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Pavlova Problems

Asked by donnchalane. Answered on 19th January 2013

Full question

I recently bought Nigellissima, and my first venture was the Cappuccino Pavlova. But when I added the expresso powder it made the egg whites turn back to liquid! Is this possible? After four failed attempts made the receipe without the expresso powder and it was fine. I then added a little expresso powder at the very end and again the mixture became softer. Any tips?

Hi Nigella, I've tried to make the Chocolate Paspberry Pavlova from Forever Summer, but its been a disaster! Instead of staying relatively compact on the baking sheet, it spread out to almost fill the baking sheet and burned around the edges. I mixed the whites in my Kitchen Aid mixer and added the sugar a spoonful at a time. The meringue looked stiff and shiny, but I was wondering if I overmixed it and thats why it spread while cooking? Or did I need to mix it for longer? Please help as I'd like to try it again. I actually was making it for a dinner party tonight, but I think now I'll just turn it into an Eton Mess! Looking forward to your help Regards Cheryl

Our answer

When making any meringue make sure that your equipment is completely grease free as this will affect the egg whites. Any grease will prevent them from whisking properly and could mean the meringue is too liquid. If you are unsure then wipe the bowl and whisk with a piece of kitchen roll (paper towel) dipped in a little lemon juice or white wine vinegar.

The egg whites should be whisked to firm peak stage before adding any sugar (or sugar and espresso powder). This means that when you lift the whisk the egg white on the end stands up in a straight peak. If the peak flops over slightly then the whites need a little more whisking. However do watch the whites carefully as it is easy to over whisk them. If the whites are over whisked they will start to look lumpy and a little like cotton wool.

Once the whites have been whisked then add a couple of tablespoons of sugar and whisk back to firm peaks before adding the rest of the sugar, following the recipe instructions.

If the Cappucino Pavlova meringue was liquid it could be that the whites were not whisked quite enough before the sugar and espresso powder was added. Also check that the espresso powder is the very fine powder and not larger instant granules. The instant granules are more likely to dissolve into liquid. You could also try whisking in the vinegar in before adding the sugar and espresso powder as this will help to stabilize the egg whites.

If your meringue base is spreading or weeping it is likely that the egg whites were slightly over whisked before the sugar was added. Check the whites frequently when whisking them, particularly if using a powerful free standing mixer.

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