When I was helping test recipes for The Tex-Mex Cookbook we tried to come up with a manageable recipe for two dozen tamales at a time. With Christmas just around the corner, here is a recipe for the masa you'll need.
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For this recipe you will need 1 ½ tsp of salt, 4 cups Maseca, 1 tsp of baking powder, 3 ½ cups of warm chicken or pork broth (or water) and 1 cup of lard.
You can buy fresh lard at most Mexican meat markets around town. I get mine at La Favorita on North Main at Airline, just across from Spanish Flowers Restaurant. I heat it until it is liquid and then strain it through paper towels into my oil container. It's an extra step in order to remove any particulates. I do recommend sticking with a saturated fat (rather than vegetable oil) for your masa.
Combine all of the ingredients with the exception of the lard in the mixing bowl of a heavy duty mixer. Use the whisk attachment. With the mixer on low, blend all to make a moist dough. Increase the mixer speed to medium (no more though; I actually burned up a Kitchen-Aid once by using the highest speed) and begin adding the lard spoonful by spoonful. Beat the mixture (which will add air to the masa) for 10 minutes or until the masa has a spongy and light texture to it. Drop a spoon of the masa in a glass filled with water. It should float. If it doesn't, add a little more lard, mix some more and test again. This will yield about 1 1/2 pounds of tamale masa, which should be enough for 24 medium or 26 cocktail-sized tamales.
-- Jay Francis