How to Form a Tamale
Masa + filling + corn husks = deliciousness
1. Make sure you have all of the necessary items: A large bowl or baking dish and a plate, a steamer basket, a large pot with a tightfitting lid, a measuring cup, measuring spoons, a small heatproof bowl, 35 corn husks, Basic Masa Dough, bean and cheese filling.
These steps illustrate how to form and steam tamales using our recipe for Bean and Cheese Tamales as an example. View these steps as a photo gallery
2. Place the corn husks in the large bowl or baking dish, cover them completely with hot water, and weigh them down with a plate or bowl to fully submerge them. Soak the husks until they are very pliable, at least two hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. (The more pliable they are, the less likely they are to crack when forming the tamales.)
3. Place the steamer basket in the pot and fill the pot with enough water to reach the bottom of the steamer. Cover the pot and bring the water to a simmer over low heat.
4. Meanwhile, drain the corn husks, squeeze out any water (excess water may make your masa gluey), and wipe the husks dry.
5. Lay a corn husk on a clean work surface with the wide edge toward you (this is the bottom). Measure a 1/4 cup of the masa dough and spread it a 1/4 inch thick on the husk, leaving a 1/2-inch border along the bottom. (Because all corn husks are different sizes, it’s more important to get the thickness of the masa right rather than worry about covering the husk with masa.)
6. Evenly spread 1 tablespoon of the filling down the center of the masa dough.
7. Bring the two sides of the husk together until the dough meets over the filling.
8. Wrap the husk over the dough, making sure you don’t get any of the husk in between the dough and the filling.
9. Fold the top of the husk (the empty, tapered edge) back over the filled husk to close. If your husks are particularly small or they don’t want to stay closed, use a bit of butcher’s twine to tie them closed. Repeat to make 35 tamales.
10. Arrange the tamales upright in the steamer with the open ends facing up. If your steamer is too big to hold all of the tamales snugly together, place a small heatproof bowl upside down in the center to stabilize the tamales.
11. Cover and steam the tamales until the dough is set and no longer raw-tasting and the tamales pull away easily from the husks when unwrapped, about 1 1/2 hours. Turn the heat off and let the tamales rest for 15 minutes before serving.