South African Milk Tart

Traditional Milktart

Milk Tart aka Melktert, hello daar bokkie! My gran used to make this when I visited her & she always kept a whole one aside, just for me. It’s a buttery pastry filled with a sweet milk custard that has been topped with cinnamon – I love dusting loads of cinnamon on top but you don’t have to be as greedy as I am. These recipes can naturally be used to make smaller bite-size milk tarts if you wish.

Milk tart, known as “melktert” in Afrikaans, is a classic South African dessert that has a rich history intertwined with the country’s cultural heritage. The tart consists of a sweet pastry crust filled with a creamy custard made from milk, sugar, eggs, and flour, often flavored with a hint of vanilla and topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Origins and Cultural Significance

Dutch Influence: The origins of milk tart can be traced back to the Dutch settlers who arrived in South Africa in the 17th century. These settlers brought with them their culinary traditions, including various types of custard tarts. The milk tart is believed to have evolved from these Dutch recipes, adapting to local ingredients and tastes over time.

Cape Malay Contribution: The Cape Malay community, descendants of slaves brought to South Africa from Indonesia, Malaysia, and other parts of Southeast Asia, also influenced the development of milk tart. Their introduction of spices and unique culinary techniques enriched the dessert’s flavor profile.

Afrikaner Tradition: Over the centuries, milk tart became deeply embedded in Afrikaner culture. It is often served at celebrations, gatherings, and special occasions. Its simplicity and comforting nature have made it a beloved dessert across different communities in South Africa.

Traditional Milktart

South African Milk Tart

Also know as "Melktert". It's a flaky pastry dough filled with a sweet cinnamon milk custard that's finished off with a dusting of cinnamon.
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Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Cape Dutch, Dutch, South African
Keyword: dessert, melktert, milk tart, recipes, south african, tart, traditional food
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 day
Servings: 8

Ingredients

Pastry

  • 125 grams butter room temperature, see note 1
  • 120 grams castor see note 2
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1-2 cups raw rice or beans

Custard Filling

  • 2 cups full cream milk
  • ½ cup cream
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • tsp salt
  • 1 ½ tbsp butter
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon garnish

Instructions

Pastry

  • Preheat your oven to 180℃/240℉. Use a 24cm tart tin with a removable base & coat with a non-stick spray.
  • Add butter and castor to a large bowl. Using an electric mixer or some elbow grease, creamed the butter and sugar until creamed. Add the egg, and mix until roughly combined.
  • Add the flour & baking powder together & mix until a stiff dough forms. It should come together quite quickly. The dough is extremely easy to handle. Press the dough evenly into the tart tin.
  • Dock the pastry base using a fork and prepare your pastry to be blind-baked by covering it with baking paper and pouring the rice /beans on top to ensure it doesn't rise. Note: crunch the baking paper into a ball before gently placing into the dough and pouring the dry rice or beans in. This'll prevent the paper from poking the dough.
  • Blind-bake for 30 min or until the pastry is golden and crispy.

Custard Filling

  • Make the filling whilst the pastry is baking. Line a medium saucepan with butter - this'll prevent the milk mixture from burning around the edges of the saucepan. Add the milk, cream, and cinnamon to the medium saucepan and bring to a light simmer.
  • In a separate medium-sized bowl add the sugar, flour, cornstarch, vanilla essence, egg, and salt together and mix well.
  • Remove the milk mixture from the heat once it has started boiling and discard the cinnamon stick.
  • Temper the egg mixture by gradually pouring the warm milk mixture in to the egg mixture, stirring vigorously. Bring the milk mixture back to the heat and allow to simmer until thickened whilst stirring. Once thickened, add the butter and stir until combined.
  • By now the pastry should be done baking. Remove the baking paper/rice and pour the warm filling into the baked pastry shell & smooth the surface (I leave it in the tart tin until fully set).
  • Sprinkle over the cinnamon and place int the fridge to set overnight.

Notes

  1. Butter: If you use unsalted butter then I'd recommend you add the salt in the pastry and the filling as this balances the dessert beautifully. If your using salted butter then omit the added salt.
  2. Sugar: castor sugar or powdered sugar can be used but take note, if you are using powdered sugar than adjust the to 85g and not 120g. I wouldn't recommend using regular granulated sugar as it won't mix as well. The smaller the granule the better the pastry's texture will be. You can also ground granulated sugar until it resembles castor or powdered sugar.
  3. Filling: the listed filling is delivers the perfect pastry to custard ratio, but if you prefer for there to be more filling than I'd recommend you double the filling's measurements. Also, make sure to press the edges of the pastry a tad higher so that the filling won't over flow.
  4. Storage: The tart will keep in the fridge for 3 days but only place it in the fridge once it has fully cooled otherwise it'll crack. I wouldn't recommend freezing.