Tamales Dulces con ate de membrillo y queijo de azeitaõ
Because we know you can't get enough of our sweetness, here we have one of our favorite savory sweet tamales with quince paste and in ode to our host country of Portugal, we will use a very traditional sheep's cheese called queijo de azeitaõ.
Makes about 12 tamales
5 Tbsp / 70g butter, softened
⅓ cup / 65g granulated sugar
6 oz / 170g queijo de azeitaõ cheese
6 oz / 170g ate de membrillo / quince paste
Greek yogurt for garnish
Begin by placing your corn husks to soak in a large bowl of warm water to soften while you prepare the ingredients.
Place the fresh masa or mixed masa harina in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or, if you prefer to do this by hand with a whisk, in a large bowl. You want to whip up your masa to get as much air into it as you can, making it fluffy. The more it’s worked, the lighter the tamales will taste. After beating it for 3 to 4 minutes, add the butter 1 Tbsp at a time and continue to whip it until it’s well incorporated. Then add the sugar and mix for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
Cut your azeitaõ cheese and ate de membrillo into 12 equal logs, approximately 2 x ½ inches / 5cm x 12mm. They should look like half of a string cheese stick. It’s not crucial that they be perfectly tidy and uniform as they will be tucked inside the tamales; you just want them to fit within the masa and for each tamal to have about the same amount of both cheese and quince paste.
Take your softened corn husks out of the water they’ve been soaking in, squeezing out any excess moisture. Open one up and place “about 3 Tbsp / 55g of the masa mixture in the center of the husk. Use the back of a spoon or a spatula to spread it into a rectangle that’s about 3 x 2 inches / 7.5 x 5cm and about ½ inch / 12mm tall. It doesn’t need to be precise, just big enough to hold the fillings with enough corn husk on all sides so that you can wrap it up and no filling will ooze out. Place one log of cheese and one log of quince paste at the center of the masa and then bring the sides of the corn husk together, sealing the filling inside the masa. Now fold up the bottom of the corn husk so that the whole tamal is contained “inside the corn husk, then roll it up from the side.
The tamal should be “closed” on the bottom and open on top. Use a second corn husk to bind it further. There really isn’t a science to wrapping tamales. What’s important is that the insides stay as tight as possible and that no masa comes out during steaming. Repeat this process with the rest of the masa and filling. If you want, you can cut one of the corn husks into ribbons and use these ribbons to tie up the tamales for extra insurance.
Once you’ve finished, place a steamer basket in a stockpot and add 2 to 3 inches / 5 to 7.5cm of water. Place all of your tamal packages in the pot and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and let the tamales steam for 20 to 25 minutes, monitoring about halfway through the process to make sure that there is still a good inch or two of water at the bottom of the pan and adding more water if necessary. After 20 minutes, take one out and open it up to test if it’s done. Cut into one with a knife to ensure that the masa has the consistency of firm polenta and doesn’t ooze at all; the halves should cut cleanly and stay intact. Serve with a spoonful of the yogurt.
As with savory tamales, these can be cooked, stored in the refrigerator, and then reheated simply by steaming them again, and they will taste just as good as when they were freshly made.
Recipe Courtesy of Gabriela Camara's “My Mexico City Kitchen" Cookbook.