Everyone loves the holidays, and most importantly, holiday food. But this holiday season, instead of sticking to a traditional menu, spice things up with this twist on a traditional Mexican delicacy. Voted “Best Vegetarian Tamale” in a 2013 community tamale competition, the recipe for these mouth-watering xocolatamales can be found in Decolonize your Diet: Plant Based Mexican American Recipes for Health and Healing (Arsenal Pulp Press, $26.95). Written by Bay Area professors and partners Luz Calvo and Catriono Ruida Esquibel, the book and its recipes push for a cultural reclamation of pre-colonial Mexican cuisine while reeducating masses that “la comida es medicina,”—food is medicine—not only medicine for the body, but for the soul and our spiritual connection with our ancestors, our community and each other.
Indulge in these award-winning xocolatamales and add a new tradition to your holiday. Buen Provecho!
Makes 30 small tamales
Chocolate Hazelnut Spread:
1 cup (250 mL) hazelnuts
6 Medjool dates, pitted and halved
5 tbsp raw ground cacao
1⁄4 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
1⁄2 tsp ground vanilla (or vanilla extract)
3 discs (2.7 oz [77 g] each) Mexican chocolate
1 cinnamon stick, preferably Ceylon or canela Mexicana
1 small (about 1 oz [30 g]) cone piloncillo
1 cup (250 mL) non- hydrogenated shortening
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp aluminum-free baking powder
3 lb (1 1⁄2 kg) masa for tamales (without added salt or shortening)
3⁄4 cup (80 mL) raw local honey
3 dozen corn husks, cleaned and soaked in warm water for at least 30 minutes
Preheat oven to 275°F (140°C).
Spread hazelnuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. To remove skins, wrap warm hazelnuts in a clean dishtowel and rest on counter for 10 minutes. Rub back and forth on surface of towel to release skins. (It’s not necessary to remove every trace of skin.) Add hazelnuts to a food processor and process until mixture begins to form a butter, about one minute.
In a heatproof dish, pour boiling water to cover dates and let stand for 10 minutes to soften. Strain, reserving liquid. In food processor (containing hazelnut mixture), add dates, cacao, salt, coconut oil, vanilla, and ¼ cup (60 mL) reserved soaking liquid. Process until smooth and creamy, about 1–2 minutes. Use immediately or spoon into jar and store, covered, in refrigerator.
Using fine side of a box grater, grate chocolate. Alternately, using a food processor, blend chocolate into a fine powder. Set aside.
In a small saucepan on low heat, create a sweet cinnamon tea by simmering cinnamon stick, piloncillo, and 1 cup (250 mL) water until piloncillo has melted, about 10–15 minutes. Strain mixture and set aside. Using a hand or stand mixer, whip shortening for 5 minutes, or until doubled in size. Add salt and baking powder and whip into shortening. Add masa and ½ cup (125 mL) cinnamon tea, a bit at a time. When mixture becomes too thick to beat with hand mixer (if using), hand knead for about 20 minutes. At first masa may be sticky. As masa is worked, liquid will be absorbed and it will become less sticky. When it feels less sticky, put a pea-size piece of masa into a glass of cool water to see if it floats. If it doesn’t float, continue to knead or add more shortening or more tea, as needed. When masa has reached desired consistency, add in grated chocolate and honey and knead to combine.
Set out ingredients (Chocolate Hazelnut Spread, masa), each in a separate bowl. Take a corn husk: notice that it is vaguely triangular and that one side is smoother than the other (which has more pronounced ridges). Lay husk out before you, smooth side up, and the base
of the triangle at top. Place a scant ½ cup (60 mL) masa on corn husk. With a spoon or fingers, spread masa to create a rectangle about 3 x 5 inch and about 1/8 inch thick. Leave a ½ inch border at top, ¼ inch on each side, and about 1 inch at bottom. Leave narrow point of triangle entirely free of masa. Place 1 heaping teaspoon Chocolate Hazelnut Spread in center of rectangle. Bring two sides together, folding one side over the other. Fold bottom point up. Tamales are now open at top and enclosed on the other three sides. Place in a baking dish, open end on top. Repeat until you have used up either masa, corn husks, or filling.
Use a tamale pot or large pot with a steamer. Add 3–4 in (about 9–10 cm) water. Stack tamales in steamer, open end up. Place a wet dish towel over tamales to keep steam in, and cover with pot lid. Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium-low, and steam for 45–60 minutes. Remove tamales from heat and check one. If it releases easily from side of corn husk, tamales are done. If they appear a bit mushy, cover and let sit for 30 minutes. Overcooked tamales become rubbery, so don’t overcook.
Learn more about Decolonize Your Diet here.