Wever we visit South Africa, our daughter’s grandma, who is nicknamed Lala, makes us dikmelkter, which loosely translates from Afrikaans as “sour milk tart”. “My grandma used to make it on the farm 70 years ago,” Lala tells me, “when the lovely, creamy Jersey milk had been soured and thickened into dikmelk [thick milk]”, and it’s life-affirming to see her make it for our daughter today – a lovely, traditional dessert that’s enjoyed through the generations.
It’s similar to the classic South African milk tart, but easier to make, and makes great use of short-date pasteurized milk or soured raw milk that has thickened. (If you’re using the former, consider switching the yoghurt and milk quantities around – ie, 480g yoghurt and 150ml short-date milk – to give it a more pronounced sour flavour.) Lala’s version uses coconut butter instead of butter, is made without pastry and is topped with a dusting of desiccated coconut as well as the traditional cinnamon; to make a more substantial dish, bake the custard in a pastry case, as in the classic milk tart.
Dikmelktert – Grandma’s South African sour milk tart
This is a quick, simple dessert that’s a real crowd-pleaser at family events. Grandma Lala makes hers like a traybake in an enamel or heatproof glass dish, without pastry; if you want to bake it in a tart case, I’ve also given my recipe for shortcrust pastry; use any offcuts to make my waste-not cookies.
For the pastry (optional)
200g flour (spelt, for preference), plus extra for dusting
2 medium eggs
30ml cold water
A pinch of salt
30ml milk or water
For the custard
1 tbsp butter or coconut butterat room temperature
100g soft brown sugar or coconut sugar
120g plain flour
480ml short-date whole milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
23cm blind-baked pastry tart case (optional)
Desiccated coconutto sprinkle (optional)
Cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs. Mix in the flour, followed by the yogurt, milk and vanilla essence. Once smooth, pour into a greased 23cm dish (or blind-baked tart case), dust liberally with cinnamon and desiccated coconut, if using, then bake in a 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6 oven for 35 minutes, until set . Leave to cool, then slice and serve. The tart will keep in the fridge for up to five days.
If you’re baking the custard in a pastry case, blend the flour, butter and salt in a food processor for 30 seconds, until the butter is finely mixed into the flour. Add one of the eggs and the water, and blend for 20 seconds more, or until the mix comes together into a dough; add a touch more water if necessary. Tip out on to a floured surface and knead very briefly until you have a smooth dough, then put on a plate, cover with an upturned bowl and put in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 3mm thick. Keep turning the dough and sprinkle more flour on the worktop and pin if it starts to stick. Once the pastry is large enough to fill a 23cm tart tin with an overhang, roll it on to the pin and lift into the tin. Carefully press the pastry into the corners and against the sides, then cut off all but 1cm of the overhang (this will help stop the pastry shrinking back down).
Prick the surface all over with a fork, to stop the pastry puffing up while baking, then bake in a 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6 oven for 20 minutes, until just cooked and light brown.
Make an egg wash by beating the remaining egg with 30ml milk or water. Remove the case from the oven and brush with the egg wash – this will fill any holes made by the fork. Return to the oven for three minutes, then remove and leave to cool before filling.