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I've attempted to make the Prodigious Pavlova out of the Christmas book (p45) 4 times now and I can never get it right. I'm following the recipe to the letter - whisking it using my Kitchen Aid so I know its all whisked together thoroughly. I'm leaving it to cool in the oven without even looking at it and every time it falls apart completely. It often has lots of sugary liquid leaking out too but the last couple of times it didn't have this. It's more that it totally falls apart and its a complete disaster! Where am I going wrong?
Posted by PollyB. Answered on 23rd Jan 2012 at 12.00
There can be a few reasons why liquid seeps out of a meringue but the most common one is that the mixture has been overbeaten. The Kitchen Aid has a very powerful motor so you do need to keep a close eye on the egg whites whilst whipping them. The egg whites should be whisked in a clean, grease-free bowl to make sure that they whisk properly. If you are also making cakes in your mixer then there could be traces of grease left on the whisk or in the bowl so dip a piece of kitchen paper (paper towel) in some of the vinegar from the 2 teaspoons specified in the recipe and use this to wipe out the bowl and wipe the whisk. This will remove any traces of grease and help the whites to achieve a good volume without overwhisking them.
The whites should reach a "firm peaks" consistency before the sugar is added. Stop and check the whites every couple of minutes and lift the whisk from the mixture - the whisked egg white should form a peak and hold this peak. Be very careful as you get close to this stage as it can be easy to overwhisk the meringue and then the mixture looks slightly lumpy (some people describe overbeaten whites as looking a little like cotton wool). If the whites are overbeaten then some of the liquid will be forced from them. When the sugar is added don't whisk for too long, only enough to make the mixture stiff and glossy.
There is also a possibilty that the oven is a little too hot and this can cause the meringue to "weep" as the protiens in the whites contract too quickly and force out some liquid. Check your oven temperature with an oven thermometer and if necessary adjust the temperature down slightly or cook the meringue slightly below the centre of the oven (for a conventional oven).
It is also worth mentioning is that it can be very difficult to make meringues in a humid environment as the meringue will tend to attract moisture from the atmosphere.
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