Happy Cinco de Mayo!
Here is my tamale recipe using fresh masa. I did two different fillings - spicy vegetarian refried beans with cooked shredded collards and chard and roasted green chiles with non-dairy cream cheese. There are all sorts of veg. fillings you can use for tamales - I've done sauteed wild mushrooms, walnuts and non-dairy cheese, fresh corn scraped from the cob with leeks and cilantro, whole chipotle chiles in adobo, etc. You can even do sweet tamales with fruit filling. The sky is the limit!
I buy fresh masa in 5 lb. bags and freeze it then thaw it to use part of the container for this recipe. Unfortunately corn husks have greatly ballooned in price lately - a 12 oz bag was almost 6 dollars at my local grocery the other day. (Note to self: dry your own darn corn husks in the future.)
I've also used aluminum foil for tamale wrappers as recommended in Huntley Dent's A Feast of Santa Fe and that works just as well. I use non-hydrogenated margarine for my tamale dough; most tamale recipes I've seen use some sort of solid fat. Kippy Nigh's A Taste of Mexico has a tamale recipe that uses oil but I haven't tried it.
(Makes about 40 tamales)
1 cup non-hydrogenated non-dairy margarine
5 cups fresh masa dough
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup broth (cold broth is best here)
Salt to taste (I didn't use any because the margarine I chose was pretty salty.)
About 4 oz. dried corn husks, rehydrated in hot water for about 20 minutes
Your choice of fillings (you'll need about 1 Tbsp filling per tamale)
Place margarine in bowl of an electric mixer and beet until fluffy. Add masa, baking powder, and broth and beat at high speed for 10 minutes. The resulting mixture should look similar to cake batter as seen below. Add salt to taste.
Rick Bayless says that you can ensure that your tamales will be light and fluffy by taking a tsp. of the dough at this point and seeing if it floats in a glass of water. Honestly I've had some pretty heavy tamales that still passed the float test. My theory is that if your tamale dough is too dry your tamales will be too dense and heavy. This tamale dough is pretty liquid and the resulting tamales are nice and light.
Take a few of your rehydrated corn husks and tear them into 1/3" strips lengthwise to be used for tying each end of the tamale. Place about 1/4 cup of the tamale dough in the center of one or two corn husks and top with 1 Tbsp. of your choice of filling.
Roll up your corn husks and tie each end with a corn husk strip. Place tamales in a steamer and steam them for 45 minutes. Make sure you remember to replenish the steamer water several times over the 45 minutes. You can also freeze your tamales at this point. I freeze them in packs of 12 for a meal - I eat 4 and DH eats a whopping 8 tamales for a meal.
Here they are served with the red chile sauce I talked about yesterday.