Citizens – the profound sweet tooth possessed by the lactic-loving TFD has found its ultimate expression in this special dish from South Africa! This will become your next favorite dessert, as it is everything you could ask for: rich, sweet, delicious and not at all difficult to make!
Melktert (Afrikaans for “milk tart”), is a South African dessert consisting of a sweet pastry crust containing a creamy filling made from milk, flour, sugar and eggs.
The ratio of milk to egg is higher than in a traditional Portuguese custard tart (Pastel de nata) or Chinese egg tart (dan ta), in which both was influenced by the Portuguese, resulting in a lighter texture and a stronger milk flavour.
Unusually, there is no commonality between family recipes for this dessert. Some recipes require the custard to be baked in the crust, and others call for the custard to be prepared in advance, and then placed in the crust before serving. Cinnamon is often sprinkled over its surface. The milk used for the custard can also be infused with a cinnamon stick before preparation.
Melktert is described as a dessert that shows distinctive Dutch traits. Melktert seems to have come straight from Dutch Medieval cooking, via the Dutch settlers in the Cape in the 1600s. Some people trace its origin back to a dish described by Thomas van der Noot in 1510 in his recipe book, “Een notabel boexcken van cokeryen” (A Notable Book of Cookery).
As noted on gastroobscura.com:
South Africans expect to find melktert at supermarkets, bake sales, church events, bakeries, and celebrations.
Dutch settlers brought early recipes for this cinnamon-dusted custard pie to the southern tip of Africa in the 17th century. With them came their native tongue, which blended with other languages to form Afrikaans, now one of the official languages of South Africa.
Melktert is Afrikaans for “milk tart,” and while the pastry lacks official designation, it’s the closest thing the country has to a national dessert pie.
Many of the Dutch settlers on the Cape of Good Hope were dairy farmers, hence melktert’s name and creamy ingredients. Interpretations may vary, but milk, sugar, eggs, and a thickener (such as flour) are fairly consistent across traditional recipes.
Bakers sprinkle cinnamon on top, and some mix the spice into their milk. Depending on ingredients and preparation, the texture of the pie ranges from wobbly to firm. Crusts might be short-crust, puff pastry dough, or nonexistent.
Chefs riff on classic takes with additions such as citrus and wine, but variations aside, melktert remains ubiquitous, beloved, and distinctly South African.
Citizens – my version of this dessert is based closely on one I found at tantalisemytastebuds.com – my version adds a hit of almond extract and nutmeg to the classic recipe. I am confident you will find it worthy of your time and effort! It does, after all, come from The Food Dictator Himself!
Battle on – the Generalissimo
The Hirshon South African Melktert
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