Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pumpkin Praline Dessert Tamales

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Who says tamales have to be savory all the time? When I hosted a culinary tour of the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago a while back, I had the opportunity to try a sweet dessert tamale made with pineapple and pecans. Much to my surprise it was really good and worked so well with the masa. I started thinking that masa is really a great neutral base to build flavors upon so it made sense that sweet tamales work just as well as savory ones. Although we made quite a few tamales at our tamale party, I didn't have a chance to share a sweet recipe. So when I got home, I made these Pumpkin Praline Dessert Tamales to highlight some flavors of fall...

Pumpkin is quite a popular ingredient this time of year so I decided to try my hand at incorporating it in a tamale. I sweetened my masa with a touch of sugar and cinnamon and created a simple filling made with canned pumpkin pie mix, chopped toasted pecan pieces and some brown sugar. After preparing a good handful of these tamales, I hoped for the best and steamed them until done. Sure enough, after taking a bite, they were perfect! The masa held it's own with a subtle sweetness and that hint of cinnamon really carried through. The filling itself was just the taste of fall I was looking for. The pumpkin and brown sugar worked worked well with the crunchy bits of toasted pecan pieces. To finish them off, I garnished these tamales with some homemade whipped cream and a sinful drizzle of buttery caramel sauce. That put these dessert tamales over the top!

Pumpkin Praline Dessert Tamales
original Joelen recipe

2 cups pumpkin pie filling
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces
2 cups masa (prepared as directed on package)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar
corn husks, soaked
caramel sauce for serving (optional)
whipped cream for serving (optional)

To prepare the pumpkin praline filling, combine the pie filling, brown sugar, and pecan pieces in a bowl.

Prepare the masa as directed on the package for 2 cups of masa and add the cinnamon and sugar. and soak the corn husks in hot water for at least 10 minutes. Drain the water from the corn husks and start to assemble.

To assemble, spread a heaping tablespoon of masa across the widest part of the corn husk. Spread it to a nice thin layer. Down the middle of the masa, place your filling in a line, being careful not to overfill! Take the sides of the tamale and fold it over towards the middle. Fold up the narrow bottom and tie it with a sliver of corn husk.

To cook, steam them in a large pot with a steamer basket or even a colander. If you don't have a large pot with a steamer basket, crumple a large piece of foil into a ball and place in a wok, dutch oven or the largest/deepest pot you have. Place your tamales inside the pot and have it lean against the foil ball, all the way around. Carefully fill the pot with water until you have an inch of water or more - just as long as the water level doesn't touch the bottom of the steamer basket/colander. Cook over high heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour, covered. Check the level of the water every so often to make sure it hasn't completely evaporated. The tamales are done when it peels away from the corn husk easily and the masa turns a slight shade of yellow.

To serve, open up the tamale and tuck in the corn husks, laying the tamale on top. Top with whipped cream and drizzle with caramel sauce.

* Since a batch of tamales makes quite a bit, you can definitely freeze them to enjoy later. The tamales should be cooked completely before freezing. I recommended cooling the tamales completely before packing them into a freezer bag. To enjoy, remove from the freezer and run the tamales over some water to get the husks wet. Wrap the wet tamale in a paper towel and microwave for 1-2 minutes or until hot and softened.

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