The Milk Tart or Melktert, as it is called in Afrikaans, is a dessert loved by many South Africans, so much so that it needed it’s own special day.
Traditionally described as a shortbread crust with a milky filling, this classic dish is said to come from the Dutch in the 1600s.
Marie Louise Guy, co-author of The South African Milk Tart Collection (R229 on Loot.co.za), says there are different variations around the world. “It was first known as the Mattataart,” says Guy.
“What’s interesting about the milk tart is that it is not as sweet as other tarts and what makes South African milk tarts unique is the baking style of the pastry at 200 degrees. It’s a kind of magical trick of the timing that is just enough. “Milk tart in general is a unique tart and can be enjoyed at any time and anywhere. People have it at funerals and weddings, too,” says Guy.
She says National Milk Tart Day is in its fourth year in South Africa. “It hasn’t been around for a long time, but it is growing every year,” she says. And like everything under the sun, it has evolved.
“It has become difficult to define milk tart because you now get milk tart shakes and alcohol flavours. “You could even find different flavours in various parts of the country. A milk tart used to be just milk, eggs, flour and cornstarch, but people started making their own variations. Some even add dried naartjie peel to add flavour, while others make red velvet milk tart by adding beetroot.
“In places like the Bo Kaap they use turmeric powder that gives the crust a more orange colour. Some people also add rum and almonds or peanuts. It is a unique soufflé experience,” says Guy.
Mitchells Plain resident Naomi Marshall has been baking milk tart for her family, church and her community for more than 15 years. The 78 year old grandmother from Rocklands, who is known and loved for her flop-proof milk tart, has made thousands or tarts since she she got the recipe from a friend. After sinking her teeth into a slice of milk tart which her friend made for her, Naomi says she liked it so much she had to get the recipe.
“That was the first time I made my own milk tart, after I got the recipe from my friend, Mr Hendricks, 15 years ago,” she says proudly. “I asked my friend for the recipes because it was a very nice milk tart. Since I started making it, people have asked me to bake for churches and parties. I used to make up to 10 tarts at a time,” she says.
While Naomi has never been to Johannesburg, she has reason to brag because her milk tarts have. “My melktert het al Joburg toe gegaan! (My milk tart has already been to Joburg),” she says.
Naomi says she has never heard of National Milk Tart Day, but agrees everyone should enjoy a slice of South African goodness today.