Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Making of the Tamales

Tamales are not just thrown together. They are not easy to make, and should not be taken lightly. The corn husks must soak for hours, there are chiles to toast and de-vein, salsas to grind, meat to cook and shred. The dough must be mixed and kneaded and pushed by hand. Abuelita Marcelina has done this a thousand times, patting the masa out with her thumbs onto the flattened husk, spreading the filling, folding it up expertly without a thought. I clumsily dropped a spoonful of chicken and salsa verde in one tamal, and somehow managed to close it up in the time that Abuelita made 5 perfect packages. It isn't easy, but in her hands it looked it. It's a beautiful thing to watch a professional at work.

Soaking the corn husks

Abuelita Marcelina de-veining the chile guajillo

The chile close-up

Salsa de guajillo about to be mixed

The fillings: pollo con salsa roja, pollo con salsa verde, rajas con queso (jalapeno and cheese)

The kneading of the masa

Her hands moved so quickly I couldn't catch them on camera

The tamal waiting to be filled

Sweet tamal with raisins (they are dyed pink so that they are easy to identify)

Filling the steamer with the tamales

Piles of tamales!

Ready to eat

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Cake: Part One

It was a four layer round cake, based on our favorite drink- the Margarita. Lime cake, soaked with tequila-lime syrup, filled with lime curd, and frosted with lime buttercream. Lime, lime, and more lime! Now I do not recommend to any bride that she make her own wedding cake, but I did it and survived (barely) to share the experience.
Day 1. The actually baking part was easy. Two cakes for each layer, 14 inch, 12 inch, 10 inch, and 8 inch. A bag of limes, zested. A few pounds of flour, a few dozen eggs, separated. 2 quarts of lime curd, cooked and in the fridge, cooling, waiting to be spread over every layer. Day 2, the buttercream went smoothly, 8 pounds of butter, room temp, melded perfectly into the batch of meringue whisking away in the huge Hobart mixer. I began to frost. And frost. And frost. Cake number 1, the biggest: filled, layered, frosted, and done! Same with number 2, the 12 incher. As I began to scrape the buttercream out of the large silver bowl I began to sweat. 2 more cakes left! Will there be enough? Cake 3 got frosted with the crumb coat, into the freezer to harden, and then back out for the second layer. From the huge bowl filled with fluffy, lime-y butter, there was barely a cup left. Did I miscalculate? Would I have to make a new batch? The top layer was for us, to freeze and eat on our first anniversary, would we miss out on the tradition because I did not make enough buttercream and had no more butter? As I filled the last cake with curd and nervously eyed the dwindling supply of frosting, my heart began to pound. I thinly, so thinly, coated the top layer of our wedding cake and chilled it, my mind not on the wedding, or the meaning, or the love that I have for my future husband. All I could think of was why. Why am I punishing myself? Who does this?
With my bright red spatula, an engagement gift, I scraped the whisk clean, I cleaned that bowl, I got every little bit of that buttercream I could find and managed to completely cover that last little cake, with not an ounce to spare. Disaster averted, I took a breath, remembered what I was doing it for, and thanked the pastry gods for the buttercream miracle.

The Cake: Part Two, a Photo Essay

6 a.m. on the morning before the wedding, I was up and rolling fondant. Note the smile and the crazed look in my eyes.
The smallest cake, covered. Finally. I will not go into detail, because I never want to re-live the experience, but the smallest layer was the hardest to cover neatly. Strange.

Placing the small, edible pearls around the border of each layer.
More Pearls...
Ribbons placed, waiting to be delivered to the Orange Lawn Tennis Club.
The cake! Finally decorated, flowers arranged, no more worries.

The only, and blurry, picture I have so far of us cutting the cake.