Baking and Confectionery
We love sharing milk tart with our friends, but because it’s a bit unpractical to take a milk tart to a finger-food pot luck meal, Marietjie started filling small home-made tartlet cases with her standard milk tart filling. The plate is always empty when it’s time to go home.
Ystervarkies are small cubes of cake that are dipped in chocolate sauce and then rolled in coconut, to resemble hedgehogs. (“Yservarkie” is Afrikaans for “hedgehog”.) South African lamingtons are much smaller than the Australian and New Zealand versions, usually measuring only 3 or 4 cm square.
These delectable muffins are also known as cappuccino chocolate chip muffins, but we think of them as “mochacchino muffins”, in honour of the caffè mocha, that king of drinks made from espresso, steamed milk and chocolate. Make sure that you enjoy it with the very best coffee you can lay your hands on.
This is said to be the chocolate oat biscuit recipe used by famous brands in both South Africa and the United States. It is also claimed that they are healthy because they use oatmeal (which is low in GI and contains antioxidants) and dark chocolate (everyone knows dark chocolate is good for you). We couldn’t care less if any of these wild claims are true or not; all we know is that these chocolate oat biscuits are crisp and additively delicious.
We made these easy apple tartlets with a simple apple filling and tasty squares dough, using a silicon tartelette container. It was a bit of an experiment, but they came out beautifully, exactly like the apple tartlets we grew up with as children.
Tasty squares, an old-fashioned South-African slice, might have its roots in Holland.
This is more or less the recipe that Marietjie’s mum baked, but we prefer to go light on the cloves and almond essence.
A pudding that’s allowed only once every four years? Yes, that’s right. In honour of leap year, we made South African leap year pudding.
Condensed milk biscuits are well-known in South-Africa. They are similar to New Zealand condensed milk biscuits, but contain egg.
The dough is soft and very pliable, which means you can shape your biscuits with a cookie press, or even a meat grinder with a cookie attachment, if you are so lucky to own one.
If you are a fan of Milo, you will most probably love Milo biscuits. They are crunchy on the outside, soft and Milo-ish inside, and goes very well with a glass of cold milk.
Ouma Corrie, Marietjie’s grandmother, taught her to make Swiss roll when she was a little girl – a skill that is appreciated by Jaco and Mia, who loves eating Swiss roll.
The main difference between South African and Kiwi recipes seem to be the filling: raspberry jam in New Zealand, and apricot jam in South Africa. We use Craig’s Apricot Lite Fruit spread, available in New Zealand supermarkets.
You can fill it with anything of you like, of course: caramel condensed milk became a popular filling in South-Africa, and lemon curd is worth trying too.
Custard slices (Afrikaans “vlaskywe”), a very traditional treat in South Africa, are made by sandwiching thick custard between two layers of crispy crust, and adding a thin layer of icing to glaze the top. They are related to Kiwi custard slices/squares, but not quite the same.
This recipe is based on the traditional South African custard slice, but we used rose water to flavour the icing, and puff pastry to make the crust. You can of course use either lemon juice or vanilla in the glaze icing, which is more traditional than the some-what Bohemian flavour of rose water.
This Kiwi favourite – called yo-yo biscuits because they look like the toy – are egg-free and made from custard powder. When made with real butter, they are guaranteed to melt in the mouth. A number of cafés in New Zealand sell enormous yo-yo biscuits, but we prefer them smaller.
These biscuits do not require cooling down after baking; they are pure bliss hot from the oven. In fact, they are a bit like a cup of thickly brewed Mexican hot chocolate: creamy, chocolaty, and lightly spiced with cinnamon and a dash of chilli.
“Shall I bake a cheesecake?” Marietjie asked, and proceeded to spread her recipe books on the table. She could not quite find what she wanted and started to devise a new recipe on the spot. Jaco had his doubts, but can now report that he worried too much. His wife’s new recipe turned out to be just right in his view – and he’s been looking for the perfect New York style cheesecake for a very long time.
An Alsatian bit Marietjie when she was only nine years old. A good friend of Marietjie’s mother brought a plate of homemade meringues as a get-well-soon gift and that is exactly what Marietjie did: Betty-June’s meringues were that good. Her meringue recipe stood the test of time, and become a firm favorite with our own daughter and her friends here in New Zealand.
