Melktert – South African Milk Tart

Those of you who have been following my Foodie’s Wanderlust journey know that when it comes to custards my knees fail me, my heart raises and I just can’t say no. I wonder how many times I’ve started a post with this statement. I’m not going to count, but I’m sure this might be time number one kazillion. But today’s recipe comes in two parts. One is a delicious pie crust that it’s so good it can almost be eaten by itself. The other, a light and creamy milk custard. In South Africa, they call this dessert, Melktert. 

If you haven’t figured it out yet, Melktert is a compound word from Dutch origins. It simply means Milk Tart, a very straight forward explanation of what the dessert is. It doesn’t require much time or skill to prepare, although for some, making the dough might sound like awful amount of trouble. You can totally just skip the dough part and make the custard in small oven safe dishes to spoon out the sweet, creamy part. Or buy a premade pie crust and pour the custard in. 

But I must say that making your own pie crust is both entertaining and better tasting. There is something so therapeutic of making doughs that I often wonder why psychiatrists don’t write down prescriptions for it. Anyways, this recipe includes sour cream, a highly acidic dairy that makes the dough super smooth by tenderizing any gluten that forms through the kneading process. The recipe is also very versatile and could easily be used for many other preparations. 

The custard is the easiest part to make of this dessert. It has milk (DUH!), that is then thickened with eggs and corn starch. Simply sweetened with sugar and vanilla, then enhanced with butter to make it all better. Finally, after the custard is baked and set, it’s sprinkled with cinnamon. Some people serve the Melktert hot, right out of the oven, others cooled down by a fridge. I rather have mine cold, as it gives the custard a firmer consistency. 

Melktert, Milk Tart, Tart, Milk custard, custard, South Africa, South African cuisine, dessert

While I enjoyed this dessert, I must agree with most of my friends that tried it. It is too simple to be called great, but it’s still good. It can be enjoyable though, it reminds me a lot of our Puerto Rican Tembleque, but without the distinct taste of coconut it felt a little underwhelming at first. The visual resemblance is uncanny, but the taste is not. But, after a heavy meal, Melktert acts as a light and easy to eat dessert, a palate cleanser of sorts. In that sense it is a beautiful and very pleasant sweet treat, an excellent end for this very South African week. 

If you like smooth and creamy desserts, with a light feel to them, Melktert will work wonders for you. A simple and sweet Milk Tart from South Africa.
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For the crust
  1. 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  2. 1/2 cup sugar
  3. 1 egg
  4. 1/2 cup sour cream
  5. 2 1/2 cup flour
  6. 1/2 tsp baking powder
  7. pinch of salt
For the custard
  1. 4 cups milk
  2. 3 tbsp cornstarch
  3. 1 cup sugar
  4. 2 tbsp flour
  5. pinch of salt
  6. 4 eggs
  7. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  8. 2 tbsp butter
  9. cinnamon for dusting
Make the crust
  1. Brush a 9 inch pie dish with butter.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attached, cream together the butter and sugar for about 5 minutes at medium speed, until the very creamy and pale.
  3. Add the egg and sour cream. Beat for 2 more minutes.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  5. Change the paddle attachment for the hook attachment in the stand mixer. Slowly add the flour mixture to the creamed butter while beating at medium low speed.
  6. When the dough looks homogeneous stop kneading it. Do not over knead! Shape it into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  8. Turn the dough into a lightly floured surface and roll out into a thin sheet. Transfer the flattened dough into the prepared dish. Press the dough into the pie dish, cut out the excess dough so that it has the same shape and size of the pie dish.
  9. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and crisp.
  10. Remove from the oven and let cool at room temperature.
Meanwhile make the custard
  1. Carefully, bring the milk to a bowl, watching it so it doesn't overflow.
  2. In a separate bowl mix the cornstarch, sugar, flour and salt together.
  3. In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the vanilla using a whisk. Then gradually add the cornstarch mixture.
  4. Slowly pour about 1 cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture while whisking. Then slowly incorporate the egg mixture back into the milk while whisking.
  5. Bring the heat up to medium, add the butter and use a wooden spoon to stir the milk until it thickens. This should take about 8 minutes. Then keep cooking and stirring the custard until it becomes really thick and it starts to bubble slowly, about 5 more minutes.
  6. Pour the custard into the pie crust, flatten the top with the back of a spoon. Give it a few gentle taps so it releases air bubbles trapped inside. Let it cool for 1 hour at room temperature, then put in the fridge to set completely for at least 2 hours.
  7. Dust the top with cinnamon, cut into slices, serve, eat and enjoy! 😉
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