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The Corn-Quest Tales, & a Delicious Recipe to Prepare “Tropical Golden Gingerbread” edit

Tam_1 Never a "tamal" (tamale) tasted so good! After getting over a few episodes of "corn-attacks", the question was: "what to do with 1,300 freshly cut ears of corn?". How about making tamales?, the traditional Panamanian delicacy which secret recipes and techniques have been carried by families generation after generation. If you haven't read my previous post, I invite you to take a look so you can see the motivation behind this project. It was not as simple as you might think.

On the 24th we cleaned all the corn ears and removed them from the husk. When it comes to knives and working with my hands I am really fast, BUT, let me tell you about this kuna lady that helps me in the house..., oh well she is something else. She is a 4 feet tall lady with tiny hands that offered to help me when she saw the pile of corn that was waiting for me. For every ear of corn I had cleaned, she did 3 or 4. I was in total shock. She mentioned later that when she lived in her island in San Blas, they used to eat corn every day and she knows how to do this process in just a few seconds. Amazing.

Since it was Christmas eve I let all the help go early, then around 9 PM I began grinding the corn kernels. Wow! It was and endless work. I finished the last batch at 3 AM the next day. Of course I was taking breaks once in a while to check if the blog was still there, but it was a lot of work.

Around 9 AM I packed everything in my car and went to "La Chorrera", a city 30 minutes from Panama City where my mom lives. There,...all my ants, a few cousins, and my brother JM were waiting for me to start preparing the tamales. We finished cooking at 4 PM, and after giving each family an equal quantity of tamales I came back to the city. I had plans to attend a Christmas Party at the house of "La Reina" (The Queen), a very good friend famous for hosting the best parties in Panama City. 

Believe me I tried, I wanted to go!!! Once at home, I took a shower thinking about what to wear for the party...., and suddenly I woke up 3 hours later. Very sad! I was exhausted. I HOPE to have the chance to tell you a different story about New Years Eve. Because last year's was....take a look here to learn what happened.

Next time I'll post the recipe to prepare the tamales with step by step, really colorful photos. You will love them.

Now, you will learn how to prepare: "Tropical Golden Gingerbread", a beautiful, different, and sure to be one that you will remember for a long, long time!

ginger bread gingerbread delicious cookies cookie holiday navidad christmas new years dinner gift recipe recipes receta tamale tamales tamal panama chef melissa cooking diva cookingdiva panamagourmet gourmet culirary

Gin_4 Ingredients: (Makes 12)

  • 250 g / 8 oz all purpose flour
  • 175 g / 6 oz sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried orange peel
  • 120 g / 4 oz butter
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon Karo syrup (light)
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 120 g / 4 oz chopped dried mango, pineapple, golden raisins
  • 30 g / 1 oz toasted, grated coconut (optional)
  • Topping: 1 egg white, 2-3 tablespoons granulated sugar.

Gin_5 Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 235 degrees F / 160 degrees C for 10 minutes.
  2. Sift the flour and baking soda into a bowl, add the sugar and combine. Melt the butter and the syrup, then remove from the heat and let cool for 3-5 minutes and stir the egg yolks and fresh grated ginger into the melted butter mixture.
  3. Beat the egg mixture into the dry ingredients mixture. Divide the dough in 2 parts.
  4. Roll the first half of the dough into a rectangular 7 x 4 inches and put on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle the chopped dried  fruit and coconut (if using) on top, and then press the remaining dough over the top.
  5. Whisk the egg white until it has doubled in volume and brush the top of the gingerbread with it. Sprinkle with granulated sugar and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely before cutting.

Que disfruten! and ...Happy New Year with plenty love, health and delicious food!

Chef Melissa

We invite you to visit the following previous articles written by Chef Melissa, and other interesting blogs:


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  • by Chef Melissa
  • December 27, 2005
  • 6:00 am


Picture of Dawn Dawn said on...
12.27.05 at 12:52 PM |

Melissa, thanks for the holiday wishes. I hope that yours are going well, too!! It sounds like you did a ton of work..and I wish that I had been there to eat some tamales!

Picture of melissa_cookingdiva melissa_cookingdiva said on...
12.27.05 at 12:58 PM |

Thank you Dawn! Maybe we can organize in the future a vacation / live-cooking exchange,...that will be fun!

Picture of Kalyn Kalyn said on...
12.27.05 at 06:58 PM |

Happy New Year to you too!  Wow, homemade tamales.  I have a sister-in-law who was born in Mexico and she makes them for me once in a while.  Yum.

Picture of melissa_cookingdiva melissa_cookingdiva said on...
12.28.05 at 12:17 PM |

Kalyn!!! you are a lucky girl…, although Mexican tamales are different to Panamanian tamales, they are delicious too! Happy New Year!!! Many hugs smile

Picture of sha sha said on...
12.30.05 at 06:01 PM |

tropical gingerbread sounds like the english mince pies except for tropical filling

well never have this.. maybe on next years wish list


Picture of melissa_cookingdiva melissa_cookingdiva said on...
12.30.05 at 06:54 PM |

SHA: you really are into Latino food! Here in Panamá the pineapple upside down cake is called “volteado de piña”, and the flan,...well, we have many types: flan de caramelo, flan de coco y queso,  flan de chocolate y café..., and other yummy ones.

Do not forget to take photos and post your entry for the recipe and photo swap we have for new years dinner. Hugs and Happy New Year smile

Picture of Aldrin Lenin Aldrin Lenin said on...
01.17.06 at 04:16 PM |

Saludos, querida Melissa, desde México. ¿Sabes que uno de los cocineros que más admiro es, precisamente, panameño? Se llama Ernesto -debe ser, ahora, un médico brillante- y lo conocí en Puebla hace como… 15 años. Un estratega de la cocina y un tipo lleno de amor por la vida. Así que… leeré con atención este sitio y te mando una felicitación sincera por dedicarte a esta aventura extraordinaria, que es la cocina.

Picture of johanna johanna said on...
01.29.06 at 02:11 PM |

hola melissa, only found this now, through dmblgit - can’t wait for the tamales recipe, they’re one of my favourite treats. jeanne, the cooksister, just brought back some corn ears from mexico for me, as they’re impossible to find in the UK… can’t wait to make tamales now!

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