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South African custard squares

By May 6, 2022November 29th, 2022FinGlobal

South African custard squares

May 6, 2022

Nothing tastes of home quite like lekker South African custard tart unless we consider the braai, of course! But that’s a little off the topic, and the chops and boerie probably wouldn’t taste as good covered in a glorious layer of Ultra Mel, or would they? Not sure anyone would want to try that recipe unless they had some serious tastebud issues! However, fantastical South African recipes aside (aren’t they all a little magical?), most South Africans would agree that custard tart is quite possibly the ultimate in after braai-puds; just saying!

Custard tart

Custard tart vs. milk tart

Most people believe that custard tart and milk tart (melk tert) are the same thing and would be marginally correct. However, there are some definite differences between the two, one of the most significant being their place of origin. Custard tart is synonymous with British culture. It is traditionally made from short-crust pastry, egg yolks, milk, and sugar, topped with nutmeg.

In contrast, the South African custard tart (melk tert) is made from sweet pastry, eggs, castor sugar, milk, condensed milk, and topped with cinnamon. As you can see, they are pretty similar, but as with most South African recipes, the Saffa ingredients are far richer and sweeter. In fact, it’s the higher ratio of milk to eggs that gives the South African custard filling for this tart its famous light texture and milky flavour.

A well-travelled dessert!

According to the history books, the South African custard tart made its first debut in African culture as far back as the 17th century. An exciting fact about the custard tart is that it has far-reaching roots and is believed to be a descendant of a tasty Dutch cheesecake dessert, a Portuguese custard tart and the Chinese egg tart! Now that’s what you call a truly international dessert, perfectly suited to the cultural diversity found only on South African soil!

Custard tart today

Its unique sweet flavour and light texture has meant that South African custard tart has weathered the ages quite well. Many a supermarket wouldn’t contemplate the absence of this decadent pud on its bakery shelves. However, keeping up with the supply and demand of this tasty creation has meant that the recipes have evolved to include things like vlapoeier (custard powder) and even dollops of the best South African custard in the world – Ultra Mel! Unfortunately, for Saffas living across the pond, Ultramel is probably one of the South African foods you miss the most.

South Africans know this tasty premade custard is thick, smooth and infused with vanilla. Served hot or cold, it turns every dessert into fine African cuisine! Okay, so some of us miss our Ultramel very much, but you get the point!

However, these time-saving ingredients have not detracted from the unique and tasty flavour of the South African custard tart. Instead, Saffas can now create glorious custard tart recipes in such a short space of time; Ouma would have been proud!

South African custard squares with three ingredients

Let’s wade fork-deep into the yummy three-ingredient custard tart recipe we recently discovered. It’s sure to knock your socks off!

What you need

  • 750 ml vanilla custard (Danone Ultra Mel)
  • 300 g white marshmallows
  • 400 g / 1 sheet thawed puff pastry

What to do

  • Roll the puff pastry out onto a well-floured surface. Trim the edges off neatly and cut the pastry square into two halves.
  • Next, line a large flat baking tray with greaseproof paper. Place the pastry halves onto the baking tray and prick holes the pastry bases using a fork. This process is called docking and prevents the pastry from puffing up too much.
  • Before placing the baking tray in the oven, place another baking tray on top of the pastry halves. The weight will further prevent the pastry from becoming too puffy.
  • Bake the pastry for 20-25 minutes at 190 C. After the allotted baking time, remove the trays from the oven, lift the top tray off the pastry bases and allow them to cool while you prepare the tart filling. The pastry should be a lovely golden-brown colour- yum!
  • For the filling, empty the marshmallows into a large bowl, add the Ultra Mel and stir well.
  • Microwave the custard and marshmallow mix for 5 minutes on high, BUT remember to stop and stir the mixture in one-minute intervals. This will ensure the marshmallows melt properly and prevent the filling from sticking to the bowl or overflowing onto the microwave turntable. You don’t want to lose a precious drop!
  • Once all the marshmallows are melted, and the custard mixture is smooth and silky, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  • Line a large Pyrex/oven dish with greaseproof paper and pop one pastry square into it to form the base of the squares.
  • Next, scoop the chilled, creamy custard mix on top of the base and smooth it out using a spatula or large spoon.
  • You’re nearly done! Next, put the second pastry square on top of the custard filling to form the lid of the custard squares.
  • Finally, pop the oven dish back into the fridge for 3-4 hours.
  • After it has been refrigerated, you can slice the custard pie into large squares using a sharp knife.

Serve your custard squares with a sprinkling of icing sugar and sliced strawberries for a sophisticated twist. Alternatively, simply grab a fork and dive in, Saffa style!

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