Wwhen we visit South Africa, our daughter’s grandmother, nicknamed Lala, makes us fat milker, which loosely translates from Afrikaans as “sour milk pie”. “My grandmother made it 70 years ago on the farm,” Lala says, “when the delicious, creamy Jersey milk had soured and skimmed milk [thick milk]”, and it is life-affirming to watch her make it for our daughter today – a delicious, traditional dessert that will be enjoyed for generations.
It is similar to the classic South African milk pie, but is easier to make and uses a lot of pasteurized milk or sour raw milk that has been thickened. (If you’re using the former, consider swapping the yogurt and milk amounts—i.e. 480g yogurt and 150ml short date milk—to give it a more pronounced sour taste.) Lala’s version uses coconut butter instead of butter, is made without pastry and topped with a layer of desiccated coconut and the traditional cinnamon; to make a firmer dish, bake the custard in a tart pan, as in the classic milk pie.
Dikmelktert – Grandma’s South African sour milk pie
This is a quick, easy dessert that is a real crowd pleaser at family events. Grandma Lala makes hers like a griddle in an enamel or heat-resistant glass dish, with no pastry; if you want to bake it in a pie pan, I’ve also given my shortcrust pastry recipe; use any leftovers to make my waste no cookies.
For the dough (optional)
200 g flour (spelt, preferably), plus extra for dusting
100 g butter
2 medium eggs
30ml cold water
A pinch of salt
30 ml milk or water
for the custard
1 tbsp butter or coconut butterat room temperature
100 g soft brown sugar or coconut sugar
120 g flour
150 grams of yogurt
480 ml whole milk for short dates
1 tsp vanilla essence
23 cm blind baked tart pans (optional)
Dried coconutto sprinkle (optional)
Cream the butter and sugar and 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 pie shell), sprinkle liberally with cinnamon and desiccated coconut, if using, then bake in a 200C (180C Fan)/390F/Gas 6 oven for 35 minutes, until they are cooked. Let cool, cut into slices and serve. The cake can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days.
If baking the custard in a baking pan, mix the flour, butter and salt in a food processor for 30 seconds, until the butter is finely blended with the flour. Add one of the eggs and the water and mix for another 20 seconds, or until the mix comes together to form a dough; add a splash of water if needed. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead very briefly to a smooth dough, then transfer to a plate, cover with an upturned bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes to rest.
Roll out the dough on a floured work surface to a thickness of about 3 mm. Keep turning the dough and sprinkle more flour on the work surface and pin if it starts to stick. When the dough is big enough to fill a 23cm pie pan with overhanging dough, roll it on the pin and lift it into the pan. Gently press the dough into the corners and against the sides, then cut all but 1cm off the overhang (this will help prevent the dough from shrinking back).
Prick the surface all the way with a fork to prevent the dough from puffing up during baking, then bake in a 200C (180C Fanned Air)/390F/Gas 6 oven for 20 minutes, until just cooked through and lightly browned.
Make an egg wash by beating the remaining egg with 30 ml of milk or water. Remove the pan 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 allow to cool before filling.