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The basic mexican recipe for the tamal dough or masa

To begin any tamal recipe usually you will need to know how to make and work this type of corn dough! If you can't find any ready-made tamal masa dough at the store it is still easy to make it yourself; this is how it is done.

Making Tamal Dough or Masa:


* 2 pounds of corn flour (masa harina ex.: Maseca)
* 1 tablespoon of baking powder (yeast)
* 1 1/2 cups of lard (it is possible to substitute with butter for the sweet tamales or even half and half)
* 1/2 cup of chicken broth (or infusion of cinnamon for sweet tamales)
* 5-10 skins from tomatoes
* 2 tablespoons of anise
* Washed corn husks
* salt (or sugar to the taste for the sweet tamal types)


The basis for preparing the tamal dough:

We start by infusing, in 2 cups of water, the tomato skins and the anise; allow to boil approximately for 4 minutes, strain and reserve the water.
In a bowl put the corn flour, the salt and the baking powder (or yeast). The flour has to have been prepared earlier, which means to sift it through a sifter. It may help to sift it through twice.
Put the lard (or shortening) in the microwave long enough to see it starting to melt and add it to the previously sifted corn flour. Begin to knead this dough adding little by little both the chicken broth and the water we had reserved earlier, until you get an uniform and smooth texture. A trick to know is the right point for the masa is reached, it is to put a little ball of masa in water and if it floats without coming undone, our masa for tamales is ready.

A secret trick that will help make very tasty tamales is to thoroughly knead the dough, letting plenty of air in the dough. This air trapped in makes the tamales more porous, so they will absorb more flavor.
Another secret is that we add salt to the dough, slightly more than what the recipe calls for, since after the tamales are steamed they tend to lose the salt (or the sugar) in the water and they can become more bland (or less sweet depending on the case).
If we notice that the dough is getting slightly dry, we need to add some more chicken broth. If it got a little too watery, we can add a little more corn flour.
And do not forget: patiently and throughly knead your masa dough, but do not worry, this dough is a pleasure to work with.

Finishing up our basic tamales:
Wash very well the corn husks with which we will make the tamales. Set them to soak for an hour approximately,
and then drain them well. Put some dough on the inside of each corn husk. You will be adding some sort of filling inside the dough, depending on the type of tamal you are making; if needed double the corn husk wrapping; close to wrap.
In the steamer you will cook them in, pile them up vertically. Steam-cook like this for one hour (until the husks come off easily and become easy to detach).

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