Celebrating Milk Tart Day

There are few desserts more quintessentially South African than the good old Milk Tart. It is omnipresent at every church bazaar, school fete, 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, its 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.

In honour of the day, we asked the chefs from Capsicum Culinary Studio to give us their favourite Milk Tart recipes and here’s what they sent us …

 

Granny’s Melk Tert ~ Capsicum Culinary Studio Pretoria campus

Ingredients for the base

125g butter

125g icing sugar

250g flour

65g almond flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 large egg

Method

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

500ml milk

30g butter, softened

100g sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

30g all-purpose flour

30g cornstarch

3 large eggs, separated

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cinnamon powder

 

Method

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.

 

Peppermint Crisp Milk Tart ~ Capsicum Culinary Studio Durban campus

Ingredients for Base

150g plain flour

75g unsalted butter

50g icing sugar

1 egg yolk, beaten

50g Peppermint Crisp, chilled

Method

Place the flour, unsalted butter, icing sugar and peppermint crisp into a food processor and blend in short burst until it resembles breadcrumbs. Tip into a bowl then add the beaten egg yolk and mix to form a dough. If the dough looks too dry, add a tablespoon of water. Shape the dough into a ball, flatten it out into a disc, wrap it in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 mins. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out evenly on a floured surface. Grease a pan and dust lightly with flour. Gently place the rolled-out dough into a round flan pan and neatly shape into the corners. Use a fork to poke holes in the base. Cover and place in the fridge for a further 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200ºC. Remove the tart shell from the fridge, place greaseproof paper on the base and fill with a layer of baking beans (or you can use uncooked rice). Bake for 10 minutes, remove greaseproof paper and baking beans and bake for a further 5 minutes or until golden brown. Turn off oven and leave the base in the oven for 10-15minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile make the filling.

 

Ingredients for filling

500ml fresh milk

28g butter

20g flour

25g corn-starch

100g caster sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla essence

 

Method

Place a saucepan on medium heat and add the milk and butter and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat. In another bowl, mix the flour, corn-starch, sugar and vanilla essence and whisk in eggs until smooth. Gently whisk the mixture into the saucepan making sure there are no lumps. Return the saucepan to the stove and keep stirring constantly until in starts to bubble. Cook for about 5-6 minutes. Pass through a strainer to get a smooth texture.

 

Ingredients for topping

50g Peppermint Crisp, chilled

1 tsp ground cinnamon (or more if preferred)

To assemble: Pour the still warm custard into the baked pastry shell ensuring that it spreads evenly. Allow to set and cool completely. In a bowl finely grate the Peppermint Crisp and mix with the ground cinnamon and then sprinkle over the top of the tart. You can use a stencil to make it look even more fabulous!

 

Milk Tart Stuffed Choux Buns ~ Capsicum Culinary Studio Cape Town campus

Ingredients

400 ml full cream milk
1 stick cinnamon
3 tbs butter
5ml vanilla essence
50ml corn flour
2 extra-large egg yolks (reserve the whites)
80ml sugar
1 tbs cinnamon
2 tbs brown sugar
Method

Pour 300ml of the milk into a saucepan and drop in the cinnamon stick and butter and heat until bubbles start forming. Remove from heat and leave to stand for 10 minutes before removing the cinnamon stick. This allows the mixture to retain the cinnamon flavour. Stir in the vanilla essence. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining milk. Add the cornflour and beat, making sure there are no lumps. Add a little of the warm milk to the corn flour mixture then add to the heated milk in the saucepan. Cook on medium heat until thick, whisking continuously so that no lumps form. Remove from the heat and add the sugar. Place clingwrap over the surface of the milk tart mixture (making sure it is in contact with the surface so that a skin does not form) and leave to cool. Beat the egg whites with ¼ cup sugar – you want soft white peaks – and set aside.

Ingredients for the Choux Buns

¼ cup water
¼ cup milk
½ cup self-raising flour
4 tbs butter
2 eggs

 

Method

Pre-heat oven to 220ºC. Heat the water, milk and butter until it boils. Add the flour and mix for about 4 minutes on medium heat. Use an electric hand mixer and mix on medium speed for 1 minute, adding one egg at a time, continuing to mix until fully combined. Add mixture to a piping bag and pipe small circles onto a pre-greased tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 10 minutes then lower oven to 155ºC and bake for a further 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove, place on wire rack and allow to cool.

To assemble: Spoon the milk tart mixture into a piping bag and fill the choux buns. Top with the meringue and give it a quick toast with a blowtorch. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and serve!