The most important part of a tamale is the outer dough. Corn masa (also known as masa harina) must be used to make the dough; there is no substitute. Corn masa has become a very popular ingredient that you can find in the international section of many grocery stores or in any Mexican market. You also can order it online. Maseca, a popular brand of corn masa, makes an almost instant dough that works perfectly for tamales.
Once you have the right ingredients, making the dough is simple: Add butter (or lard), water (or broth) and baking powder to the masa and mix until the dough is light and airy.
A savory tamale filling, combined with a spicy sauce, may include pork, chicken or beef; however, fish, beans, vegetables and cheese also work well.
Sweet tamales, a delicious ending to a Mexican-themed meal, are typically filled with dried or fresh fruit and nuts. Raisins flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg are a popular addition.
Because tamales are steamed, they have to be wrapped so the dough doesn't fall apart. The most common wrappers are dried corn husks, which you can find at Mexican markets and in large grocery stores.
Most corn husks found stateside come packed in water and ready for immediate use. Dry husks must be soaked in water for about 10 minutes so they become soft. Banana leaves also are a popular option, but they are usually larger and need to be heated to make them flexible enough to use. Finally, the wrappers must be tied with twine, rope or string so they stay in place.
Makes 8 servings
Makes 8 servings
Makes 12 servings
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