This Mexican bread pudding is typically served during the Lenten period. It is prepared with slices of bolillos, a small bread roll, layered with nuts, fruit, cheese and a spiced syrup. It is traditionally served as a dessert, however the addition of savory roasted peanuts and queso fresco also makes it a delicious breakfast or brunch dish.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat bottom of large shallow baking pan with 1 tablespoon of the softened butter. Using only the center-cut bread slices, arrange bread in single layer on baking pan. Brush both sides of bread with 6 tablespoons of the remaining softened butter. Bake 20 minutes or until lightly toasted, turning bread over after 10 minutes. Cool slightly.
Meanwhile, mix water, piloncillo, orange peel, cinnamon sticks, anise seeds and cloves in heavy-bottomed 3-quart saucepan. Cook on medium heat 5 minutes, stirring to dissolve piloncillo. Bring to boil on medium-high heat. Boil 20 minutes or until syrup thinly coats a spoon. Strain and set aside.
Coat 13x9-inch baking dish with remaining 1 tablespoon softened butter. Arrange 9 slices of bread in single layer in bottom of baking dish. Gradually pour 1/2 of the warm syrup over bread slices, allowing some of syrup to be absorbed by the bread before adding more syrup. Sprinkle 1/2 of the raisins, peanuts and cheese over top. Repeat layering with remaining bread slices, warm syrup, raisins, peanuts and cheese. Cover with foil.
Bake 25 minutes or until bread is slightly softened and syrup is bubbling.
• Mexican bolillo rolls are similar to baguettes; however, they are shorter in length, oval in shape and have a crunchy crust and a soft inside crumb. Bolillos can be found in Latin markets and bakeries. If unavailable, substitute 8 ounces French bread, cut into 1/2-inch slices (about 18 slices). • Piloncillo, also known as panela, is made by boiling unrefined cane sugar and pressing into solid form, usually a cone shape. It tastes very similar to brown sugar with a molasses flavor (even though it does not contain molasses). Substitute 1 cup packed dark brown sugar and 1 tablespoon molasses for each 8-ounce cone of piloncillo.