What is Milk Tart?
Milk Tart is just the most delicious South African dessert EVER. It is a staple in every single South African grocery store, coffee shop, bakery, café etc.
Having a barbeque at a friend’s house? You buy meat, drinks and a Milk Tart.
Hosting a family dinner at your house? You buy the ingredients to make a Milk Tart.
Having tea at your Gran’s? You buy nothing, because she's probably already baked a Milk Tart!
I was so obsessed with Milk Tart as a kid that it was my birthday cake of choice for quite a few years (And I had a phase where I loved wearing my dad's shirts! I'm the one with the white headband 🙂 My gran was also an avid baker! We would go visit her very often in our childhood years.
My sister and I were HEEUUUGE fans of her baking. My sister’s favourite tart was Lemon Tart and mine was of course Milk Tart so we would have to take turns choosing the “tart of the weekend”… Apparently we couldn’t have both… Something about overeating.
There was also an incident in the small town of Tulbagh where our health conscious little family of four finished off a Milk Tart the size of a pizza in one go. Fun times.
Milk Tart is essentially a custard tart (with cinnamon) inside a pastry base which can be eaten warm or cold. It was derived from a recipe brought over by the Dutch settlers in the 1600’s. The Cape Malay folks (creators of Bobotie) adapted the recipe and added some spices. More on the history of Milk Tart.
Milk Tart has come a long way since the 1600’s and we now even have a National Milk Tart Day every year! 27 February is still some time away, but I thought I’d share my recipe for Milk Tart NOW so that you can be prepared and make a delicious one of your own for the 27th 🙂
As with other custard tarts there are a few different approaches to making Milk Tart. Some folks prefer a flaky puff pastry base. Others prefer a crunchy shortcrust pastry. Some even take a shortcut and use crushed cookies for the base. My mother often used whole Tennis cookies! They are square shaped, so they can easily be laid out flat in a glass dish.
The custard itself also has different approaches. It can either be baked in the oven or cooked on stove-top and poured into a pre-baked base.
Personally, I do not like puff pastry with this dessert. The crisp, buttery-ness of shortcrust pastry just works SO much better with the smooth custard filling.
I also prefer the stove-top Milk Tart custard over the baked custard. The stove-top custard is just smoother and silkier – yum! Some of the custard methods can be super tedious – whipping egg whites and folding them in, then baking the tart after the custard had been on the stove as well!
Too much unnecessary effort. If you can get amazingly silky smooth milk tart with less effort, I don’t see the point in making it laborious.
Some recipes also call for condensed milk inside the custard. Although this approach also yield a lovely texture, the overall flavour becomes too sweet. For this reason I really prefer using regular white granulated sugar. It dissolves completely without you even needing to think about it.
I also really prefer to eat Milk Tart at room temperature – not hot or cold. Goldilocks had a point.
Shortcrust pastry is a breeze to make in a food processor. However, if you do not have a food processor you can make the pastry by hand as well. I particularly love this pastry recipe because it doesn’t require heaps of resting, but delivers incredible results.
Custard requires your full attention. Do not leave the stove. It’s a super easy custard, but be fully present while you make it.
Let the tart rest at room temperature for about 40 minutes before transferring it to the fridge until fully set. Remove the Milk Tart from the fridge about 40 minutes before serving.
- 170 g Flour
- 40 g Icing Sugar
- 110 g Salted Butter
- 1 Tbsp Ice Cold water
- 900 g Milk (4-5% fat)
- 2 eggs (110 g)
- 120 g Granulated White Sugar
- 40 g Cake Flour
- 40 g Corn Flour
- Pinch of Salt
- 2 Tbsp Salted Butter
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- ½ Tbsp Ground Cinnamon
- Visit my post on Shortcrust Pastry for the method.
- Make the sides of the base about 3,5 cm high.
- Place the milk in a large pot over medium heat. Stir with a whisk every minute or so until the milk reaches a light simmer.
- In the meantime, place the eggs, flour, sugar and salt in a medium heatproof mixing bowl. Stir with a whisk until combined and smooth. Do not whip the mixture. We do not want to incorporate air.
- Now the egg mixture needs to be tempered before it can be added to the pot. Scoop half a cup of milk out of the pot and very gradually whisk it into the egg mixture. Continue gradually whisking in half a cup at a time until about half the milk has been whisked into the egg mixture.
- Take the remaining milk off the heat. Pour the egg mixture into the warm milk, whisking the milk all the while. Be sure to scrape in each last bit with a spatula.
- Return the pot to medium heat. Whisk constantly. The custard will thicken and very large bubbles will start to break to the surface. Keep cooking and whisking the custard for another minute to ensure all the flour is cooked through.
- Remove from the heat and whisk the butter and vanilla in thoroughly.
- Transfer to your pre-baked pastry immediately. Smooth out the surface. Be sure to push the custard against the sides of the pastry so that the two adhere to each other. Failure to do so will result in the custard pulling away from the pastry as it cools.
- Leave the Milk Tart to cool at room temperature for 40 minutes. Place the tart in your fridge till completely cool – about 1 hour.
- Remove the tart from the tin. The pastry is very stable, so you can push the whole tart onto a flat serving plate or cake stand if you wish. I recommend pushing onto a cake board first and then placing it on your serving dish.
- Dust the tart with ground cinnamon. You can just dump it on, but I like to use the rim of a doily as a stencil. It creates quite a pretty finish. I use a little tea sieve to dust on the cinnamon – it gives a finer dusting.
- Milk Tart is delicious served cold, but I prefer room temperature. Let it stand at room temperature about 40 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
Thanks for reading! If you give this Milk Tart a go, tag me on facebook, twitter or instagram @philosophyofyum because I would LOVE to see!