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Melktert (South African buttermilk tart) recipe

Melktert (South African buttermilk tart) recipe

  • Recipes
  • Dish type
  • Pies and tarts
  • Sweet pies and tarts

This cake is my take on the South African melktert. You can eat it plain or with fresh fruit or berry compote.

7 people made this

IngredientsServes: 16

  • 1 1 (320g) packet ready rolled shortcrust pastry
  • 4 eggs
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 115g unsalted butter, melted
  • 350ml buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • dark brown soft sugar for sprinkling

MethodPrep:20min ›Cook:1hr ›Ready in:1hr20min

  1. Preheat oven to 220 C / Gas 7. Line a 25cm tart or quiche tin with the pastry. Trim any excess overhanging pastry.
  2. Prebake pastry case until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
  3. In a bowl beat eggs and sugar until light and creamy. Mix in flour and butter. Add buttermilk and vanilla and whisk vigorously, until well combined. Pour on top of the pastry case and sprinkle with brown sugar.
  4. Reduce oven temperature to 160 C / Gas 2-3 and bake until filling is set and lightly browned, about 50 to 60 minutes.
  5. Let cool. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

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Melktert (South African buttermilk tart) recipe - Recipes

If there is a dessert South Africa is known for, it's their Melktert or Milk Tart. This is a tart that has as many variations to make as there is people who make them. My friend Susan made this dessert for the South African wine dinner I hosted this past weekend and it was a hit.

With very common ingredients involved, anyone can make this dessert. The only thing that needs baking is the crust, which can be substituted with any favorite pie crust recipe (even if you must use one out of a tube or box). But with only 5 ingredients needed for the crust, I encourage you to try making the crust from scratch. As for the filling, it's made with milk to create a custard on the stovetop. Once the custard is made, it's poured into the baked pie crust and chilled to set. Easy peasy!

Susan made both a traditional 10 inch tart (or pie) and also these mini tarts. Either way you make it, its easy to do and delicious. These tarts remind me of buttermilk pie without the tang of buttermilk. But to describe it even more, the cinnamon used to garnish the top of the tart makes it taste like a creamy snickerdoodle tart. If a snickerdoodle cookie were made into a tart or pie, this is what it would taste like!

Pie Crust
1/2 C. margarine
1/2 C. sugar
1 egg
2 C. flour, sifted
pinch of salt, sifted

Filling:
4 C. milk
1 Tbs. margarine
1 C. sugar
2 eggs
3 Tbs. corn starch
3 Tbs. flour
1 Tsp. vanilla extract
cinnamon for garnish

Cream the margarine and sugar together and beat in the egg.
Add the flour and salt and knead until a soft dough is formed.
Press the mixture into a greased circular pie dish and bake at 350°F for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, Bring the milk and margarine to the boil.
Cream the sugar, eggs, corn starch, flour and vanilla essence. Add some of the hot milk to the creamed mixture, then pour it back into the pot and heat gently until it thickens. Do not boil.
Pour the filling into the pie crust and cool.
Refrigerate the Milk Tart until required and sprinkle with cinnamon to serve.


What exactly is a milk tart?

Milk tarts or melktert is a dessert that usually consists of a sweet pastry crust and a custard filling that is made from milk, eggs, sugar, and flour. Milk tarts have a higher ratio of milk to eggs than other custard tarts like the Portuguese Custard Tart (Pastel de nata).

The milk tart as we know it today originated among the settlers in the Dutch Cape Colony (Cape of Good Hope, South Africa) in the 17th century. It is said that this tart was developed from the Dutch mattentaart which is a sort of cheesecake-like dessert.


A theme I come across often in Facebook posts, is where people, after moving abroad, say that they are surprised by the weather/taxes/how people live, etc., in their new countries.

Research is SO important. I understand that you can google temperatures and weather and still be blindsided by what it really feels like. And I know that there are things you never consider because they’re simply not within your “realm of normal”. I get that.


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A typical South African dessert will include a variety of colorful fruit mixes, such as grapes, melons, peaches, citrus, apricots, just to name a few. Dried fruits are some of the popular desserts known and exported to many countries all over the world from South Africa.

The South African apricot jam pudding and buttermilk pudding are great examples of the sweet, rich taste of the South African desserts which are available in various flavors.

Some traditional desserts include cookies, South African rusks, and Koeksisters. South African tarts (melktert, brandy tart, rum and raisin tart) are famous for their varieties. Some other desserts include the date cake, banana caramel pie and the brandy squares served with chocolate sauce.


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Classic south african unbaked milk tarts

Milk tart is a classic South African heritage recipe and it’s utterly delicious. The filling consists of either an uncooked or cooked custard and the tart itself can be baked or unbaked. It’s the most similar to a Portuguese pasteis de nata and originates from the Dutch part of our heritage. I have done a baked milk tart recipe on my site and it’s a really nice one. I added a twist and infused Earl Grey tea into the filling turning it into a London Fog rendition, but you could leave that out and make a traditional version. These unbaked individual milk tarts are delicious, and I made them for my client Bakers biscuits using their iconic Tennis biscuits.

These mini tarts are novel but they require more biscuits for the base and take a little longer to make. It’s much easier to go with one large milk tart and then use 1 packet of biscuits. I’ve included instructions to do it both ways.

After making this I was reminded how much I really love milk tart. There is something so comforting about eating a confection that can take you right back to your childhood and to other times throughout your life. It’s what heritage recipes are all about and I love the nostalgia of it.

To make this into 1 large milk tart:

This recipe can be made into 1 large milk tart using 200gms (1 packet) tennis biscuits and 100gms butter as the base. To make 12 individual tarts you will need more crumb base so I have done 1.5 times the recipe to make 12.

Recipe – makes 12 mini milk tarts


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Buttermilk rusks are a traditional South African treat and they can be enjoyed at any time of the day, whether it’s with a cup of coffee or a cup of tea – just go ahead and dunk! South Africans living abroad all need a traditional buttermilk rusk recipe as rusks are.


Milk tart + tea cups + merry-go-rounds


Milk tart – they say that time changes everything, and everything changes with time…but does it? I think time is like a merry-go-round … it is only your view of things that changes, not the merry-go-round … … the “melk tert” never changed.

I grew up with “melk tert” with almond essence, puff pastry and cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top. It brings back many fond and happy memories. A kaleidoscope of “Kerk bazaars” (chruch fete’s) and of course the “koek en tee na kerk op Sondae” at our home (cake and tea after church on Sunday).

Watch me make this by clicking here.

The most lingering memory of the milk tart for me was custard inside the tart shell. This recipe is one of those versatile recipes that gives you the freedom to decide how you want to use it…either in a traditional puff pastry shell, or one where you create your own biscuit base or what I did … I thought I would update this age old classic without trying to change its history or heritage so I served it in my Mom’s tea cup and I added a few a Ameretti biscuits allowing the memories of the past to dwell in the sweetness of the present. I have

My mom and I made it just the way that we remembered….I went to visit her the other day and we milled about in the kitchen, talking and laughing about those times when we were much younger … the many different stories of how to make milk tart and how to bring the best tart to the bazaar, we talked about family, we giggled like young girls as the milk boiled over and the maizina mix splattered all over the kitchen counter, we counted how many “melk terte” we had made together over the years and then we counted the blessing we have been able to share – then and now. For just a few hours I was again on that merry-go-round … me, my mom, the milk tart and a heap of happy memories….