THERE are few desserts more quintessentially South African than the good old milk tart. It is omnipresent at every church bazaar, school fête, home industry outlet, supermarket and bakery, so it’s no surprise then to know that it has its very own day – February 27 – on the South African calendar.
Milk tart, or melktert as it was originally known, was brought to the country by the Dutch settlers in the Cape in the 1600s and is said to have been adapted from a recipe for Mattentaart which was listed in Thomas van der Noot’s book, Een Notabel Boexcken van Cokeryen (A Notable Book of Cookery), published in 1514. Given its long history, it’s little surprise that there are countless recipes and variations of the milk tart and there is even a whole recipe book dedicated to this delicious pastry (The South African Milk Tart Collection by Callie Maritz & Mari-Louis Guy), that was published in 2017.
GRANNY’S MELK TERT
(Capsicum Culinary Studio Pretoria campus)
Ingredients for base
125g icing sugar
65g almond flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
In a stand mixer with a paddle, combine the icing sugar, flour, almond flour, butter and salt and mix to a sandy texture.
Add the egg and mix until it forms a dough. Do not overmix.
Wrap in clingfilm and let it rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. When ready to use, unwrap from the clingfilm, place on a board and bang it with a rolling pin to flatten it into a 1½cm thick disc.
Flick flour over the work surface and roll out the dough into a circle 30cms in diameter, making sure the work surface is well floured throughout the process, so the dough does not stick to the surface or the rolling pin.
Roll from the centre of the disc outwards, rotating it 90 degrees after every roll to ensure the disc is stretched into a uniform circle. If the dough breaks towards the edges, it can be patched up later.
When it has reached the correct size, roll it gently onto the rolling pin and then unroll it over a 25cm tart pan. Gently press the dough into the tart pan, including the corners, and trim the edges.
Ensure it is smooth on the sides and bottom and if there are any missing bits patch it up with leftover scraps of dough.
Cover with clingfilm and set aside for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 180°C and place a rack in the centre. Line the base of the tart shell with a round of baking paper, then pour in baking beans or uncooked rice and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
Let the tart shell cool down for 5 minutes before removing. Set aside.
Ingredients for filling
30g butter, softened
¼ teaspoon salt
30g all-purpose flour
3 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan pour in 450ml of the milk, add the sugar and salt and heat until just about to boil. Remove from stove and set aside.
In a bowl mix together the cornstarch and flour with the remaining 50ml of milk until you have a smooth paste. Add the egg yolks and mix well.
Slowly temper the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture until everything is well combined. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook on medium heat until it starts to bubble and there is no taste of the cornstarch.
Add the vanilla extract and stir. Remove from the heat and leave to cool down, covering it with clingfilm and ensuring the clingfilm makes direct contact with the mixture to prevent a skin from forming.
Once it has cooled to 45°C mix in the soft butter. Next, whisk the egg whites with a handheld beater until soft peaks start to form.
Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the pastry cream mixture until everything is well combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tart base and spread it evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle with cinnamon on top and place it in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes before serving.