Posted on April 07 2015
If there is one thing I remember eating my entire life it’s chocolate and tamales, but not at the same time. Tamales are the most iconic food of the Pre-Columbia era. You can find them savory or sweet in the Americas under different names and wrapped in corn husk or banana leaves.
Tamale comes from the Aztec word tamalli meaning the wrapped one, or el envuelto.
I wanted to combine the tamale with chocoalate, two culinary wonders native to Mexico. I tried to create a very original chocolate tamale using ingredients that were used many centuries ago - but working with white ground corn, the type used to make tortillas, (not yellow sweet corn) is very difficult to maneuver into a sweet thing and even more difficult to combine with chocolate.
My first attempt was ground corn masa, vanilla, unsweetened chocolate and lard. Yes! Even today the best tamales in the world have pork lard and I wanted to create this in my sweet tamale. Savory tamales in Mexico are made with pork lard, but this ingredient is new to tamales, it began to appear after the Spanish arrived to Mexico with pigs. I wanted to see if it paired well.
It was horrible! I moved on, using the same recipe but substituting lard with butter. It was still too dry and didn’t have enough chocolatey flavor. My third attempt led to creating stuffed tamales; chocolate or cajeta (goat’s milk caramel). This attempt felt better but still lacked a creamy factor. I thought about heavy cream or milk but that would make the dough too soft.
It finally dawned on me to use the secret power ingredient that has taken over all of Latin America- sweetened condensed milk. And it was great.
Chocolate Tamales Recipe1 can sweetened condensed milk
1.5lbs of masa (ground white corn)
¼ cup of cocoa powder
½ teaspoon of cinnamon or vanilla (optional)
½ cup melted dark chocolate ( I used Dandelion Chocolate 70%)
1 cup of milk chocolate (cut into chunks or chips)
30 Dried corn husks (or pieces of parchment paper cut into 5”x5” squares)
Three ways to wrap your tamale:
- If using corn husks you must soak these in boiling water until they soften; about 15 minutes.
- These will be steamed; you can use any type of steamer.
- Combine everything (except the milk chocolate chips) and mix with a hand held mixer or stand mixer. Mix until the consistency is creamy, about 5 minutes. Add the milk chocolate chips/chunks and mix 10 seconds; just to combine.
- Prepare your tamales. There are 3 ways to wrap tamales; you have to decide which way you will wrap them to know where you will locate the masa.
- Candy wrapper. You need 2 small-medium husks. You also need to rip some ‘string’ from some other husks for tying.
- Stand up. Find 1 large husk and only fold the end that had the thin part. You will have to steam these standing up so they don’t spill.
- Double husk. Take two small-medium husks and put them end to end; the end being the sides with a straight line. You will, close then fold both ends.
- You have to decide how much you want in each tamale- I like to use ¼ cup but you can do up to ½ cup. If you want to stuff them, have a little extra chocolate to put in the center before you close them.
- Once you have wrapped all of your tamales put them in your steamer and steam for 15-20 minutes. Time depends on the size of your tamales and steamer.
- After 15 minutes take one tamale out and check to see if it’s firm. The best way to do this is to take one out using tongs then opening one end; they should be firm but can still look wet. If you wait until they look dry, they will be too dry.
- Remove from the steamer and eat. These can be eaten the next day but they taste best when they are fresh.
Candy wrap. Uses 2 husks and you tie the ends.
Stand up wrap. This one has a piece of chocolate that will melt as it cooks.
Double husk wrap. This below will use two leaves and I can tie both ends or tuck both ends in.
I used a colander and covered with foil. But any steamer will do the job.
Where do you find dried corn husks? Any grocery store that sells Mexican items will have them; you can also dry your own. Next time you buy fresh corn, save the husks and allow to dry over a few weeks.
Can I use fresh masa? Yes, I have only used fresh masa, which means recently ground corn. But you can use the masa that comes in powder form; you must make it into masa first by adding water.
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