Chef Jen’s Dessert Tamales – reader recipe

A few readers of this website are professional chefs – and I couldn’t resist asking one to contribute to up the ante from our usual home-cooked fare to add a little adventure to our pressure cookers. Armed with a preview of the tamale pressure cooking technique she marched right into her kitchen and created an original recipe to share.

Jen writes her blog, Diary of a Knifethrower, like nobody’s watching- but once you get a peek her writing reels you in like her dishes.
She teaches classes at the Santa Fe School of Cooking – moving to New Mexico after culinary school in Oregon in search of challenge. She also taught Diabetes Cooking Education for Native Americans and is currently mentoring a nice Native girl who just might follow in her footsteps to attend the Oregon Culinary Institute in Portland. She also does private catering and still pops to Oregon to help at events from time to time.

I have to mention that Jen lives at 6,000 feet and cooks at 7,000 – this is what we would call high-altitutde cooking!  So the change of pressure at this altitudes does not only affect the cooking time in pressure cooker, but also leavening agents (obvious!? no! ; ).  So pay careful attention to these parts of her recipe.

In Jen’s words:

Learning tamales was a privilege- being taught by Abuelas (grandmas) and my awesome sous chef Noe was eye opening. I learned that the debate between Masa-vs-Filling will roar on forever. I am a Masa girl, I love starch in any form, actually. I kick my masa up a few notches and try to make a statement with it- it should be the first thing you see, smell and taste in a tamale and it should not be entirely bland. In the case of a “deaf” tamale (one with no filling- often done along side a cup of cafe con leche at dessert time or in consomme’ as a dumpling) masa really needs to be the standout component sometimes. In some savory tamales, I make a strong corn stock to hydrate my dry masa.

On the other hand, fillings must stand up to the starchy masa as well. In the Salvadorean version, where a combination of meat, fruits, veggies and hot sauce is king, the masa should be light and it should be a component that gently marries into the dish (these are usually full-plate sized tamales wrapped in banana leaves and they pack a flavorful wallop).

I poured on the coconut in this masa to give a nice perfume to the corn. Toasted coconut adds a little texture. I actually used palm (jaggery) sugar in mine, but white sugar will do. Mexican Piloncillo is amazing in this, but it must be melted into the coconut juice before use, as it is so hard and needs to be pounded up first.

I grilled the pineapple to add a layer of dark caramel and concentrate the sugars a little. Mango was used fresh, obviously, as it needs little else to make it great.

Gremolata of mint and lime was used liberally in the tamale filling and sauce.

I decided to use these flavors as a great pairing with Blanco tequila. Since Margaritas with Cuervo tequila usually abound on Cinco de Mayo, I thought a little classier tequila was in order.

Chef Jen’s Dessert Tamales (Pressure Cooker Recipe)
Jen has included all of the components pictured in this recipe, but for the home cook doing just the masa and filling will still result in a delicious dessert tamale. But if you’re feeling Chef-y, go for it!

Coconut Masa:
2 cups masa para tamales (Maseca brand)
2/3 cups vegetable shortening
¼ c 2 tablespoons of white sugar
8 fl oz canned coconut milk, well blended (not light coconut milk)
5-6 fl oz young coconut juice, to texture
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder (or 1 above 5,000 feet)
1 1/2 t coconut extract (imitation)
1/2 c toasted unsweetened coconut, cooled and crumbled

In a mixer bowl, beat shortening until light, add sugar and beat for 2 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, place dry masa, salt, crumbled toasted coconut and baking powder. Stir to blend well. Add coconut milk and approximately 4 fluid ounces of coconut juice. Blend with your fingers until masa comes together into a soft dough that does not stick to your fingers when you collect it into a ball, as you would for making corn tortillas. Add more coconut juice as needed to make the right texture, and be sure not to make it too wet. Let masa sit for 15 minutes, lightly covered. Masa will soak up moisture as it sits.

With the mixer running, add knobs of masa to the shortening until blended. Whip each addition and incorporate as much air as possible for a lighter masa.

This masa will not pass a float test – used to see if enough air has been incorporated into the fat and masa so as to create a lighter textured finished product – if you use organic vegetable shortening and coconut milk. This is not a problem for this particular recipe.

1/2 cup small diced fresh mango
1 can pineapple rings in natural juice, or 1 whole pineapple, cleaned and planked ¼” thick
1 tablespoon minced lime zest
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice

Preheat grill to high. Pat pineapple dry on paper towels. Place on hot grill for at least 3 minutes, or until browned and grill marked before turning and browning on the other side. Take the pineapple off the grill, let cool and cut into small dice.

Combine mango, pineapple, zest, juice and sugar in a small bowl. Hold for filling.

Use smooth side of tamale husk on the inside. Place 3-4 tablespoons of masa in the center of the husk and flatten into a rectangle with wet fingers. Place 1-2 tablespoons filling lengthwise on masa and fold masa onto itself, making a tube with the husk. Roll tamale into a log and tie both ends with strips of corn husk to resemble a wrapped candy. Make sure candy-style wrap is nice and snug- makes for better husk marks on masa. Package fold style works well, too. DO not do an open topped tamale in the pressure cooker with this recipe.

Steam at high pressure for 8-10 minutes (or 11-13 above 5,000 feet), do a quick release and let tamales sit in husks 5 minutes to carry over and settle.

Mango Coulis:
2 mangoes, medium diced, or 2 cups of frozen mango chunks, partially thawed
3-4 tablespoons Margarita Simple Syrup*
Lime juice to taste

Place mango in a blender or food processor and puree with 2-3 tablespoons syrup, a squeeze of lime juice and puree until smooth. If too thick, add 1 tablespoon of syrup at a time and blend. Test sauce for running on the plate. Put into a squeeze bottle, chill for service.

*(To make margarita simple syrup, combine ¼ cup each of blanco tequila and white sugar in a sauce pan. Add the entire zest of one lime and half of the lime’s juice. Reduce by a third, let cool)

Coconut Sauce:
1 cup coconut milk
1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 ½ ounces of white chocolate
Zest of one lime, microplaned or minced
6 large spearmint leaves, minced
Pinch kosher salt
2 tablespoons white sugar

In a small nonstick saucepan, dissolve starch in coconut milk, add sugar and salt. Stir in lime juice. Bring to a slow simmer and stir constantly until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon without running when a finger is dragged through.

Add lime juice, zest, mint leaves and white chocolate off the heat, stir until melted and combined, then let cool completely, covering with plastic wrap on the surface of the sauce to prevent a skin from forming. Chill and put into a squeeze bottle.

Place clean, trimmed husk on plate, pool coconut sauce under tamale. Drizzle mango puree across tamale, garnish with lime zest curls- candied in margarita syrup/sugar

Recipe and Photo Credits Chef Jennifer Woodring

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