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    You are in: Home / Community Forums / Mexican / Tex-Mex / Southwest United States / Tamale Wrappers...Parchment Paper?
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    Tamale Wrappers...Parchment Paper?

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    Bruce Benjamin
    Fri Nov 09, 2007 4:27 pm
    Semi-Experienced "Sous Chef" Poster
    I've made tamales quite a few times and I've always used the traditional dried corn husks. They always come out well but to me they're sort of a pain to use. The problem I have with them is that while some are nice and large I always end up having to piece together smaller ones. Not that big a deal but sometimes they come apart a little while steaming them.

    I am making a batch tomorrow and I was considering using some parchment paper. I did a Google search and came up with at least one company that sells wrappers that are supposedly made just for this purpose. But I don't want to bother with that. I have a roll of parchment in my pantry and a pair of scissors ready to go. The only thing stopping me is that these are for my Mother's birthday dinner. I really don't want to take the chance that these won't work out the way I hopped and that they'd be less than perfect.

    So, anyone out there use parchment paper for their tamales? How'd they come out? Any suggestions, tips, etc.? Thanks in advance.

    Bruce
    Muffin Goddess
    Fri Nov 09, 2007 7:32 pm
    Food.com Groupie
    Just my opinion, but I would think that you're going to lose some flavor using parchment rather than the corn husks. Not the end of the world, but some of the presentation would be lost as well if they were wrapped in parchment as opposed to corn husks. Although, not having to worry about soaking the husks and all would be nice, huh? I personally would opt for the husks, but I'm a glutton for punishment icon_wink.gif icon_lol.gif

    icon_biggrin.gif
    Karen From Colorado
    Sat Nov 10, 2007 10:03 am
    Food.com Groupie
    I have also heard of using aluminum foil, but I don't think I would go that route either. Like Muffin Goddess, I think the husks add to the flavor.
    Galley Wench
    Sat Nov 10, 2007 10:08 am
    Food.com Groupie
    I have used aluminum foil to wrap my green corn tamales . . . not really sure if it affected the flavor, or that it just seemed 'wrong' to make them that way.
    *SimplyME*
    Sat Nov 10, 2007 7:25 pm
    Food.com Groupie
    My mom has been making tamales for over 50 years now and always uses the corn husk. Yes she gets frustrated with those small husk too. The husk seems to add something to them. We did try the parchment wrappers about 20 years ago. They had them at the store and we bought 2 packages and used one package to make our regular tamales with them. A small batch just to test them out. They just did not have the right flavor. The second package was never used. The corn husk do make a difference. You could always make some with the parchment and see if you think there is a difference. I personally think that there is and would never use the parchment again.
    Barb R
    Sat Nov 10, 2007 8:28 pm
    Food.com Groupie
    I totally agree with everyone else. Use the corn husks. Pick out the good ones, toss the others. They just make a huge difference, and we tried the parchament paper. You lose a lot of flavor that way.
    cookiedog
    Sun Nov 11, 2007 8:19 pm
    Food.com Groupie
    Within the past couple of years the stores in California have begun selling husks that are much larger. I have seen them packaged by a few different companies and they are each hoja is stacked one on top of the other in a neat pile. They are a little costly but well worth the extra expense.

    No need to throw out the small hojas, just use them to line your tamale pot. icon_wink.gif
    cookiedog
    Sun Nov 11, 2007 8:21 pm
    Food.com Groupie
    Within the past couple of years the stores in California have begun selling husks that are much larger. I have seen them packaged by a few different companies and they are each hoja is stacked one on top of the other in a neat pile. They are a little costly but well worth the extra expense.

    No need to throw out the small hojas, just use them to line your tamale pot. icon_wink.gif
    Barb R
    Sun Nov 11, 2007 8:43 pm
    Food.com Groupie
    I just had to ask, Cookiedog....do you use butter or lard/crisco in your tamales? I swear by the butter or a combo of both of them. I think that butter just lends a moisture and flavor that is missing in the maza otherwise. So, I was curious about your opinion??? Nice idea on using the little husks as a liner, by the way. I hadn't thought of that - silly me.
    Bruce Benjamin
    Mon Nov 12, 2007 12:12 pm
    Semi-Experienced "Sous Chef" Poster
    Thank you to all that replied with your comments and advice. I ended up using the parchment paper for the tamale wrappers. I've made homemade tamales many times and I've always used corn husks. My brother makes them every year for Christmas Eve dinner and he always uses corn husks. I usually order a tamale or two ala cart when I go to my favorite Mexican restaurant. I'm no stranger to tamales wrapped in corn husks, obviously. I gotta tell ya that I didn't really notice any big difference in flavor in the masa this time. I know that some of you were saying that there will be a, (huge) difference in the flavor but none of us noticed much of a difference that we could definately attribute to the lack of corn husk. I did use a different brand of fresh masa than ever before and I used less salt. My wife is cutting way back on salt due to an inner ear vertigo problem. Both of these certainly contribute to a different flavor. But nobody thought that anything was, "Lacking". We're usually pretty honest with our food opinions.

