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Torta de pan—bread pudding—is not a novel concept to the dessert repertoire of many countries; in Latin America it is an everyday and very casero (homey) preparation. Variations and interpretations are abundant but not exhausting, surely due to the ease of its assembly and its always pleasing result. The custard-soaked and baked dessert is also a sensible way to salvage stale bread scraps that would otherwise find themselves tossed out with the fish guts and vegetable parings.
Growing up in a hot and tropical climate, humidity was a threat to many foods that in less damp locations would have endured the length of their shelf lives at room temperature. In the midst of our jungle-like environs, these foods were exiled to the Siberian cold of a large freezer. Cereals, grains, cookies, and rolls and loaves were hermetically sealed and chilled until they were consumed. And always, there was a bag of bread heels and scraps, ever expanding, like the belly of a piggy bank.
Once full enough to make a 13- by 9-inch torta, the bread would be thawed out and cubed, then tossed with eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and raisins, and baked. Typically served warm or at room temperature, it was usually drenched in a quick simple syrup of dulce de rapadura (panela or unrefined cane sugar), cinnamon, and cloves. It was dessert, but the local sweet tooth prefers to ignore the clock and the torta would be served for breakfast, alongside coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice, and for my dad, a bottle of Coca-Cola and a banana.
This torta de pan goes further into dessert territory; it's soaked in rum-laced custard and dulce de leche, but since it's layered and capped with bananas, I do think it's permissible during your desayuno.
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About the author: María del Mar Sacasa is a recipe developer, food stylist, and author of the food blog High Heels & Frijoles. Behind her girly façade lurks a truck driver's appetite. Read about her cravings and suffer through her occasional rants on Twitter @HHandFrijoles.