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What is your favorite tamal filling?
Tamales, Oh Sweet Tamales, ¡Tamales de Dulce! When making savory Tamales, some families separate a small amount of the masa to make sweet tamales. There’s the simple version that just has some sugar, but you can also add one of the following fillings: raisins, pineapple chunks, shredded coconut, dried fruits, berries, prunes, and fruit jams. Add to this the very sophisticated versions with fillings like chocolate, berries, guava, cream cheese, dulce de leche, pecans, pine nuts, and even Nutella nowadays.
Tamales are a meal for celebration, a special treat for parties and birthdays, or ritual times like the Day of the Dead. In Mexico, February 2nd is the day when the lucky people who found the little baby inside the Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings Bread) will invite their friends and relatives over to eat tamales (you can read about that here). In Prehispanic times, the second day of the second month of the year was the beginning of the
Mexicas Calendar “Atlcahualo”, and they used the Tamales as part of their offering to their gods. The Tamales they used to make were different according to the celebration or rituals.
Not everyone dyes their sweet tamales with food coloring, but it is common to make them like that, especially in central Mexico. They’re usually made with fresh masa, but this recipe calls for Masa Harina since that’s not available everywhere. The dry corn flour/masa harina is readily available here in the States, with brands like Maseca or Minsa.
- 1/2 cup of unsalted butter, at room temperature*
- 6 Tbs. sugar
- 1 1/2 cup of Masa Harina
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 Tbs. raisins**
- 1 1/2 cup warm water
- 6 drops of red food coloring***
- 10 large Corn Husks, soaked in warm water.
- Optional, Extra corn husks to make thin strips to tie the tamales.
*Tamales are traditionally made with Lard, so you can use that if it’s available.
**As mentioned above, other common fillings are pineapple chunks, shredded coconut, cajeta/dulce de leche, strawberry jam, etc.
***I’ve tried other ways to color the tamales instead of using the vegetable coloring, like using beets juices and Hibiscus tea, but the end result looks more like a purple color than red or pink. Of course, you can always skip the coloring. You can buy Natural Food Coloring at Specialty or Organic Stores.
Taste the sweetness, maybe you have a sweeter tooth and would like to add some extra sugar.
If you have fresh masa-dough, use 15.5 oz. (610 grs.), equal to 2 1/3 cups.
1. Place butter and sugar in a medium size bowl and, with the help of a mixer, beat for a couple of minutes until it has a creamy texture. About 2 minutes.
2. In a larger bowl, mix Masa Harina, baking Powder and raisins. Stir well and then add the warm water little by little.
3. While mixing the dry ingredients with the water, add the drops of Food Coloring. Mix well to have a uniform color.
4. Once you’ve incorporated the food coloring to the dough, it will look slightly pink. Now add the butter and sugar mixture.
5. Beat the dough with your hands or a wooden spoon, as the dough is somehow too heavy to work with in your mixer, unless you have a Heavy Duty Stand Mixer like Kitchen Aid. The dough will be ready when it looks fluffy and creamy, like a very soft ice cream. If your dough seems too dry, add a little more water. The consistency has to be very soft.
6. Drain the corn husks from the soaking water. Place about 1/3 cup of the dough over the corn husk and wrap the tamal. If you’re also making savory tamales, you can tie the sweet tamales in order to differentiate them from the savory ones. Keep assembling the rest of the tamales.
7. Place the tamales standing up in your steam pot (Tamalera), add about an inch of hot water, cover with corn husks, aluminum foil or a plastic bag, and then cover with the pot lid. Cook for 1 to 1 1/4 hour at medium heat. Add more hot water if needed to avoid burning the tamales.
Not everyone has a special Steamer for tamales (Tamalera), but you can improvise by using a large pot and crumbling some aluminum foil and placing it at the bottom of the pot, and also forming an aluminum ball to place in the center of the pot where the tamales can stand/lean on during the cooking process.
What is your favorite tamal filling?
I hope you make them… If you do, please come back to let me know your experience.