Friday, February 27, 2015

My Family Milk Tart

It seems every nation has their own version of a custard tart - the Portuguese have pasteis de nata, the British have their vanilla custard tarts, Italians their 'torta di nonna' and our South African milk tart sort of falls somewhere in the middle with it's cinnamon topping. No matter what part of the world you're from, it seems we're all unanimously in love with the combination of a creamy egg custard and a crisp pastry base. 

With heritage in mind, I knew there was only one place to go for a proper milk tart recipe in honour of National Milk Tart Day which is today! So I dug out my Great Aunt May's tattered recipe book (I've written about her before). There, right in the very front, was our family recipe for milk tart. There are no notes on where it came from, but I found the same recipe scribbled in the margins of my grandmothers book so I know it's a family favourite!   

The pastry is an interesting one - it contains oil, which is a little odd for me, but ensures a ridiculously crumbly pastry. From her other recipes, I can tell Great Aunt May loved a good shortcut, and this one is no exception. This pastry? It doesn't need to be blind baked! Yes, you read correctly. Can I get a hallelujah on that?! 'Cos if you've ever had to fuss with beans and baking paper and all that nonsense, you'll be rejoicing with me now!

The filling is lusciously velvety with just the slightest quiver - I prefer my milk tart a bit softer than most so if you like yours more set, then just increase the cornstarch. This recipe also makes the sweetest little mini milk tarts - I made these using an old-fashioned madeleine tin which belonged to my grandmother. It seemed totally appropriate for the occasion. 

My Family Milk Tart 
Recipe by Great Aunty May
Makes 1 large tart or 24 small tartlets

No-fuss pastry
110g butter, softened
2 tbsp (30ml) castor sugar
2 tbsp (30ml) vegetable oil
1 egg
2 cups (500ml) cake flour
1 tsp (5ml) baking powder
pinch of salt

600ml milk
2 tbsp (30ml) cornstarch/cornflour
1 tbsp (15ml) cake flour
4 tbsp (60ml) sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra for dusting

Cream the butter and castor sugar until light and fluffy. Add the oil and egg and beat well. Mix in the flour, baking powder and salt to form a soft pastry. 
Press a thin layer of the pastry into a greased standard pie dish. Prick the bottom and bake at 180C for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool. 
For the filling, bring the milk to a boil (I added a cinnamon stick and bay leaf to mine). 
In the meantime, whisk together the cornstarch, flour, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla and cinnamon and a little of the milk to make a creamy paste. Pour the hot milk over the paste, whisking continuously then return to the heat and cook until thickened. 
Whisk the egg whites until stiff then whisk into the still-warm filling. 
Pour the mixture into the baked tart case and sprinkle with extra cinnamon. 


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Chocolate peppermint crisp fridge cake

This no-bake 5-ingredient recipe’s deliciousness revolves around three quintessential South African ingredients – sweetened condensed milk, peppermint crisp bars (can be substituted with any peppermint or mint-flavoured chocolate or sweets) and ‘Eet sum mores’ which are delicious, buttery shortbread biscuits. Of course, these yummy ingredients are bound together with lots of melted chocolate so if you haven’t realized it by now, your diet is pretty much destroyed. 

The great thing about this recipe is that it’s idiot-proof and even better is that you can use just about anything in it – nuts, biscuits, dried fruit, sweets, marshmallows, cherries, breakfast cereal, your favourite chocolate bars – have I left anything out?! ;)

When I created this recipe last year for a quick segment on Expresso, I had no idea just how popular it would be. I put it up on Facebook as I didn’t think it was worth a full blog post and then forgot about it pretty quickly. Except that now, it has been shared over 18 000 times (and so I'm eating my words... and the cake!)

Chocolate peppermint crisp fridge cake
Serves 8-10

100g butter
300g milk or dark chocolate, chopped
½ tin sweetened condensed milk (eat the rest of the tin with a spoon)
200g shortbread biscuits (Eet sum mores)
160g peppermint crisp bars, chopped (I also used some mint aero)
80g mini marshmallows (optional)

Line a standard loaf tin or baking tray with a sheet of baking paper and set aside.
Place the butter, chocolate and condensed milk in a microwave-safe bowl and melt on a medium to low heat until smooth. 
In a separate bowl, break the biscuits into pieces and combine with the peppermint crisp chunks and marshmallows (or whatever other ingredients you're using).
Combine the cooled melted chocolate mixture with the biscuit mixture and stir until combined.
Pour into the lined loaf tin and place in the fridge until completely set.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Persian love cakes for Valentine's Day

A more romantic, shmooshy recipe for Valentine's Day you will not find. Blessed with pistachios, a gorgeous drizzling of rose water-yoghurt icing and a story as beautiful as their looks, these little baby cakes have everything going for them. 

While the internet seems to be failing me on the story behind this recipe - there are numerous versions of the recipe itself as well as how it got it's name, So I'm going to pick my favourite. In the name of Valentine's Day... 

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful woman who's heart yearned for the love of a handsome Persian prince. And because we all know the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, she baked him a spiced, fragrant cake in the hopes that at the first taste, he would fall hopelessly in love with her...

Whether or not he did indeed fall in love with her, is a mystery, but if it were up to my tastebuds, I'd have married that woman on the spot. 
So if you are in need of a little baked magic to make your prince fall in love with you, give this recipe a try. 
But if the cake doesn't work, remember... Forget love, and rather fall in chocolate. 

Persian love cakes
If you're not a fan of rose water, these cakes would be equally delicious with a glaze made from orange blossom water or lemon zest. 
Makes 14

100g blanched almonds
100g pistachios
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
150g butter, cubed
225g self-raising flour
185g castor sugar
3 eggs
225ml full cream plain yoghurt

100ml full cream plain yoghurt
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
Squeeze of lemon juice
Few drops of rose water, to taste

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and flour 14 small cannele or mini bundt molds (alternatively make a 20cm cake). 
Place the almonds and pistachios in a food processor and process until fine. Add the cardamom, cinnamon, butter, flour and sugar and process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. 
Transfer to a bowl and combine with the eggs and yoghurt. 
Spoon into the prepared molds and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cakes are springy to the touch and a skewer inserted comes out clean. 
Allow to cool slightly then turn out and cool completely. 
Trim the tops off the cakes so they can stand straight. 
For the icing, combine the yoghurt, icing sugar and rose water to form a glaze then drizzle over the cakes. 
Decorate with crushed pistachios and crystallized rose petals, if desired. 

Because there is only one thing better than cake, and that's cake with a glass of a little something, I'll be posting my suggestions on what you should be drinking while tucking into that slice. 

DRINK THIS Lanique and Bubbles
Lanique is a fragrant spirit made from distilled rose petals and who's history and story is as romantic as the cake which I have paired it with. It's delicious in a gin and tonic, but a dry bubbly brings out it's floral characteristics and is just plain yummy with the pistachios and cardamom in the cake. 


Chocolate fondant (liquid-centred chocolate pudding)
One-cup yoghurt cake with passionfruit frosting
Red velvet raspberry sweetie pies