Pro Tips for the perfect Milk Tart

4 SA pastry chefs share their pro tips for making the perfect milk tart

It’s no secret that South Africans love their vanilla-ry, custardy milk tart. An iconic dish that often triggers serious food debates – what pastry is best? How much cinnamon topping is adequate? What’s the ideal dish to bake it in? The disputes are endless…

We asked a few hotel pastry chefs to share their tips and tricks for making a magical milk tart.

Take a look!

Jac Kolver – pastry brand manager at Wild Peacock
“It’s great to infuse the vanilla and cinnamon quill overnight. By gently heating the milk to scalding and then allowing it to sit for 12 hours you get an amazing depth of flavour and maximum use of both the pod and the spice. I also prefer adding the butter to the filling once it has cooled down slightly compared to melting it in the milk from the start, and a small amount of salt added to the filling also lifts it up nicely, alternatively salted butter will also work.”

Devin Jones – Pastry Chef at The Silo Hotel

“When lining your tart case, leave a small lip over the mould and only cut off the excess pastry after baking so you have a perfect edged crust. Uncooked rice is great for blind baking and cost-effective. Infuse your milk with orange zest, vanilla and a cinnamon quill. This helps to give a more intense flavour and will minimise the amount of cinnamon powder so you can avoid a “powdery” milk tart. Lastly, when dusting with cinnamon powder, use a sieve and dust at least 30cm above the tart to allow for even distribution.”

Craig Hibbert – Pastry Chef at The Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel

“Being British, I always thought it would be the most terrifying thing to make milk tart for the first time but here are the tips I picked up during my many flops: Make sure you rest the pastry for at least 30 min, before rolling it out and make sure the pastry is blind baked fully so the tart shell stays crispy. When pouring the filling into the pastry shell, don’t scrape the bottom of the pot, otherwise, you might end up with bits of milk that have solidified running through your mix.”

Kyle Hickman – Pastry chef at One&Only Cape Town
“If you are making a sweet paste tart case, make sure the base is baked properly, even a little over, as to not have a soggy base. The milk tart mix will soften the shell slightly when setting to give you that perfect balance between crunchy and soft. Allow the milk tart to cool at room temperature. If you put it in the fridge straight away, you will probably end up with a huge crack down the centre as a result of cooling too quickly. Be sure to use the best quality ingredients. My dad accidentally kept adding icing sugar instead of corn flour to the custard once, and couldn’t understand why it wasn’t getting thicker… my mom got blamed for not putting labels on the containers. And if all else fails, ask your Granny to make it, they usually have it down to a T.”

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