Learning to make tamales is fun and we are definetly having a great time making them in my cooking classes. The Kitchen Engine in Spokane is filling my hands-on tamale classes with eager learners wanting to know more about authentic Mexican food. The students are awesom and the positive feedback I receive is very gratifying. Preparing tamales is not difficult, but the job goes easier and faster when you make them with family or friends. Go ahead and host a tamalada a fun filled tamale making gathering. Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican festival celebrated on May 5th is coming up, so let’s party.
Basic Masa Dough for Tamales
Learn this basic technique and then experiment with different spices to flavor or color the masa dough. My favorite tamale I learned from Yoli our Mexican neighbor. Inside the banana leaves cut from our trees succulent baked pork, potato wedges, poblano chile strips and the traditional olive steamed inside the masa. Heavenly! Tamales can be filled with anything you like, just use the appropriate broth when preparing the masa.
• 2 c. masa harina
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/3 cup fresh lard at room temperature (really it makes all the difference!)
• 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
• 1 ½ cups warm broth
• 12 corn husks or banana leaf wrappers
• 2 tablespoons sauce from cooking meat (optional flavoring for masa)
Prepare the masa: in a large bowl beat the lard and shortening until fluffy. Mix the masa harina, salt and baking powder. Alternately add the dry ingredients and then the broth into the lard, beating the dough well after each addition, perhaps five minutes with an electric mixer. The point is to add air to the dough so it will have a light spongy texture. The optional flavorings can be added now. The dough is ready when it pulls away from the sides of the bowl and is moist enough to spread easily. To test; drop a spoonful of masa into a glass of water, it should float. If not, add additional lard and beat more. Cover with a dish towel and let dough rest for at least 15 minutes to absorb all the liquids.
Preparing tamales: Spoon 2 tablespoons of masa onto a prepared corn husk. (One that has been softened by soaking in hot water) Spread the dough thinly into a rectangle shape within 1” of the sides and top of the corn husk. Place a large spoonful of filling of choice into the middle of the masa. Pick up the sides of the wrapper so the masa forms around the filling. Fold wrapper around the dough into a blimpy shape, twist the ends together and tie with thin strips torn from the corn husks. A water tight package.
Steaming tamales: Place water in the bottom of steamer, stand the tamales upright in the steamer basket making sure they don’t touch the water and are not packed too tightly. Extra husks can line the steamer basket to ensure the tamales stay dry. Place a tight fitting lid on steamer and cook over medium heat for about an hour. (If the steamer runs dry add more water) The tamales are done when they pull away from the wrapper.
Serving tamales: Slice open the corn husk and pull apart to show the tamale, serve with corn husk intact; or unwrap the tamale completely. Rustic tomato sauce is a nice complement to beef or pork tamales. Mole’ sauce is often served with chicken or turkey tamales.