted to miss.
La Newyorkina is located in the city’s West Village and is truly the most adorable and welcoming space. It’s brightly colored and features amazing Mexican decor (my personal favorite). It’s the perfect place to go on a hot summer day (which it was when I was there) and I only wish I could have tried more (both my brother and I just got a paleta). Another cool thing about La Newyorkina is that it shows there is more to Mexican sweets than just churros.
When I found out that Fany Gerson, the woman behind La Newyorkina, had written a cookbook entitled My Sweet Mexico: Recipes for Authentic Pastries, Breads, Candies, Beverages, and Frozen Treats, I immediately made notes to get it. I love authentic Mexican cuisine and this is just that. I got the book as a Christmas present but it wasn’t until March that I finally tried something from it when my mom visited. Just like any cookbook I salivate over, it was hard choosing a first recipe, but I ultimately settled on one that didn’t just seem “doable,” but also different.
For Americans, bread pudding brings to mind images and tastes of something extremely sweet, heavy on the sugar. Well, the banana guava bread pudding recipe was not that. Sure there was brown sugar, but only a cup’s worth. And there’s tortilla strips (yes, tortillas) but then oddest of all (to the American palate), cheese! Yes, cheese in bread pudding. It sounds so incredibly bizarre to anyone used to the overly sweet version of bread pudding. I mean, the recipe even has a note on how the inclusion of cheese in a dessert bread pudding may strike you as strange. But it works.
A few notes
-This recipe wasn’t at all difficult. However, it borders on time consuming between cooking times and then the actual assembling part.
-If your local supermarket doesn’t sell guayabas and you don’t live in an area with Latin food stores, try Whole Foods, which is where I bought mine.
-This will be perfect with a dollop of vanilla ice cream or even whipped cream if you want to moderately increase the sweetness factor.
-The recipe yields a huge amount so if you’re not needing to feed 8-10 people with dessert, halve the recipe.
Capirotada de Guayaba con Plátano (Banana Guava Bread Pudding)
Recipe courtesy of Fany Gerson’s My Sweet Mexico
6 cups water
10 ounces piloncillo, chopped, or 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar plus 1 1/2 tablespoons molasses
1 5-inch piece canela
2 whole cloves
1 1/2 pounds fresh guavas
1-pound loaf day-old baguette
2 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons lard or unsalted butter
6 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1/3 cup dark raisins
1/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans
2 bananas, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
8 ounces Muenster or Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
-Combine the water, piloncillo, canela, and cloves into a large pot and cook over medium heat until the piloncillo has dissolved, 7 to 10 minutes. Wash the guavas and cut off the ends. Cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices and add, seeds and all, to the hot liquid. Cook at a soft simmer until the guavas are fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the guavas from the syrup with a slotted spoon and let sit until cool enough to handle. Continue cooking the liquid over medium heat until thickened to the consistency of maple syrup, 20 to 30 minutes.
-Slice the ends off the baguette and cut the remaining bread into 1/2-inch thick slices. Warm a large skillet over medium heat, swirl in a little bit of the oil to coat, and working in batches, brown the bread slices on both sides. Wipe the pan between each use and use only enough oil so the bread doesn’t stick (it shouldn’t be oily at all).
-Remove the seeds from the guavas using your hands or a spoon. Press the seeds and any liquid through a colander into the syrup, and then strain the syrup.
-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a deep 2 1/2-quart baking dish with a bit of the lard, spreading it with one of the tortillas, and then layer the bottom and sides of the dish with the tortillas. Whisk the remaining lard into the syrup.
-Layer half of the bread slices in the dish and top with half of the guava slices, raisins, pecans, banana slices, and cheese. Pour about 1 cup of the syrup over all. Layer the remaining bread on top and scatter the remaining guava slices, raisins, pecans, banana slices, and cheese all over the top. Pour the remaining syrup over all, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and bake until the syrup has been absorbed, 50 to 60 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.
SERVES 8 TO 10