A firm favourite with kids and peanut butter lovers alike, these nutty biscuits make great lunchbox treats, but are at their best when served with milk or coffee.
Lepelsteeltjies is another much loved South African combination of savoury and sweet: they are tiny biscuits made from cheddar cheese, with a wee bit of apricot jam in the centre.
They are not easy to pass by: the only safe way to store them is behind lock and key. Luckily, lepelsteeltjies will get stale if you leave them too long, so you’ll have the perfect excuse to liberate them.
Ginger tart is an old South African treat: it appeared in the South African “Kook en Geniet” (Cook and Enjoy) recipe book as far back as the 1950s.
Mixing sweet and savoury is typical South African: we grew up with combinations such as grated cheese and apricot jam, or cheese and golden syrup, on sandwiches or vetkoek. Although it was a little unusual at first, Jaco’s colleagues quickly became partial to these small marmite and cheese cakes, baked in muffin pans for morning tea.
A baked fruit salad pudding combines the comforting richness of a wintery oven-baked pudding with the fresh flavours of fruit salad (better known as fruit cocktail, or "vrugte-kelkie" in South Africa). It is the kind of dish that reminds you that spring is only a couple of month away!
This is Marietjie's favourite shortbread recipe. It appeared in the South African Rooi Rose magazine a few years ago, when they featured a lady that passionately loved Scotland and all things Scottish.
Marietjie loves the love-heart cookie mold, but the Scottish thistle pattern is also quite popular with our Kiwi friends, perhaps due to Christchurch's Scottish heritage. The tartan used for the photo is that of the MacLeod clan.
The Australian Women's Weekly Test Kitchen leads the field in baking and this sponge cake recipe (from their book, Classic Cakes), proves the point: it is simply the best ever sponge cake.
The filling of cream and rose-scented strawberries is our own variation.
Marietjie grew up with this attractive cheese and condensed milk tart, topped with apricot halves, that perfectly combines sweet, tangy and savoury tastes.
It looks just like sunny side up eggs. Marietjie's sister, who declared this to be her all-time favourite tart, was known to eat it for breakfast. She also made it a standard item on her birthday where, together with chocolate cake and a savoury tart, it was offered to guests who dropped by any time between morning tea and afternoon tea time.
If you're looking for a South-African dessert or afternoon tea-time treat that can be made on either the stove-top or in the microwave oven, instead of being baked in a conventional oven, you will find this unbaked milk tart to be quick, easy, creamy and delicious.
Passionfruit adds a lovely new twist to a traditional lemon meringue pie. This lovely new variation was recently introduced as a promotional recipe by Nestle South-Africa, for their Full Cream Sweetened Condensed Milk. This is our adapted recipe.
Unbaked, refrigerated squares or balls that are made from dates and crushed biscuits are a South African favourite. They can be flavoured with vanilla or brandy and can be cut into squares or rolled into balls. They are usually covered in desiccated coconut to make them less sticky, and some recipes add more butter to make them softer, but the basic recipe remains the same.
These lovely biscuits, also known as Highlander biscuits, are great for a coffee-time nibble, and can be baked with or without chocolate chips. This traditional New Zealand recipe is similar to the South African version, the main difference being that New Zealand's condensed milk biscuits are made without egg.
Scrolls are delicious and economical, and great fun to make and eat. We enjoy them as morning or afternoon snacks, served as a side when we have soup, and in our lunch boxes.
We bake snowflake butter biscuits to proclaim the arrival of winter in New Zealand.
These lovely biscuits, so pleasing to both the eye and palate, are suitable to celebrate almost any occasion from Mid-Winter Feasts to Christmas, because they can be decorated according to the occasion.
This recipe was originally published in Divine Cupcakes: A Book of Temptation, by Tamara Jane and reproduced on this site with her kind permission.
Tamara decorates her cupcakes with chocolate filigree and tiny baked gingerbread hearts. Marietjie decorated hers with chocolate filigree hearts, as shown on the photo. You can also use crystallised ginger.