Sunday, September 03, 2006

Any-time Tart

Pancakes for dinner. Pizza for breakfast. Certain foods assume completely different personalities when eaten at unconventional times of day. I don’t even like pancakes in the morning, but pancakes for dinner? Well, they are a special and welcomed treat. Cold pizza’s coagulated cheese and limp crust may be unabashedly unappealing, but there isn’t any better breakfast on the morning after a late night, and no college kid in the world will tell you differently.

On the other hand, there are some foods that simply transcend all constraints of hour or circumstance – for them, no time of day is particularly special or strange. These dishes are the utility players of your recipe box, the little black dress appropriate for all seasons and every occasion. They are steady, reliable, unassuming, essential.

A milk tart is just such a food. Brought to South Africa by Dutch settlers in the late 1600s, melktart is the consummate any-time tart. It is creamy, but not too rich, and only slightly sweet. Although similar to flan or custard pie, a milk tart has a much more prominent milk flavor. It could be your breakfast tart, tea-time tart, afternoon picnic tart or midnight snack tart. Top with some poached pears or candied ginger and it could become your gourmet impress the in-laws dessert tart. Today, it was our after-tennis, pre-lunch tart. And, since the recipe below makes two tarts, it can also be our bring to tonight’s potluck dinner tart. Delicious, every time.

Milk Tart
Adapted from Food and Home Entertaining, June 2006

Makes two tarts


125 grams butter
100 grams sugar
2 eggs
250 grams cake flour
10 milliliters / 2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt

1.2 liters / 4 4/5 cups whole milk
50 grams butter
3 eggs
50 grams cake flour
50 grams corn flour
160 grams sugar
10 milliliters / 2 teaspoons vanilla essence

Generous pinch ground ginger
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt

10 milliliters / 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

70 milliliters / 2½ tablespoons sugar

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius, or 360 degrees Fahrenheit. To make the pastry, cream the butter and sugar in a medium bowl until fluffy. Lightly beat the eggs, and add them to the bowl. Sift in the cake flour, baking powder and salt and stir the mixture to form a dough. Divide the dough into two pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece of dough so that it fits into its own 23-centimeter (9-inch) pie dish. (I used two spring-form pans instead.) Prick the dough on the bottom of each dish several times with a fork. Bake the pastry for 10-12 minutes until very lightly brown.

To make the filling, pour the milk into a medium saucepan and add the butter. Bring to a boil and quickly remove from the heat. In a medium bowl, mix together the eggs, flour, corn flour, sugar, vanilla essence, ground ginger, ground cinnamon and salt. Add this mixture to the saucepan, and return to the heat. Bring to a boil once again, then remove from the heat. The mixture will be very thick and custard-like.

Pour the filling equally into the two prepared pastry crusts. Cool completely, then refrigerate until set. Mix together the ground cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over the milk tarts. Serve.

1 comment:

ExAfrica said...

Milk Tart! Rusks! Oh I can't wait to read more.

Unfortunately I left my scale in SA and have no idea how I will convert these recipes, but I'm sure Google can help.

Wonderful blog....