It has been awhile since I reviewed a cookbook, so when the offer to review Vegan Tamales Unwrapped: A Step-by-Step Guide to Savory and Sweet Tamales came across my email I was all for it. I had made Tamale Pie the night before so the timing was nothing short of perfect. Although I am not vegan, I do enjoy cooking outside of my box a few times a month, and making vegan tamales was sure to stretch my comfort. The book is full of mouth watering recipes such as Red Chile Jackfruit Tamales, Potato Adoboe Tamales and dessert tamales like Vegan Chocolate Tamales, but the Vegan Strawberry Tamales spoke to my stomach.
Dora Stone, the author, is a Mexican chef trained at the Culinary Institute of America. She specializes in making traditional Mexican foods to fit a plant based lifestyle. All the tamales in this cookbook are not only vegan, but also gluten free, with additional oil free options. When someone says the word “vegan”, many people imagine a bland food with impossible to find ingredients. For the most part, most of the tamales in this book had ingredients I have on hand, or were easy to find. I usually don’t stock corn husks but most people I know don’t. My local supermarket had them so it was no big deal to find them.
For some reason I always imagined making tamales to be harder than it was. Maybe part of it was the amazing step by step instructions for wrapping the tamales, or the great photos to guide me since I am a visual learner. You can make the dough up to two days in advance, but I made the Vegan Strawberry Tamales all in one day. The most time consuming part was soaking the corn husks because my sink apparently has a slow leak. I had to refilll the sink a few times to fully soak the corn husks, but otherwise everything went off perfectly.
I should say I used my homemade strawberry jam while creating these tamales so they may not have been 100% vegan. Of course had I been feeding actual vegans I would have gone to find another strawberry jam, but in the end it did not effect the sweetness and delicious flavor of these tamales. I still cannot say for sure whether they are for dessert or for breakfast, but I ate them for both!
- 2 cups strawberries, cut into chunks
- 2 cups almond milk, warm
- 1 cup (8oz.) vegan butter, room temperature
- ½ cup sugar, granulated
- 1½ tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt, kosher
- 4 cups (1 lb. 2 oz.) masa harina
- 1 cup water, warm
- 1 ½ cups strawberry, jam
- 30 corn husks, dried
- Soak the corn husks in hot water, in a large pot or in your kitchen sink. Place a plate over them to weigh them down so they are completely submerged. Let them soak for at least an hour.
- Blend the 2 cups of almond milk and 1 cup of the strawberries until smooth.
- To make the dough: beat the butter and sugar, on medium-high speed, with an electric mixer, until the butter has doubled in size and is nice and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the baking powder and salt, and beat for 1 minute to incorporate into the butter.
- Add half of the masa harina then add the strawberry almond milk. After it is completely incorporated, add the other half of the masa harina and the water. Add the remaining cup of chopped strawberries, and beat at low speed, until thoroughly mixed. It should have the consistency of a thick cake batter. If necessary add more water until you reach that consistency.
- For lighter and fluffier tamales, let the dough rest for an hour in the refrigerator. Remove the dough from the fridge and rebeat it, adding enough liquid to get it to the consistency it had before.
- Remove the corn husks from the water and set on paper towels. Reserve the largest husks to wrap the tamales and the small ones to line the steamer.
- To set up your steamer, fill the bottom with water making sure the water is not touching the steamer rack. Line the rack and sides of the steamer pot with corn husks. Set aside.
- To wrap the tamales, pull 24 pencil thin strips off of the corn husks and set aside. Take a husk and dry off the excess water on it with a paper towel. Place the husk in your hand with the tapered side away from you and the smooth side up. Using a spoon, spread 2-3 tbsp. of the dough (¼ inch thick) onto the corn husk, forming a 3 - 4 inch square. Leave a border of at least ¾ inch on each side of the square.
- Place 1 tbsp. of strawberry jam in the center of the dough. Bring the two long sides of the corn husk together, this will cause the masa to surround the jam, and roll them in the same direction around the tamal. (If the husk is too small, fold one of the long sides towards the center, and then fold the other long side on top.) Fold down the empty tapered section of the corn husk, forming a closed bottom. This will leave the top of the tamal open. Tie with a corn husk strip to secure the bottom of the tamal.
- Place the tamal in the steamer vertically leaning against the side of the steamer, with the open end on top. Repeat this process until you run out of dough and all the tamales are in the steamer. Cover them with a layer of corn husks. If the steamer is not full, fill the empty spaces with more corn husks. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Turn heat down to medium and cook for 40 minutes. Check the tamales, when they separate easily from the corn husk it means they are done. If they are not done, steam for 10 more minutes and check again.
- Remove steamer from the heat and let sit covered for 10 minutes. Uncover and let cool for at least an hour. Don’t be alarmed if the tamales seem really soft. As they cool, they will firm up.