Chef Carlos Salgaldo makes these fantastic tamales by charring strawberries in a skillet, then mixing them into a buttery masa filling. Slideshow: More Mexican Dessert Recipes
In a medium saucepan, combine 3/4 cup of the sugar with 3/4 cup of water and bring to a simmer, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer the syrup to a large bowl and let cool completely.
Heat a large cast-iron skillet over moderately high heat. When very hot, carefully add the strawberries, hulled side down, in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, until blackened, about 8 minutes. Transfer the strawberries to the cooled syrup. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Drain the burnt strawberries and reserve the syrup for cocktails. In a medium saucepan, combine the strawberries and 11/2 cups of the sugar and bring to a simmer. Cook, mashing the strawberries and stirring until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is thickened, about 8 minutes. Let cool completely.
In a large bowl, cover the dried cornhusks with enough boiling water to completely submerge them; weigh them down with a plate. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels.
In a medium bowl, combine the masa harina with 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of water and mix until a dough forms.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar at medium-high speed until whipped and smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in the baking powder, salt and vanilla seeds. Scrape the butter mixture into a bowl.
Add the masa dough to the bowl of the stand mixer and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in 1 cup of the cooled strawberry mixture, 1/3 cup at a time and scraping down the bowl, until incorporated. Beat in the whipped butter in 3 additions, scraping down the bowl, until smooth. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Lay 1 cornhusk smooth side up on a work surface and spoon 1/2 cup of the tamale dough in the center. Roll the husk around the dough to make a compact cylinder, folding in the sides as you roll. Tie the tamale with kitchen string and wrap it tightly in a sheet of the sandwich paper. Repeat to form 7 more tamales.
Arrange the tamales in a steamer set over a pot of simmering water. Cover and steam until firm, 90 minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature with the remaining burnt strawberry jam and ice cream or whipped cream.
The uncooked tamales can be frozen for 2 weeks; steam from frozen. The cooked tamales can be refrigerated for 2 days and rewarmed to serve. The jam can be refrigerated for 2 days.
Evaporated cane sugar is a less processed form of cane sugar. Look for it at health food stores.