    There are different organic materials used to wrap all sorts of foods. In my opinion when you compare corn husks to something like grape leaves the flavor they have is pretty benign. They're not entirely without flavor, of course but I don't believe they impart as much flavor as some of you suggest.

    My whole family is pretty enthusiastic about food. If there was going to be a significant difference if flavor we would've caught it. There is always a difference in flavor with my tamales and my brother's but that's just because we don't ever follow a strict recipe. I did notice a lack of salt, however. To me the masa is the best part of a tamale and the most basic and original of tamales is just that, masa, without any filling.

    The assembly was so much more simple and quick. I used a standard sized roll of parchment paper, a pair of scissors and a stapler. Yup! You read that right, a stapler. Cut off a sheet, smear on some masa, add a blob of filling and fold it over. A little folding of the paper on 3 sides and 3 staples later and the tamale is ready for steaming. Once they were cooked and ready for eating the paper was fairly easy to tear with our fingers. Yum!

    I was a professional chef in restaurants for about 10 years. I've developed a lot of recipes for restaurants, for a catering business I had and for home use. One thing I found is that if you go into a food experiment thinking you know how something is going to taste it will definitely effect your judgment when you actually taste it. In this case the corn husks may add a subtle flavor to the finished product but I've proven, (at least to myself and my family) that there isn't a, "Huge" difference between the corn husks and the parchment. By far the biggest difference that anyone noticed was the smooth exterior of the tamales and the more symmetrical shape. I'd bet that if I did a blind folded test with a bite of masa cooked both ways few people could tell me which was which. But if I did the test where they knew in advance which was which then most people would report the results that they expected going into the test. Curious how that sort of thing works. I've done tests like that a few times and it really does work that way more often than not. Your brain influences your taste buds more than you think.

    Thanks again for all of the input. I really appreciate it. Food forums are fun because so many people are so passionate about their food. Different opinions, different ingredients, different experiences all make for a very educational and entertaining time.

    Bruce
    Karen From Colorado
    Mon Nov 12, 2007 12:30 pm
    Food.com Groupie
    Bruce, thanks for letting us know how your experiment came out. It is an intriguing idea and one I might have to try myself sometime just see the difference for myself.
    Bruce Benjamin
    Mon Nov 12, 2007 5:55 pm
    Semi-Experienced "Sous Chef" Poster
    After reading my post again I see that the same subconscious bias that might make one think that corn husks offer a lot more flavor than parchment might also work in reverse. Meaning, I may have expected there to not be much of a difference so I didn't taste one.

    To be fair I'm going to do a side by side blind test with masa cooked in husk and in parchment. I'll have my wife help so I don't burn my fingers. icon_wink.gif I'm not sure how soon I'll be able to do this but I'll report back when I do.

    Bruce
    cookiedog
    Mon Nov 12, 2007 10:30 pm
    Food.com Groupie
    Barb R wrote:
    I just had to ask, Cookiedog....do you use butter or lard/crisco in your tamales? I swear by the butter or a combo of both of them. I think that butter just lends a moisture and flavor that is missing in the maza otherwise. So, I was curious about your opinion??? Nice idea on using the little husks as a liner, by the way. I hadn't thought of that - silly me.


    I've never tried them with butter. Sounds wonderful! I usually make tamales with a combination of lard/shortening the way my Nana did. I just wish it was not so unhealthy icon_sad.gif Now, I want to do a little experiment with butter in the masa icon_biggrin.gif
    cookiedog
    Mon Nov 12, 2007 10:31 pm
    Food.com Groupie
    Bruce Benjamin wrote:
    After reading my post again I see that the same subconscious bias that might make one think that corn husks offer a lot more flavor than parchment might also work in reverse. Meaning, I may have expected there to not be much of a difference so I didn't taste one.

    To be fair I'm going to do a side by side blind test with masa cooked in husk and in parchment. I'll have my wife help so I don't burn my fingers. icon_wink.gif I'm not sure how soon I'll be able to do this but I'll report back when I do.

    Bruce


    This is so interesting! Can't wait to hear the results- I guess this means a little more tamale making in your future icon_biggrin.gif
    realbirdlady
    Tue Nov 13, 2007 9:06 am
    Food.com Groupie
    Hey, as long as you're being all scientific and such, want to try some with banana leaves, and let us know about that, too? icon_biggrin.gif

    We can pretty much get nice big whole corn husks here, no problem, but it's also becoming increasing easy to get nice whole leaves. I haven't quite gotten up the nerve to just buy some and see what happens...
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