It was only a matter of time before I would do a post on one of the most loved South African classic sweet treats: the dreamy milk tart. Being a huge fan of traditional South African dishes, I have written about koeksisters, malva pudding, hertzoggies and peppermint crisp tart. But surely the queen of all traditional SA desserts is the milk tart – a baked custard tart made with milk, flour, sugar, eggs and cinnamon.
There are hundreds of variations on the classic milk tart recipe: some with a short crust pastry base, some with a flaky pastry base, some without a base or crust, some infused with lemon and cinnamon, some without any cinnamon at all, most are baked, others using just a quick fridge setting.
The milk tart I love most is a baked, crustless, ultra-light, almost “foamy”-textured custard with cinnamon sifted on top, baked to a golden perfection, served at room temperature. I also love the subtle flavours or lemon and almond essence. I have tried many, many recipes for milk tart in my life, but the most perfect recipe for my preferences can be found in Ina Paarman‘s book “The Good Food Cookbook”, first published in 2000. It is a small book, containing a collection of absolutely timeless recipes – some of which have become regular favourites in my household. If there is one milk tart recipe you have to try, it is this one: it takes a little effort, but it is worth every second!
Ingredients: (makes 2 medium tarts or 1 large tart)
- 1 litre milk (4 cups)
- 1/2 stick cinnamon
- rind of 1/2 lemon (I used a peeler)
- 3 T butter (45 ml)
- 1 cup flour (120 g)
- 1 cup sugar (200 g)
- 1/4 t salt (1 ml)
- 1/2 t baking powder (2.5 ml)
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1/4 t almond essence (1 ml)
- cinnamon for sprinkling
- breadcrumbs for dusting tart dish
- On the stove top over medium heat, bring the milk, cinnamon stick, lemon rind and butter to a boil, then remove from heat and leave to draw for 20 minutes.
- Mix the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder together in a large bowl.
- Strain the milk and add it to the egg yolks, then beat this mixture into the flour mixture. Add the almond essence.
- Return the mixture to the stove and bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring with a wire whisk. (Don’t worry if a few lumps form, you can beat them out with a beater after you have whisked the egg whites). Remove from heat as the mixture starts to boil – it will be thick and glossy. Cool to room temperature by placing the pot in a sink filled with cold water.
- Butter your tart dish generously and sprinkle all over with breadcrumbs.
- Whisk the egg whites with a drop of lemon juice until they form soft peaks.
- Remove the tart mixture from the sink, then beat with an electric beater to remove lumps. Fold the egg whites into the tart mixture and pout into tart dish. Dust with cinnamon, then bake at 190 degrees Celsius for 30-35 minutes. Switch off the oven and leave to cool for another 15 minutes, without opening the oven door. Remove from oven and serve hot or cool completely and serve at room temperature.