Melktert (Milktart)

A slightly non-traditional, but very moreish take on a milk tart. A lovely shortcrust pastry encasing a souffled spiced custard

Melktert stems from the Dutch settlers in the Cape in the 1600s. The origin of Mattentaart is credited to a recipe listed in Thomas van der Noot’s book, “Een notabel boexcken van cokeryen” (A Notable Book of Cookery) and it’s possible that melktert developed from the same recipe.

It is a quintessential South African classic which has become a staple at many tables. A cream custard is incased in a sweet short crust pastry, and finished off with a dusting of cinnamon. The milk tart has evolved over the years to have crustless versions, versions made with puff or phyllo pastry and many more. Further to this, the custard has sometimes been flavoured with naartjie or infused with earl grey or rooibos.

I thought I would share my version of milk tart for Heritage Day, which we celebrate in South Africa on the 24 September. The flavours of this tart are similar to other milk tarts, but the method is quite different. I have adapted the traditional short crust pastry to have a bit more crunch with the inclusion of Marie Biscuits. Further to this, I have incorporated whipped egg whites into the custard, which results in it souffleing in the oven, and producing a lovely bouncy and light texture. Heritage Day is all about celebrating the unity in diversity and so I thought I would share something that is familiar, but at the same time different.

If you make this recipe, please share it with me by tagging me on Instagram @adventureswithsugar or on Facebook at Adventures with Sugar.

WHAT SHOULD I KNOW ABOUT MAKING THIS RECIPE?

  • It is important to not overwork the pastry in the food processor, and instead, finish it by hand.
  • The resting of the pastry is important in order to relax the gluten.
  • Docking the pastry refers to pricing the base with a fork, so that the steam can escape and it does not rise up.
  • Blind baking refers to packing crumpled baking paper onto the pie crust and then weighing it down with beans/baking beads.
  • For the custard, you can infuse the cinnamon and nutmeg in the milk for a longer time, but I prefer a lighter taste. Bear in mind there is cinnamon on the top as well.

SWEET SHORTCRUST PASTRY

  • 300g cake flour
  • 50g crushed Marie biscuits/ground almonds
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 180g cold butter, cubed
  • 27g egg yolk (approximately 2 medium yolks)
  • 1 – 11/2 Tbs ice water
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 egg and 1 tsp water, mixed together to eggwash

METHOD

  1. Place the cake flour, marie biscuits and caster sugar into a food processor and pulse until combined.
  2. Add the butter to the flour mixture and pulse until the mix resembles coarse bread crumbs.
  3. Then mix the egg, water and vanilla together and pulse a few times more until combined. It is important that you do not pulse until the dough starts to come together, as this will make the pastry tough.
  4. Tip the moistened crumb mixture onto a flat surface and use your hands to bring the mixture together until it forms a uniform dough.
  5. Wrap in clingwrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  6. After resting, line a 26cm pie dish with the pastry, such that it nicely comes up the sides. Use a fork to crimp the edges.
  7. Using a fork, dock the base of the pastry so that it does not puff up when baking.
  8. Place the pastry in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  9. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celcius. Crumple a large piece of baking paper and weigh down with baking beans, to blind bake the pastry.
  10. Blind bake the pastry for 20 minutes. Then remove the baking beans, brush lightly with egg wash and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes.

MILKTART FILLING

  • 850ml milk
  • 5 sticks of cinnamon
  • a generous grating of fresh nutmeg
  • 35g cake flour
  • 35g corn flour
  • 280g caster sugar
  • 250g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 4 eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • ground cinnamon, for dusting

METHOD

  1. Once the shell comes out of the oven, you can begin making the custard.
  2. Place 425ml of the milk, the cinnamon sticks and the nutmeg in a medium size saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the milk starts to boil.
  3. Whilst the milk is heating, mix the remaining 425ml milk with the flour, corn flour and sugar and set aside.
  4. Once the milk in the saucepan comes to a boil, reduce the heat and add in the flour/milk mixture and return to medium heat, stirring continuously.
  5. Then add in the butter and continue to stir until all butter is melted.
  6. Finally, add in the egg yolks and stir until the custard thickens and looks velvety.
  7. Pass the custard through a sieve to remove the cinnamon and strain out any lumps.
  8. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form and fold into the custard mixutre.
  9. Bake for around 20 -25 minutes, until the edges of the tart are set, with a slight wobble in the middle.
  10. Let the tart cool to room temperature, before putting it in the fridge to chill for at least 3 hours.
  11. Dust with cinnamon before serving.

Recipe by adventureswithsugar.com

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