There are many different ways to make a ‘melk tert’ or milk tart, and recipes are often strictly guarded and handed down from generation to generation.
The two that I am most familiar with use either an uncooked short crust pastry base and very liquid filling of milk, eggs and condensed milk that is baked once; or a blind baked short crust pastry base and cooked filling that is baked again to set the custard. The textures are completely different, but equally delicious.
I woke up on the 27th February 2015 to my first milk tart challenge, issued by my cousin René in anticipation of National Milk Tart day. Yes, that’s really a thing in South Africa because we really love our traditional South African milk tart.
Unfortunately for me, the recipes that I loved most growing up are not recorded anywhere, except in the minds of the aunts and cousins from whom they were learnt. I spent a few hours browsing through my recipe files, and the closest I came to finding a recipe for Aunty Josie’s milk tart, was a comment on her pineapple tart recipe saying ‘use the same base as the milk tart’.
For my traditional South African milk tart I combined the two techniques, using my own homemade short crust pastry base that was blind baked, with a smooth creamy cooked filling sweetened with condensed milk and scented with vanilla and cinnamon.
- 125 grams cold butter
- 45 ml sugar (I use castor or fine granulated sugar)
- 225 grams cake flour
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons cold water
- Ingredients for the filling
- 67 grams butter
- 45 ml cake flour
- ½ tin of condensed milk (full tin is approximately 397 grams)
- 2 cups milk
- 3 large eggs, separated
- pinch of salt added to the egg whites before whisking
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2.5 - 5 ml cinnamon powder (approximately ½ to 1 teaspoon) for dusting before serving
- For the pastry, pulse the butter, flour and sugar in a food processor until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs. Alternately, rub in the cold butter with two knives or a pastry cutter. Try not to use your hands as it will warm up the butter.
- Add the egg and water and mix until just combined.
- Bring the pastry into a ball and flatten into a disk on a piece of cling wrap. This makes it easier to roll into a round shape later.
- Chill and rest the pastry for about 30 minutes before use.
- Switch on the oven and pre-heat to 200 degrees celcius / 400 F / Gas mark 6.
- Roll out the pastry and line a 25 cm tart pan ensuring that the pastry overlaps the sides a bit as it may shrink during baking if not rested enough. I chilled it again for another 10 minutes before baking.
- Prick the base and line with parchment paper and baking beans or beans, and bake blind for about 10 minutes.
- Remove the baking beans and bake for another five minutes. Be careful not to get a burn as you may drop the beans and damage the tart case.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 170 degrees celcius / 350 F / Gas mark 4.
- For the filling mix the butter and flour ensuring there are no lumps. Add in the condensed milk and vanilla and lastly the egg yolks and mix until smooth.
- Heat the milk until it reaches boiling point, and add a little to the egg mixture ensuring that you whisk out all the lumps. Slowly add the rest of the milk and then return to the heat.
- Stir the milk mixture on the heat until the mixture thickens and it starts to bubble.
- Remove the pot from the stove and let the mixture cool for about 10 minutes.
- Whisk the egg whites until they are glossy but not too stiff. It should be soft peaks at this stage, not the 'tip it over your head and it doesn't drop' stiffness.
- Fold the egg whites into the cooled custard mixture.
- Pour into the pastry case and bake for 15-20 minutes until it is set.
- Do not overbake as it will rise and sink like an overdone souffle.
- Sprinkle with cinnamon powder and serve.
1 cup of All purpose flour is supposed to be equivalent to 1¼ cups of cake flour. I weigh my ingredients but do not know what the equivalent weights are as I do not use All purpose flour for my fine baked goods.