Tag Archives: vanilla

tessa kiros’ milk tart

16 Oct

milk and eggs

Thus far, ‘Falling Cloudberries’ has mostly been eye candy for me. The pictures in Tessa Kiros’ book are beautiful, full of colour. It covers her family heritage through Finland, Cyprus, South Africa and Italy. And I don’t know why I haven’t made more from it. Flipping through it now, stuffed eggplants and orange filo millefeuille jump out at me, as well as Scandinavian cinnamon buns like the ones I recently tried and loved at the Institut Suédois in Paris.

The recipe I tried first though was the milk tart, a humble teatime treat from South Africa. A simple pastry and a rich vanilla custard lightened with whipped egg whites, that puffs up magnificently in the oven. When it cools, the tart relaxes down into a light flan with a cinnamon-sugar crust. It is less rich than a traditional custard tart and has a delightful wobble. As if the poached meringue and crème anglaise in îles flottantes were combined into one tart.

It takes a bit of time to prepare, between resting the pastry in the fridge, blindbaking the tart and letting it cool after cooking, but it isn’t complicated. Comforting and light, and still good for breakfast the next day. 

vanilla bean

Milk Tart

serves 8-10

100g butter

100g caster sugar

230g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 egg


750ml milk

75g butter

1 vanilla bean  (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)

100g sugar, divided

3 eggs, separated

30g cornflour


1 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

In a food processor, blend the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the flour and baking powder and pulse to a sandy texture. Add the egg and mix briefly. Bring the dough together with your hands and knead lightly until combined. Flatten into a disc, cover in clingfilm and refrigerate for half an hour.

Butter a 26cm tart tin. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and carefully press into the tin. Prick all over with a fork. Make sure that the sides are at least 3cm tall so that it will hold all the filling. If you have time, refrigerate the tart shell for another half an hour.

Meanwhile, make the custard. Cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds. Heat the seeds and the whole bean with the milk and butter and 50g of sugar. In a large bowl, whisk the other 50g sugar with the egg yolks to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the cornflour. When the butter has melted, remove the vanilla bean and add the hot milk to the egg yolks little by little, continually whisking. Leave to cool down.

Preheat oven to 180C, fill the tart with baking beans and blind bake for 20-25 minutes. When the edges are golden, remove the beans and bake for another 5-10 minutes until golden all over.

Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Carefully fold into the vanilla custard. Pour into the baked tart shell. It might be easier to fill it halfway and do the rest with a jug when the tart is in the oven, to avoid spilling. (There might be slightly too much custard if the tart edges are not high enough.) Sprinkle with the cinnamon and caster sugar and bake for 40 minutes or until the tart has puffed up and has a slight wobble but seems firm on top.

Let cool for half an hour before serving.

milk tart

pannacotta with vanilla and ricotta, pineapple caramelised with sichuan pepper

5 Oct

For me, cooking at home is kinda slow. Stirring figure of eights in cream as it gently heats. Dicing fruit in neat cubes. Smoothing milk chocolate over a slightly uneven banana cake.

But work does not go that way. Dozens of pannacottas at a time. Ten kilos of flour to hoist onto the scales. Quickly, because someone is waiting behind with neon-yellow curry bread, or a stack of figs and fennel seeds. Breakfast now takes about twenty seconds, the separate buttery layers of pain au chocolat squashed in between filling tarts and airbrushing scones. (Not like photoshop; for maximum efficiency, a hosepipe and fine spraygun blow egg yolk with an angry growl.)

Sometimes I get lucky. The other day I had pannacotta for breakfast. Eaten with a spoon, it takes longer. Breathing time. I like them with just the soft scent of proper speckly vanilla, which always makes sweating over a flan or riz au lait much more bearable. But this time, instead of the classic red fruit coulis, it came with a heap of pineapple cubes. Marinated in sugar syrup and sichuan pepper overnight so it absorbs all the extra sweetness and spice, the pineapple gets caramelised quickly in a pan and turns golden brown. Luxury. Slow cooking luxury.

I’m not sure what the rules are yet about “borrowing” recipes from work. So you will have to look up a pannacotta recipe elsewhere. But the principle is simple:

Heat cream, ricotta, sugar and vanilla. Soak gelatine leaves in cold cold water. When the cream bubbles, whisk in the gelatine until thoroughly melted. Pour into glasses – about 100g per person is good – and leave to chill.

Dice the pineapple: literally dice-sized cubes. Heat an equal amount sugar and water, add your spices of choice (star anise is nice, peppercorns will give it a good kick). Pour over pineapple. Leave for 24 hours. The next day, heat the pineapple in a dry pan until dark and caramelised. Serve over pannacotta.


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