500 grams fresh strawberries
400 grams azucar morena (evaporated cane sugar)
400 grams water
Natural cooking hardwood, such as almond wood, citrus wood, or hardwood charcoal
1000 grams fresh medium-coarse "masa quebrada" made with Masienda heirloom red corn
2 whole vanilla bean
500 grams cultured butter
500 grams prepared burnt strawberry
250 grams azucar morena (evaporated cane sugar)
4 grams baking powder
2 grams salt
16 dried corn husks for tamales
16 squares of thin kitchen parchment or "grease" paper
Prepare the Burnt Strawberry
Prepare a simple syrup by boiling the sugar and water. Allow it to cool to room temperature.
Prepare a wood or charcoal fire in a grill, fire pit, or fire-proof box.
Wash, drain, and hull the berries. Dry them well.
When the logs or coals are no longer flaming and what remain are glowing embers, begin roasting the berries by placing them directly into contact with the embers.
First lay down all the berries then immediately check their progress. You are aiming to char them completely on one side, the contact side black and crisped but the strawberries still mostly firm and uncooked.
With tweezers or tongs, carefully remove each berry as it is done, placing it into the cool syrup.
Rest the berries in the syrup overnight in the refrigerator to infuse the syrup and macerate the fruit.
Remove the berries from the liquid, being sure to leave behind any pieces of coal that may have stuck to the surface during roasting. You may strain the syrup through a coffee filter to use for some other purpose, such as agua fresca.
Prepare the Tamal Mixture
Put the dried cornhusks into a container large enough to cover them with hot water. Boil the necessary amount of water then pour over the husks. Weigh them down to keep them submerged, cover the container, and let rest for 15 minutes.
Stir together the baking powder, sugar, and salt. Separately, crush the strawberries with a masher or fork, leaving various-sized chunks.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, whip the butter until it is pale, then whip in the baking powder/sugar/salt mixture. Split and scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the butter, reserving the pods for another use. Whip until smooth. Remove from the bowl and set aside at cool room temperature.
Place the masa into the mixing bowl and, with the paddle, whip it until it is smooth. Add the whipped butter mixture in a few additions, stopping to scrape the bowl contents from top to bottom. Repeat while adding the crushed berries. Whip the mixture until it is smooth, with strawberry chunks remaining visible throughout. Cover the mixture and reserve at cool room temperature.
Assemble the Tamales
Lay out 16 full-sized, hydrated cornhusks horizontally on the work surface, with the smoother sized facing up. If your husks are split or too narrow, feel free to overlap two husks to make a full-sized one.
Using a large spoon (or an ice-cream scoop) place about 3/4 cup of tamal mixture centered and near the widest side of the husk.
One at a time, roll each tamal. Lift up the top and bottom edges, and bring them together. Slide your fingers down the sides to compress the filling into a cylinder, like rolling a cigarette. Roll the excess husk around the masa cylinder, being careful not to squeeze the masa out either side. Turn the cylinder so the seam faces up. At the narrow end of the cylinder, pinch down where the masa ends, and fold this end up and over the seam to seal one side. Place fold/seam side down.
Wrap the tamales tightly in moistened kitchen paper to help them cook evenly and maintain their shape.
Cook the Tamales
Prepare a steamer large enough to hold the tamales, either vertically or horizontally. Place the tamales in the steamer, providing some space in between so they can expand slightly and cook evenly.
Cover the steamer and check the tamales after 40 minutes (or 1 hour if they were previously frozen). They will puff slightly before contracting slightly.
Open one carefully to check it. If it easily peels away from the cornhusk, it is either done or it should finish with a short rest inside the steamer but off the heat. If it is sticky and still looks wet, carefully re-wrap it and return to the steamer for 10-20 minutes.
The tamales are done when the masa is lightened in color and does not appear wet or translucent but is soft and crumbly.
If you'd like to try to re-create this recipe using masa harina, we suggest preparing 1000g of masa using the ratio of 1 part masa harina to 1.4 parts warm water.
If you don't have red corn on hand, you can use white or yellow, like white olotillo. You'll still have great flavor but just a slight difference in color.