2 qt. water (2lt)
1 lb. piloncillo cones (500g – substitute firmly packed brown sugar)
2 pc. star anise
½ tsp. anise seeds (1g)
½ tsp. cloves (1 gr)
½ tsp. whole black pepper (1 gr)
2 sticks cinnamon
1.5 sticks butter (173g)
1 small bunch of green onions (about 6-8), chopped
1 lb. stale bread, broken into pieces (500g)
8 oz. cheese (250g) cut into ¼” cubes (.6cm)
4 oz. pecan halves (125g), roughly chopped
6 oz. dried pitted apricots (170g)
Pour the water into a 3 qt. (3lt) saucepan, and add the piloncillo, star anise, anise seeds, cloves pepper, and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, and simmer until the piloncillo/brown sugar has completely dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
In a separate large sauté pan, melt half of the butter. Add the green onions, and sauté for a minute, until the onions soften. Add the pieces of stale bread and allow to toast and absorb the butter. You may have to do this in batches, adding the rest of the butter as needed. Remove the bread pieces to a large ovenproof pan. Heat the broiler of your oven.
Once all of the bread has been passed through the butter, pour any remaining butter over the bread, but discard the onion pieces. Briefly toast the bread under the heated broiler, about 3 minutes until it is golden brown. Remove the pan of toasted bread, and then set the oven to 350°F (176°C).
Line a 3 qt. (3lt.) baking dish with parchment, or spray with food spray. Place a layer of the toasted bread on the bottom, and then sprinkle over half of the cheese, pecans, apricots and dried cherries/berries. Top with another layer of toasted bread, and then continue layering, ending with a top layer of bread. Gently ladle over the sweet spiced tea. The baking dish should be quite full, but not overflowing. There is no need to cover the capirotada while it is baking, but you can do so if you like for a more tender crust.
Bake for one hour, until most of the sweet spiced tea is absorbed. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool briefly before serving.
Piloncillo is the traditional raw loaf sugar that is used throughout Latin America. If you can’t find it in your local market, simply substitute brown sugar.