tamale tutors please

PunkinHeadJonesAugust 19, 2011

Hello I am visiting from the Okla Gardening forum and you seem a friendly enough group.

For those with first hand tamale experience , following the standard masa recipe of 4 parts masa, 4 parts liquid, 1 - 1+ parts fat ( lard!) and a little BP the dough never acheived the floating ball test even after adding a litlle more liqiud at a time as adviced. Even after almost going 3/4 cup more liquid a little at a time the ball never floated. Going beyond that point I was afarid of going to far. The Masa mix about the consistency of frosting. Various sources say " peanut butter, cookie dough, cake batter and of course all are "the real way , authentic, tradtional and the way my grandma made them " I thought the masa could have done without he extra liquid . The BP was active, some recipes even skip it. it would seem more fat would make it float but not liquid. Some recipes call for less fat. Thanks.

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Welcome to the forum.

I've only made tamales one time and hadn't heard of a floating ball test. So I googled. Maybe something at the link will help. (They say to whip the lard to incorporate a lot of air into it.)

The tamales I made weren't too good. The masa layer was way too thick & didn't have enough filling in them. And boy are they a lot of work. But now you've made me hungry for tamales so I may have to try them again. Won't be finding any tamale stands in central Wisconsin. :(

Here is a link that might be useful: Tamale Discussion

    Bookmark   August 19, 2011 at 5:56PM
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I use fresh masa to make tamales, and so it does not require any liquid to be added to it. Adding extra water to masa will not make it float, since what you are added is the same density as water. Adding more lard will make the masa more bouyant, and it definitely improves the flavor and texture. I've never done the floating ball test, however. It's not traditional to add BP, but it does help lighten them a bit - it's not used in Mexico, but there no reason not to use it.

I do not make tamales very often because there are so many places to buy them here, and you can get every Central American variety, although I prefer the "nouvelle" tamales that have more interesting ingredients.


    Bookmark   August 19, 2011 at 7:57PM
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I also have never done the floating ball test when I make tamales nor do I add baking powder. The amount of water varies here quite a bit because of our humidity. In winter, more water. In summer, less water. After the mixed masa has rested for a bit I check to see if it needs more. I use a consistency a bit thinner than Skippy Smooth PB. We don't like the dough very thick...just thick enough that it doesn't crack & break open during steaming. Tamales are a lot of work so when the freezer's getting low we have a tamale-making party & divide the duties making several hundred at a time. Everybody leaves with a couple dozen.

Lars, what type ingredients are in "nouvelle" tamales?


    Bookmark   August 19, 2011 at 8:16PM
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Tricia, here's a link to Corn Maiden where you can click on their "Products List" to see what they put in their gourmet tamales. I like #112 Pork, Wild Mushrooms & Red Port. They generally have stands at most of the larger Farmers' Markets here, and so I do not have to go to Harbor City to get them. Their store used to be in Culver City, which was much more convenient for me, however.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2011 at 8:08PM
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Wow, thanks Lars!

#102 sounds good to me but I'd have to re-adjust my expectations or my taste buds would be in for a surprise! lol

I've downloaded their menu selections so I can ponder a new creation for when it's time to again make tamales. It's only about a once/year thing because of the labor involved.

I have to confess though...I use lard in many Mexican dishes. Substitutions bother my taste sensibilities. I'd rather limit consumption than give up, say, a bit of lard in the refritos or masa. :)


    Bookmark   August 21, 2011 at 11:01AM
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beachlily z9a

I make them with left over turkey breast, roasted onions and whatever else is handy. Yummmm!!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2011 at 12:21PM
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I can't call myself a tutor but have achieved the floating dough test in two ways: Beat the dough with your hands or if a small amount in an electric mixer. It does need lard, never shortening, many reasons. When you've whipped enough air and lard into it you will get floating dough even with using meat broth which is normally added. The other way, according to lazier cooks is to add about a tablespoon of baking powder. It may not float but the final product will be lighter and not as doughy or heavy as you can see the effects of the BP. It does not interfere with the taste in any way and you're done sooner. Around here, we don't have to do that as we can purchase the dough ready to assemble with your own fillings, thank goodness.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 10:55PM
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This is the recipe I use. And I use the broth option, not plain water.

Here is a link that might be useful: Masa recipe.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 11:25PM
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Thanks to all. I've watched a couple dozen videos on tamlaes from pro shows to old grandmas but needed feed back. For my tip following the MASECA masa recipe use stock, seasoning salt and chile powder for color ! level quarter cup masa per husk , 1 heaping tbls ( 2 level meat filling). Spread masa with 29cent plastic paint stapula form walmart and watch Cheech and Chong movie ( if required ) for bezst rolling technigue. These are much better viewed as the launch point for the next phase. once cooked put in the frig then re heated inthe desired sauce topping. The doubled MASECA recipe 4 cups masa 4 cups liquid 1 1/2 lard yeilds abouts 2 0 - 22 tamles per 2 1/2 lbs pre cooked meat weight.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 10:05PM
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I did a really quick diagram for how I assemble a tamale:

Roll from the bottom of the diagram. Turn up the "tail." I don't bother to tie them. Yikes that would take forever! Once they are really close together, folded tail down, filling end up, they stay put.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 11:04PM
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Thanks for posting images, very much the technigue and look a achieved. Your diagram showed good position for making the caoting and roll for the tamale structure. but do not hesitate to use a schmere as a joint compound to seal edges or the trick or joining two husks to form a tamales. Thanks to online help and you tube the two folks I have given the tamales to have said the are the best they have ever had.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 7:15PM
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