Do you have your filling ready? I think Sharon's anxiously waiting to see what happens next! So here goes!
Masa--this is a fine cornmeal. Regular cornmeal won't do. The consistency of masa is similar to flour. This is the stuff I couldn't find at my regular grocery store, but I tried another and found it there.
Chicken broth or stock--One can should do.
Corn husks--You'll need one bag, but you might want to get two just in case you run out. Soak these in warm water for at least two hours to overnight so they're soft and pliable.
This recipe is actually two batches of dough, which should be just about enough if you've made a single recipe of filling. If you don't quite have enough, halve the following ingredients and make up a second batch.
1. Beat 1-1/2 cups of shortening until fluffy.
2. In a separate bowl, mix 4 cups of masa with 2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1 teaspoon of salt. To that, add 4 cups of liquid made up of 1 can of chicken broth and warm/hot water to equal the 4 cups. Mix liquid into dry ingredients. (If you don't have chicken broth, simply use water.)
3. Add dough to shortening and beat until blended.
Here are some additional things you may need:
Traditionally, tamales have a single black olive placed carefully into the center. I don't usually have the patience, so I just dump a can of black olives into my filling and mix them in. I also like to dice up pepper jack cheese and add that to the filling. I swear there's not much better than a gooey, melting nugget of cheese in a hot tamale! You will also need some twine to tie the ends of your tamales. I know that a lot of people just fold their tamales, but I think I'd need super glue to hold them closed--it just doesn't seem to work for me. For this reason, I prefer the rolled type with tied ends. Cut your string--which should be a fairly thick cotton string--between 6 and 8 inches long.
Here's how I usually set things up. Filling on one side, a plate to hold the rolled tamales, string close by, a pot of corn husks, and the bowl of masa dough. I also like to use a thick bath towel to work on because it absorbs the water from the corn husks and gives me something to wipe my fingers on when needed. And that reminds me--you're probably going to get messy. Wear old clothes.
You will also need to steam the tamales once you've rolled them, so you'll need something to steam them in. I use this large turkey roaster with a roasting rack. I place an inch or two of water in the bottom, and the rack holds the tamales out of the water. I can usually cook seven tamales at a time.
THE TAMALE ROLLING PROCESS
Lay out two to three corn husks, overlapping one another. I like to use one of the larger husks as a base and then one or two (or three) smaller husks to the right of the larger husk and overlapping.
Spread a thin layer of masa dough over the husks, leaving about an inch clear at the top and bottom. The trick here is to estimate how wide to spread the masa, because you'll need to spread it wide enough to wrap around the filling but not across the entire surface of the corn husks. Try one or two to get an idea of how large an area you should cover with the masa. Note that you don't have to perfectly cover every little crack, but do the best you can to spread it evenly as the masa will hold the filling in.
Place filling down the center of the masa dough, not quite reaching the top and bottom of the dough--you want the dough to seal at the ends, not squirt filling out.
Roll the corn husks over the top of the tamale. If you've used a large husk, it should nearly wrap around the entire tamale. Slip a piece of string under one end and tie tightly closed while pinching and adjusting the husks to ensure they don't gap open. Turn the tamale and do the same on the other end.
Repeat. A bunch of times. It will get easier as you become familiar with working with the masa and the corn husks and the rolling technique.
Layer the tamales in a steamer so that air/steam can circulate between them; cover and steam for 45 minutes. Do not despair if one or two in the first batch are not pretty. Sometimes during cooking--until you get the whole rolling process down--they can fall apart a bit. This can be fixed. Simply EAT the ones that aren't quite as nice looking.
Now you'll probably have a mess to clean up, but it's well worth it!
Tamales freeze well. I usually put 4 to 6 in a Ziploc bag and stick them in the freezer, to be pulled out on those days when I'd rather quilt than cook. To reheat, you can put them in the microwave or re-steam them. The tamales I make are pretty big and usually one or two is enough for each person, depending on appetite and side dishes. I started off with two 5-pound pork roasts and ended up with about 40 tamales. Yum!