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Recipe Lab Draft #1: Mexican Sweet Tamales
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Difficulty: Medium

Total Time: 6 hrs

Active Time:

Makes: About 35 tamales

This is draft one for the CHOW Recipe Lab. Try it! Post your comments to this thread.

While many Americans are familiar with savory tamales, the sweet ones are less commonly served in restaurants. They’re more of a special-occasion family recipe. As with many homemade recipes, there are as many variations as there are cooks, and they can contain anything from cinnamon to red food coloring. This particular tamale recipe doesn’t come from any particular region in Mexico although it’s got flavors that you’ll find in many sweet tamales: nuts, fruit, and spice.

What to buy: Maseca is an instant slaked corn meal that is useful in making tamales. It’s widely available (in Latin markets and the ethnic aisle of many grocery stores) and yields consistent results so we used it here (Do you prefer non-instant? Tell us about it on the Recipe Lab thread. ). You can also purchase freshly made masa dough at many Latin markets.

Corn husks for making tamales can be found in Latin markets.

Game plan: The dough can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored covered in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can form the tamales up to 1 day ahead of time and keep them covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Instructions

For the dough:

  1. 1Place corn husks in a large bowl or baking dish, cover completely with hot water, and weigh down with a plate or bowl to fully submerge. Soak until husks are very pliable, at least 2 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. Drain, squeeze and wipe dry.
  2. 2Place raisins in a small bowl, cover with hot water, and soak until plumped, at least 15 minutes. Drain off water and set aside.
  3. 3Combine masa, salt, baking powder, anise seeds, and cinnamon in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Pour in water and stir or mix with hands until dough is wet throughout.
  4. 4Place butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high until lighter in color and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. With mixer running, add masa mixture in handfuls, letting it mix in before adding more, about 2 minutes. Continue to beat dough until well combined and a smooth soft dough has formed, about 1 minute more. Remove bowl from mixer and stir in raisins and nuts. Cover dough and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

To make the tamales:

  1. 1Lay a corn husk on a clean work surface with the wide edge toward you (this is the bottom). Measure 1/3 cup dough and shape into a cylinder about 3 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. Lay dough lengthwise in the center of the husk, leaving about 1/2-inch border at the bottom (the wide edge of the husk).
  2. 2Tightly close the right and left sides of the husk over the filling as if rolling a cigar. Fold the top of the husk (the empty tapered edge) back over the filled husk to close. (If your husks are particularly small or they don’t want to stay closed, use a bit of kitchen twine to tie it closed.) Repeat to make about 35 tamales. Meanwhile, place a steamer basket in a large pot and fill the pot with enough water to reach the bottom of the steamer. Bring the water to a simmer over low heat.
  3. 3Arrange tamales upright in the steamer, with the open end facing up. Cover and steam until filling is set, no longer raw tasting, and tamales pull away easily from husks when unwrapped, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Turn heat off and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.
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