About 9 ounces Mexican chocolate (1 1/2
10 ounces (1 1/3 cups) unsalted butter, rich-tasting pork lard
or vegetable shortening (or use a combination), slightly softened
but not at all runny
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
teaspoons baking powder
2 pounds (about 4 cups) fresh coarse-ground corn masa
for tamales or 3 1/2 cups dried Masa Harina for tamales mixed
with 2 1/4 cups hot water
About 1 cup milk or water
2/3 cup raisins or coarsely
chopped semisweet chocolate (optional)
For serving, optional: Assorted fresh
berries, custard sauce, mint sprigs
Preparing the cornhusks. Cover the husks with very hot water, weight with a plate
to keep them submerged, and let stand for a couple of hours until the husks are
For forming the tamales, separate out 24 of the largest and most pliable husks —
ones that are at least 6 inches across on the wider end and 6 or 7 inches long.
If you can't find enough good ones, overlap some of the large ones to give wide,
sturdy surfaces to spread the batter on. Pat the chosen husks dry with a towel.
Preparing the batter. Roughly chop the Mexican chocolate, then pulverize it in
a food processor. You should have 1 1/2 cups. With an electric mixer on medium-high
speed, beat the butter, lard and/or shortening with the Mexican chocolate, sugar,
salt and baking powder until light and fluffy in texture, about 3 minutes. Continue
beating as you add the masa (fresh or reconstituted) in three additions. Reduce
the speed to medium-low, then add the milk or water. Continue beating for another
minute or so, until a 1/2-teaspoon dollop of the batter floats in a cup of cold
water (if it floats you can be sure the tamales will be tender and light).
Beat in a little additional milk or water if needed to give the mixture the consistency
of soft (not runny) cake batter; it should hold its shape in a spoon.
For the lightest textured tamales, refrigerate the batter for an hour or so,
then re-beat, adding enough additional milk or water to bring the mixture to the
soft consistency it had before.
Setting up the steamer. Steaming 24 husk-wrapped tamales can be done in batches
in a collapsible vegetable steamer set into a large, deep saucepan. To steam them
all at once, you need something like the kettle-size tamal steamers used in Mexico
or Asian stack steamers, or you can improvise by setting a wire rack on 4 coffee
or custard cups in a large kettle. It is best to line the rack or upper part of
the steamer with leftover cornhusks to protect the tamales from direct contact with
the steam and to add more flavor. Make sure to leave tiny spaces between the husks
so condensing steam can drain off.
Forming the tamales. Cut twenty-four 8 or 10-inch pieces of string or thin strips
of cornhusks. One at a time, form the tamales: Lay out one of your chosen cornhusks
with the tapering end toward you. Spread about 1/4 cup of the batter into a 4-inch
square, leaving at least a 1 1/2-inch border on the side toward you and a 3/4-inch
border along the other sides (with large husks, the borders will be much bigger).
Sprinkle a few raisins or chocolate pieces (if using) down the center of the batter.
Pick up the two long sides of the cornhusk and bring them together (this will cause
the batter to surround the raisins). If the uncovered borders of the two long sides
you're holding are narrow, tuck one side under the other; if wide, then roll
both sides in the same direction around the tamal. (If the husk is small, you may
feel more comfortable wrapping the tamal in a second husk.) Finally, fold up the
empty 1 1/2-inch section of the husk (to form a tightly closed "bottom,"
leaving the top open), and secure it in place by loosely tying one of the strings
or strips of husk around the tamal.
As they're made, stand the tamales on their folded bottoms in the prepared
steamer. Don't tie the tamales too tightly or pack them too closely in the steamer.
They need room to expand.
Steaming and serving the tamales. When all the tamales are in the steamer, cover
them with a layer of leftover cornhusks; if your husk-wrapped tamales don't
take up the entire steamer, fill in the open spaces with loosely wadded aluminum
foil (to keep the tamales from falling down). Set the lid in place and steam over
a constant medium heat for about 1 1/4 hours. Watch carefully that all the water
doesn't boil away and, to keep the steam steady, pour boiling water into the
pot when more is necessary.
Tamales are done when the husk peels away from the masa easily. Let tamales stand
in the steamer off the heat for a few minutes to firm up. For the best textured
tamales, let them cool completely, then re-steam about 15 minutes to heat through.
Serve tamales opened up on a plate with a sprinkling of fresh berries, a spoonful
or two of custard sauce and garnished with mint sprigs.
Makes 24 tamales
Working Ahead: Both filling and batter can be made several days ahead, as can
the finished tamales; refrigerate, well cover. Re-steam (or even microwave) tamales
before serving. For even more flexibility, batter, filling or finished tamales can
be frozen. Defrost finished tamales in the refrigerator overnight before re-steaming.
Posted by Tiffany at Recipe Goldmine 5:39:37pm 11/1/03.