Traditional milk tart
- Keep everything cold while making the pastry, and work quickly and lightly to keep the pastry cold. If you have a ceiling fan, switch it on. Air conditioning is even better.
- My aunt believed in Darling butter, apparently because it contained the least water so the pastry does not turn out too soft and sticky.
- Use just the right amount of ice water, otherwise the pastry will be sticky and the end result rough and hard.
- Use a very sharp knife to cut the dough, otherwise it bruises and won’t form a lot of layers.
(enough for 2 tarts)
- 450 g (800 ml) cake flour
- 3 ml salt
- 5 ml cream of tartar
- 450 g ice cold butter
- about 250 ml ice water
- 15 ml lemon juice
Sift together the flour, salt and cream of tartar twice. Quarter the butter. Grate a quarter on the rough side of the grater. Keep the rest in the fridge, along with the grater. Cut the grated butter into the flour with 2 knives. Sprinkle ice water and lemon juice evenly over the flour mixture. Mix with a fork until it’s a malleable dough. Knead and fold the dough on a cold surface (a small marble chopping board works well) until smooth and elastic. Small air bubbles should be visible under the surface. Lightly sprinkle flour over the dough and roll it out to 6 mm thick. Keep it as close to a rectangular shape as you can. Also lift it up from time to time to make sure it doesn’t stick. Cover two thirds of the dough with another quarter of grated butter. Fold the dough in thirds to get the part without butter in between the buttered parts. In other words, 3 layers of dough with 2 alternate layers of butter in between. The outer edge should be pressed down well to keep all the air in. Start at one short end of the dough rectangle and fold in thirds again. Press down the outer edge. Wrap the dough in a slightly damp cloth to stop it from drying out. Let cool, but not harden. Roll out to 6 mm thick again. Repeat the butter grating and folding process with another quarter of the butter and a final time with the last quarter of the butter. Roll out a last time and fold in 3 or 4 to form a square. Wrap in a damp cloth and refrigerate for an hour or 2. Now roll out one last time.
Lining the pan
It should be an old fashioned tin plate (blikbord). This is very good at conducting heat, ensuring the pastry under the filling doesn’t get soggy.
- Cut the pastry 10 mm wider than the pan (plate), because it can shrink slightly. Line the pan. Measure the edge of the pan and cut another strip to fit. Brush a little hot water on the strip (not all the way to the edges, otherwise it doesn’t rise well) and press it onto the edge. (Some people put the strip under the other pastry – fine too.)
- Brush the bottom with lightly beaten egg whites. Keep the tart dish in the fridge until required.
Milk tart filling
(enough for 1 tart)
- 42 g (75 ml) cake flour
- 50 ml cornflour
- 50 ml sugar
- 1 ml salt
- 125 ml milk
Put all the ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl and mix until smooth. Set aside.
- 2 egg yolks
- 25 ml sugar
- 2 drops “egg yellow” food colouring
- 4 drops almond essence
- 1 large bottle cap vanilla essence (7 ml)
Put these ingredients in a smaller mixing bowl and mix well. Set aside.
- 2 egg whites
- ½ ml cream of tartar
- 25 ml sugar
Put these three ingredients in another medium-sized mixing bowl and set aside. Heat your oven to 260 °C. The oven rack should be in the second slot from the bottom.
Put the following in a saucepan:
- 550 ml milk
- 10 ml butter
- 2 cinnamon sticks
As soon as the oven is hot, bring the milk, butter and cinnamon to the boil. Turn off the heat. Add the hot milk to the flour-and-milk mixture and stir until smooth. Pour back into the saucepan and put it on the switched off plate. Stir the milk mixture in the saucepan until thick – it should only make 1 or 2 bubbles as it boils. Pour milk mixture back into mixing bowl. Remove cinnamon. Stir in the egg yolk mixture. (In the meantime, someone must have beaten the egg white mixture until it’s just stiff; not too much, otherwise it’s dry.) Fold the egg white mixture in to the milk mixture. Pour the filing into your lined pan, sprinkle with fine cinnamon if you like and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 200 °C and bake for another 20 minutes. If the tart gets too brown, lightly put a piece of aluminium foil on top with the shiny side up. Serve lukewarm.