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Kitchen Queries

Welcome to Kitchen Queries, where the nigella.com team will answer your cooking or food related questions.  We’d love you to submit some of your recipe problems, dilemmas or queries for us to get our teeth into!

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  • Pavlovas and Chocolate Mini Pavlovas

    I've just made Nigella's Pavlova. This is not the first time. Usually it comes out great. This time though I've used fructose instead of caster sugar for health purpose and the meringue caramelized and is still soft. Can you explain? thanks for helping !  

    I adore Nigella's Chocolate Pavlova - it is an absolute favourite in my home and my go-to dessert for get-togethers and parties. I would dearly like to make it in to little mini pavlovas (one bite size) for an impending event and am wondering if you might be able to give me some advice on cooking times so I still achieve that wonderful chewy centre and gorgeous crunchy exterior. Thanks so much. Tash.

    From the nigella team:

    Unfortunately the fructose in the meringue mixture is the cause of the meringue problems. When regular sugar is used in baking it adds sweetness but in some cases it also adds structure to the recipe. Unfortunately in meringues sugar is the main ingredient in the recipe and so any change to this will affect the pavlova. As fructiose is sweeter then regular sugar it is used in smaller quantities which means that the structure and stability of the foam in the meringue is affected. Also fructose is more soluble than sugar which is causing the meringue to remain soft. Finally fructose has a slightly different amino acid structure to sugar which means that it browns more quickly, hence the caramelization on the meringue. We would suggest that for meringues regular sugar is used, but you may be able to use fructoise in other baking following the guidelines on the fructose packaging.

    With pavlovas there are two factors that give the meringue a soft interior and crisp exterior. The fist is in the baking, the oven temperature is higher and the cooking time is shorter that for a more traditional, crisp meringue meaning that the outside sets before the inside has a chance to dry out. The second is the addition of an acid (in this cake the balsamic vinegar) and cornflour or cocoa, which stabilizes the whipped egg white and makes it more marshmallowy. If you want to scale down the large pavlova to smaller ones you do not need to change the ingredients in the recipe but you need to shorten the baking time. Preheat the oven to 180c/350F/gas mk 4 ans then turn it down to 150c/300F/gas mk 2 as soon as the pavlovas go into the oven but bake the pavlovas for 30 minutes only. Turn the oven off and leave the pavlovas in the oven for another 30 minutes then remove them from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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