A couple of months ago, my suegra (mother-in-law) sent over a couple of tamales for me to enjoy for breakfast. I unwrapped my tamales, thinking they were the usual shredded pork tamales with Mole Ranchero, but to my surprise they were sweet tamales. But they weren't the regular sweet tamales made with piloncillo and raisins or stuffed with pineapple that my suegra always makes. They were a very special batch of tamales, stuffed with what we call cajeta de membrillo.
Cajeta de Membrillo (also known as Ate de Membrillo) is a typical Mexican candy made from quince. It's sold in large blocks, but you can have the vendor sell you as big or as little a piece as you want. (I usually buy half a kilo, which is a little over a pound.) When eaten as a candy, the texture is soft but firm, kind of like jello. But when baked into empanadas, muffins and/or danishes, the Cajeta de Membrillo melts and turns into a jelly that looks an awful lot like cajeta. As for the taste, Cajeta de Membrillo always reminds me of apple butter.
My suegra's tamales were so out-of-this-world delicious, I've been waiting for an excuse to make them. Thanks to this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs' theme (Sweet Tooth), and Rick Bayless, I finally had the excuse I've been looking for.
Rick's recipe originally calls for Ate de Guayaba (Guava Paste). Since guava and quince paste both have the same consistency, I chose to use Cajeta de Membrillo, because I really wanted to re-create the tamlaes my suegra made. What really got my attention is that Rick also added cream cheese to the filling. The tangy-ness of the cream cheese would be the perfect way to off-set the sweetness of the masa (dough) and the Cajeta de Membrillo. I didn't have any cream cheese on hand, so I improvised by using Queso Fresco.
The results were even better than I had hoped for. The Queso Fresco and the melted Cajeta de Membrillo worked perfectly together. To give you an idea of just how good they were, my Hubby, who is not a big fan of sweet tamales at all, couldn't keep his hands off of them.
Tamales Dulces de Membrillo y Queso
(Sweet Quince Tamales with Cheese) Recipe slightly adapted from RickBayless.com
- 1 (8oz.) package dried corn husks
- 3-1/2 cups masa harina (I use regular Maseca)
- 2-1/4 cups hot water
- 10 oz. butter
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup milk
- 16 oz. Ate de Membrillo (Quince Paste)
- Queso Fresco or 12oz. cream cheese
Soak the corn husks in hot (boiling) water for 1 to 2 hours until very soft and pliable. Rinse with cold water and pat dry completely with paper towels. Remember: Masa (dough) will slide right off of wet corn husks.
Mix the masa harina with the hot water until the dough start to form a ball. The mixture will be kind of dry and crumbly.
With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream the butter with the granulated and brown sugar, the salt and baking powder until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Remember: Light and fluffy butter equals a light and fluffy masa (dough).
Reduce the electric mixer speed to medium-low. Crumble the masa, a third at a time, into the butter mixture and continue to mix alternately with a third of the milk.
Repeat with the remaining masa and milk. Continue mixing until no pieces of masa are visible. The tamal batter should be creamy and fluffy.
Spread 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons of tamal batter onto two-thirds of a corn husk, leaving a 1/4-inch border free at the top and on the left-side edge. Place a few pieces of ate de membrillo (quince paste) and queso fresco down the center of each tamal. Gently fold over the left side of the corn husk, so that the masa wraps around the filling. Finish rolling the corn husk and tuck in the ends.
Transfer the finished tamal to a large plate until you've finished forming all of your tamales.
Arrange the tamales in a deep pot. Don't pack them in too tight, because they need room for the steam to circulate. Without getting any water on the tamales, fill the pot with about 2-inches of water (about 2 or 3 cups, depending on the size of your pot).
Cover the pot and let the tamales simmer over medium heat for about an hour, adding more water if necessary. You'll know the tamales are done cooking, because the batter will have puffed up. Let the tamales cool for about 15 minutes before serving.
Serve warm for breakfast or dessert. Enjoy!!!
*Recipe yields about 24 tamales.
IHCC Theme: Sweet Tooth