Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pork Tamales

I feel like this week I am surrounded by Thanksgiving. Food Network is showing all their thanksgiving food shows, people are blogging about thanksgiving food, and I am surrounded by recipes of stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. Oh, and of course, turkey. While I love all these things, I'm going to post something on the opposite side of the spectrum. I'm going to enjoy to the fullest all the food and gluttony that comes with the holiday on Thursday, but afterwards you may want to mix it up a bit. I'm not talking Thanksgiving leftovers either. I'm talking something totally different. Maybe for dinner Monday night after you are sick of turkey-cranberry paninis and fried eggs over stuffing. I'm talking about tamales.

Wait, don't make this Monday night. You will never have time to make these on a Monday. Wait until the next weekend when you can take your time and really enjoy the whole process of making tamales from scratch. I really wish I knew who came up with the whole process, because it certainly isn't quick and easy. The results, however, are absolutely delicious and wholesome. It also makes a lot and the little rolls freeze well. So if you are looking for a quick dinner, this isn't it. It is fun to do though, if you have the time. I also like that I was able to leave out any ingredients that I normally don't like in tamales (such as coriander and spicy peppers).

Truth is, I have never liked tamales. My Dad used to bring them home and I absolutely hated them. I thought the texture was weird and that they didn't have much flavor. I was a picky kid in general though. I've had a sour taste in my mouth about them ever since and just haven't been motivated to try them again. Until my husband challenged me to make a tamale that I liked. He likes them, and I figured so long as I was making them, there was no way they could be bad because I'm not going to cook with ingredients that I don't like. So, I took on the challenge and made my own, and I am so happy I did. I love these. They are filling, nutritious, and perfect with a salad for dinner or on its own for lunch (or like I did a week ago, for a snack before bed).

I started with this recipe from no recipes. Then I changed it almost completely. I followed the technique though, which was the important part.

I started with 4 large bone-in pork cuts. They equaled about 3 1/2 lbs all together. I seared them in my cast iron dutch iron in some olive oil.

Then I added a bunch of veggies and stuff on top. Onions, carrots, garlic, a cinnamon stick, cloves, bay leaves, salt, pepper, oregano, smoked paprika, and chili powder.

I put the cover on and let it simmer for 3 hours, resulting in pork that fell apart when I touched it. I took it out and put it in a bowl to cool a bit.

Meanwhile I made the sauce. 1 red onion went into my food processor and sauteed it in a saucepan with some olive oil until it was nice and soft.

Then it went back in the processor with sesame seeds, chili powder, diced tomatoes, honey, salt, cumin, and oregano.

After the meat cooled a bit, I shredded it.

With the rest of the pot juices, I strained out the veggies and was left with a good amount of pork broth, which is used in the rest of the recipe!

I added about a cup of the broth to the food processor and that made the sauce. I added all but a cup to the meat. The rest I used to top the tamales with later.

 Now, on the the masa. Probably my favorite part. I used butter, but had I lard I would have used it. I didn't mind the butter flavor though. Not one bit! It is pretty simple. I combined masa, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

Then I whipped the butter in my mixer.

Then I added the masa mixture, blended it, and then added the pork stock until it looked like this. Nice and moist, but not too gooey. 

I also soaked my corn husks in some hot water to soften them. I had to keep them in the water so I put some cans on top!

Then for the fun part: assembly. I had my masa, my corn husks, and my pork. I had my baking sheet ready, and a cutting board to do it all on. 

So first, I put a good amount of masa on the corn husk, leaving about an inch at the top. I wanted it to cover the filling but not overlap, basically.  I'd say I used about 1/3 cup of masa for each tamale.

 Then I put a line of pork down the middle.

Then folded in the smaller end...

And rolled from bottom up!

One down! I put them seam side down on a cookie sheet.

Until I had 14 tamales.

I don't have a steamer, or any good way to steam these, so I baked them in my oven with a pan of water to make steam. These probably would have come out moister if I had actually steamed them on the stove. 

After baking for about 45 minutes they were done! They came out of the corn husk nicely.

I served them with extra sauce and a homemade coleslaw.

Homemade Pork Tamales

3 lbs bone-in pork (either a roast or just cuts)
1 onion
2 carrots
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves
1 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 bay leaves

1 large red onion
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp oregano
1 Tbsp. Chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
1 15 oz can whole tomatoes
extra broth from pork

dried corn husks

4 cups masa harina
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/3 cup soft butter
extra broth from pork

To make the pork - sear it on both sides in a large pot. Add in the rest of the ingredients and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3-4 hours or until falling apart. Remove from pot and shred when cool. Strain the vegetables and herbs out of the stock and reserve for the rest of the recipe.

For the sauce - Pulse red onion in food processor until small chunks. Saute in olive oil over medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until soft. Add back into food processor and add rest of the ingredients. Start with a cup of broth and see how it tastes - add more broth for a thinner sauce. Add all but 1 cup to the pulled pork.

Soak the corn husks in hot water after the previous steps are completed.

Mix the masa harina, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Whip the butter in a mixer until light and fluffy, then add the masa. Add in enough brother to make a soft play-dough like mixture. I used about 1 1/2 to 2 cups.

