The creations we’ve received for The Oxford Blue Star Baker series so far have given our editors an extended sugar rush of the virtual variety. It’s delightful to see how Oxford students, wherever they may be, are throwing sugar, flour and butter together in weird and wonderful ways. This week, we’re delighted to showcase Rupert Jackson’s meticulously constructed salted caramel lemon meringue tarts.
If Rupert’s submission is anything to go by, he’s the kind of guy who would enter the Bake Off tent with a scientific calculator, proceed to weigh his eggs and then ice his show stopper to perfection using a spirit level. Whilst we’re deeply impressed with Rupert’s commitment to baking excellence, it’s also clear from his ability to blend apparently incompatible flavours (lemon and caramel, who’d have thought?) that he’s no stickler for rules. We love a bit of baking rebellion.
Here’s the master himself on how he’s adapting his recipes in the absence of key equipment, challenging himself to better understand his ingredients and striking the right balance between crunch, goo, bitter and sweet.
Rupert Jackson: 2nd Year Music student at Magdalen College:
After an unexpected early departure from Oxford, I left loads of stuff in my room- including my sugar thermometer . I decided to make the most of this less-than-ideal situation and challenge myself to learn how sugar behaves by eye. I’m pleased to say that for these salted caramel lemon meringue tarts, the syrup for the Italian meringue went well, and I was only about 0.5-1 °C off my desired caramel consistency.
Lemon meringue pie has always been a favourite in the Jackson household, but I personally find the textural contrast between the crisp pastry and the light meringue to be unsupported by enough middle-texture. I thought adding something gooey to the mix would help. Enter salted caramel. I was a little worried that the lemon curd and the salted caramel, both strong flavours, would clash. It turned out to be a great (albeit very rich) success! There are now four complementary components to the tart’s textural makeup: the crumbly sablée biscuit, the sticky caramel, the silky curd, and the fluffy meringue.
The flavour profile was also much more coherent than I was expecting. The caramel’s salt was balanced out by the mass of subtle meringue, allowing the lemon’s sharpness to penetrate through with enough support to prevent it becoming overpowering. The depth of the caramel nodded to the blowtorched marshmallow layer of the meringue.
I thought a caramel to curd ratio of 1:2 was a good starting point, but next time I think I might reduce this to 1:3. Even for a hardcore sugar addict like me, I couldn’t stomach more than four in one go.
You can find Rupert documenting his baking (and cooking) creations over on his Instagram page, The Cambridge Kitchen