Spicy cranberries, nuts and crumbled gingersnaps in corn-husk packets create plump dessert tamales.

3 3/4 cups cranberries, picked over
1 cup grand pecans
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 cups finely ground bread crumbs
1 cup finely ground gingersnaps
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup milk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
20 to 40 corn husks, soaked in warm water

tequila-orange curd
cranberry glaze

In this recipe, the tamale filling and dough are combined to make a pudding. Coarsely chop cranberries in a food processor, then transfer to a bowl and stir in pecans. Add 1 cup of the sugar, flour, cinnamon, allspice, and ginger, and combine thoroughly. In another bowl combine bread crumbs, gingersnaps, butter, milk, eggs, baking powder, salt, and remaining 3/4 cup sugar. Combine thoroughly with cranberry mixture and allow to sit, refrigerated, for at least 30 minutes.

To assemble tamales, drain corn husks and pat dry. Tear 32 strips (1/8 inch wide) from 4 corn husks for tying tamales. Spread the pudding about 1/2 inch thick on remaining husks, leaving 1 inch of husk uncovered at each end (you may need to overlap 2 husks; tamales should be short and fat). Fold husks completely around pudding, then twist and tie ends with torn strips. Wrap each tamale tightly in plastic wrap. Cook in a steamer, covered over gently boiling water for 20 to 25 minutes.

When done, remove plastic wrap and slit each tamale from end to end with a knife. Press ends toward the middle to open up, as with a baked potato. Serve on a pool of tequila-orange curd with cranbery glaze spooned on top. Makes 16.

Tequila-Orange Curd
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
2/3 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
1 tablespoon gold tequila
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
3/4 cup sour cream or crème fraîche

In a saucepan over high heat, reduce orange juice to 1/4 cup and set aside.

Bring milk and vanilla bean to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, let infuse for 15 minutes, then remove bean.

In a mixing bowl add sugar to egg yolks while whisking until yolks have lightened in color. Bring milk back to a boil, remove from heat, strain, and pour slowly into yolks while whisking.

Have a bowl of ice water ready. Pour milk-and-egg mixture back into saucepan and place over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula and scraping sides and bottom of pan. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until mixture registers 185 degrees on a candy thermometer and has thickened considerably. Immediately remove from heat, pour into a bowl, and place in a larger bowl of ice water. Stir in tequila, orange zest, reserved orange juice, and sour cream or crème fraîche and refrigerate. Makes about 3 1/2 cups.

Cranberry Glaze
1 cup cranberry juice
1 cup sugar
1 cup cranberries, picked over

In a deep, heavy saucepan, cook cranberry juice and sugar over medium heat, stirring. If crystals form on sides of pan, wash down with a brush dipped in cold water. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, until sugar is dissolved. Then bring mixture to a boil and gently swirl pan for about 5 minutes, until mixture registers 250 degrees on a candy thermometer. Add cranberries, remove from heat, and let cool. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate. Makes 2 1/2 cups.

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