To assemble - Lay out a soft corn husk and put a thin layer of masa over the whole thing, leaving about an inch at the top. Put about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the pork mixture and roll up as shown in the photos, leaving one end open. Once all assembled, steam the tamales for 30-45 minutes. Then they are done! They freeze great. Serve with the rest of the sauce.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hostess cupcakes with homemade fluff filling

When I was a kid, there was a Hostess outlet store in our neighborhood that always had their products on sale for really cheap. My Dad, not able to pass up a good deal, loved to buy me as many hostess cupcakes as my heart desired; and my heart desired lots of hostess cupcakes. I knew he was showing me love by getting me something I liked, and I probably ate one or even two of these every day for 3 years. Even when a friend told me there were some questionable ingredients in them, I ate on, not really caring because they were so darn GOOD. 

I had a method to eating them too. I would first eat the bottom of the cupcake. The most boring part. Then I would eat the cream out of the inside. Finally, I would eat the rest of the cupcake with a much better cupcake-to-frosting ratio. 

You would never catch me eating one of those wrapped things now, or buying them for my kids, but that doesn't mean we have to live without them. Goodies like that are good for the soul, and in moderation we all need treats in our lives. Sometimes I think that is the key to longevity: Really enjoying what you do and stress management. I'll say this over and over again. You don't want to eat cupcakes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However, as a person who lives to eat, just like my Dad, my quality of life would go down without treats like this in there. I wouldn't want to live an extra 5 years not being able to enjoy myself! I can, however, make them from scratch in my own kitchen, and feel much much better about what I am putting into my body, and the bodies of my kids. 

I didn't chose to bore you with pictures of batter-making. I do want you to see how full I filled the muffin cups though, because they were not too big or to small, and I always have trouble with cupcakes overflowing or looking minuscule. I'd say these are 3/4 of the way full. 

The perfect rise is when they come up over the top of the muffin cup, but don't spill onto the muffin pan. I wish this would happen every time I made cupcakes.

While those cooled, I made my homemade fluff. It does use corn syrup, but I really don't have a problem with corn products. I think they get a bad rap because they are used in so many products that are horrible for you. In my own home, however, it isn't an evil sweetener.  I didn't have light corn syrup so I used dark and was afraid it was going to look brown, but by the time it was all whipped up with the egg whites it came out fine!

Egg whites, corn syrup and salt
 Add some powdered sugar and let the mixer do its thing! It is done after about 10 minutes when it looks like this:


To fill the cupcakes, to make a more "authentic" filling, I should have used some butter and more sugar in addition to the fluff and made a fluff cream. But, I just wanted to use the fluff. I also did not want to dirty my mixer yet again. It was getting enough of a workout that day. I filled a gallon ziplock with the fluff and stuck it in the cupcakes and squeezed out a little until it came out the top.

I didn't feel like the cupcakes were getting enough filling, so I dug some little craters in the next dozen cupcakes. Either way I think they came out fine.

I had to spread the extra fluff that exploded out of the cupcakes on top...no big deal.

It was then covered with chocolate ganach anyway  :). I just used a basic chocolate ganach, which is hot heavy cream and dark chocolate.

If there was any part of this cupcake I was unhappy with it was the vanilla frosting for the decoration. I kind of wish I had just left it off. It was mostly because I was lazy and didn't put it in my mixer, or take the time to get the right consistency. It was a big cooking and baking day, and I was worn out by this point. So the swirls on top didn't come out great and kind of bled. Oh well, they still tasted good.

I used the cup trick again to put my frosting in a ziplock bag for piping.

Gavyn and John got their own special cupcakes
 These are super yummy. Not exactly like their role model from Hostess, but as with most things I make un-processed, I can't expect to get the same results while using whole foods. Hopefully, this is all my kids will know and will never know the difference!

This recipe makes 24 cupcakes, unlike the 12 that is stated in the original recipe. Either that baker ate half the batter or was using really big cupcake pans. I sent most of these to the high school for a bake sale!

Cream-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted from Babble


1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup hot coffee
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, Dutch process cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together eggs, oil, buttermilk and vanilla and then add into the dry ingredients. Whisk in the hot coffee.
Fill lined muffin cups 2/3 full and bake at 350 degrees F for 18-20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Fill with Homemade fluff (recipe below) and top with chocolate ganach (recipe below) and vanilla icing (recipe below) if desired. 

Homemade Fluff
3 egg whites
2 cups light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 - 3 cups powdered sugar, to taste
1 - 1 1/2 Tablespoons vanilla extract, to taste, or other flavoring

*If using raw egg whites worries you, there are other recipes that use gelatin. I use the eggs from our own chicken and am not worried at all about consuming raw eggs, but it is up to you. 

Combine egg whites, corn syrup, and salt in a stand mixer with whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until it gets large, fluffy, and looking like fluff. Add in the powdered sugar (I just needed 2 cups for the amount of sweet I wanted) and vanilla. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. 

Vanilla icing

2 Tbsp. soft butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar (or more if needed)
1 Tbsp. milk

Mix all ingredients thoroughly, adding more powdered sugar if it is too wet.