Unless you’ve been to South Africa, you’re probably reading this wondering “what’s a milktart (or melktert in Afrikaans)?” I personally had no clue what it was until I visited a little shop in Durban that sold all sorts of cakes, tarts, and pastries. And, you guessed it – they also sold milktarts, and apparently they’re quite famous for it. Since milktarts are a South African classic, of course I had to try it. Imagine a creamy, cinnamon-flavored pudding melting in your mouth with a perfectly crispy crust. It only took the first bite for me to understand why all my South African friends raved about this dessert so much. Pair it with Earl Grey tea, and you’ve got a match made in heaven.
Luckily for you, I’ve been on a hunt to find the right recipe that makes the most authentic milktart recipe ever since. While some claim that milktarts should be baked, others will argue that true melktert should be cooked over a stove with hot milk and chilled to set. And after multiple attempts, I must agree that the no-bake method is the true winner. So even though our travel options are limited these days, here’s an opportunity for you to taste some real South African goodness.
Serving Size: 8
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
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1½ cups all purpose flour
⅓ cup icing sugar
9 tablespoons salted butter** (cold or frozen, cut into small pieces)
1 large egg yolk
*if you’re feeling lazy you can always use a 9” pre-baked, store bought pie crust
**you can also substitute with unsalted butter and ¼ teaspoon of salt
2¼ cups milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
- To make your own pie crust (it can be made ahead of time and frozen until you are ready), preheat the oven to 200°C. Combine the flour, sugar, and pieces of butter to make a dry dough.
- Add in the egg yolk, and begin to knead the dough with your hands just until it forms a ball. Make sure you don’t overwork the dough, otherwise it won’t have the crispy, flakey texture that you want. Less is more here!
- Using your fingers, gently press the dough into a 9” round pan, or rectangular pan of about 5” x 8” like I did. Traditional milktarts are usually round. When the dough is shaped around the pan, freeze the entire dish for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour. This ensures that the crust doesn’t rise too much when you bake it.
- Bake the crust in the center of the oven for 25 – 30 minutes, until the dough is dry and golden brown.
- Combine the milk, butter, and cinnamon over medium heat. Once it reaches a boil, remove from the stove and set it aside.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and sugar. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla extract, then slowly combine it with the dry mixture.
- Fold the mixture into the pot, stirring frequently to make sure the consistency is smooth and that there are no lumps.
- Put the pot back on the stove and continue stirring until it starts to bubble – don’t let it boil though. Continue to cook and stir for 5-10 minutes until the consistency is thick and creamy, almost like a smooth paste.
- Take the pot off the heat, and pour it into your crust.* Wait for the filling to cool to room temperature, then chill in the fridge for 2 hours until it’s completely set. Enjoy your taste of South Africa!
*Pro tip: to test whether or not your filling will set properly, pour a small amount into a tiny container (I used a ⅛ measuring cup,) and put it in the fridge for 10 minutes. If it sets, you’re good to go! If not, return the pot back to the stove and add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.