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Melktert Is The Spiced Custard Pie That Dates Back Centuries

dish of melktert
dish of melktert - Chrisna Stander/Shutterstock

Few desserts serve a slice of home quite like a pie. A vessel for a variety of ingredients -- which are often locally sourced -- the sweet treat occurs in many renditions worldwide. From Florida's key lime pie, to Australia's meat pie, it's fair to say the food's a global hit since all it necessitates is a delicious crust.

In South Africa, the pie of choice is called melktert. Created by Dutch settlers several centuries ago, it's a delicious showcase of local dairy culture. Spiced with cinnamon and served with a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth consistency, it's a local rendition with immediate appeal.

It is no surprise, then, that the traditional dessert continues to be popular throughout the African nation. Found with different doughs, textures, and spiced with varying ingredients, it's a vessel for a personal spin, too. So, let's dive into its historical origins and components. The iconic melktert is a dessert worth familiarizing yourself with.

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Background Of Melktert

sliced of melktert
sliced of melktert - Aninka Bongers-Sutherland/Shutterstock

This delicious pie traces its origins to Dutch colonizers who arrived in South Africa in the 1600s. Many worked with dairy, producing the creamy milk products necessary for the internal filling. They combined their local production with pastry techniques, likely drawing from baked goods such as Mattentaart and other baked treats. Originally, the cake was made from short crust, although today, recipes have expanded to store-bought puff pastry, and without a dough component altogether.

In the process, a uniquely South African pie arose. Even the name evinces such a fusion of cultures; it translates to milk tart from Afrikaans. And its spice component also hails from abroad; cinnamon came by way of slaves from Indonesia. Today, melktert coalesces such influences into a dessert widely enjoyed throughout South Africa. It's a delicious staple found at festivities, sold in groceries, and crafted inside the home. Let's dive into what goes into it.

What Is Melktert?

top down view of melktert components
top down view of melktert components - Chrystal de Witt/Shutterstock

Melkert's appeal is all in the light, airy consistency. Unlike other custard pies, the interior is creamy, without a rigid texture. However, the exact viscosity depends on the recipe. To achieve such a delicious filling, the recipe involves variable ratios of milk, flour, eggs, and butter. The latter ingredient is of utmost importance; its flavor and rich consistency add robust character to the tart. And for added flavor, cinnamon is a frequent addition, along with vanilla extract and occasionally nutmeg.

Some recipes may simply mix up such ingredients and enjoy as a pudding. Nevertheless, a tasty layer of dough underneath is a more common element. The composition of the pastry vessel greatly varies, from shortcrust to puff pasty and graham crackers. The crust is kept thin to allow the internal pudding filling to shine. The creamy filling is chilled in the fridge, and the result is enjoyed with family and friends.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.