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Why Did My Chocolate Pavlova Base Spread Out While Baking?

Asked by Cherryanne. Answered on 19th May 2022

Full question

My Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova meringue spread as it baked. I am wondering whether to add a tiny bit of cornflour to the meringue to stop it spreading and maintain its height. Would this help?

Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova
Photo by Petrina Tinslay
Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova
By Nigella
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Our answer

Nigella's Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova (from NIGELLA SUMMER) has a rich, slightly chewy meringue base that includes cocoa and chocolate chunks. Normally a pavlova meringue includes some cornflour (cornstarch) as this helps to keep the centre of the meringue soft and marshmallowy by absorbing some of the moisture in the mixture, so that it doesn't evaporate in the heat of the oven.

In the chocolate meringue, the cocoa powder takes the place of the cornflour and acts in a similar way. So it is unlikely that the lack of cornflour caused the meringue to spread. All meringues will expand/spread slightly as they bake, as the air trapped in the meringue will expand slightly. If the uncooked meringue mixture itself was slightly runny then it is likely that the egg whites were not whisked quite enough before the sugar was added. It could also be that the whites, bowl or whisk had been in contact with some grease (including traces of egg yolk), which will prevent the whites from whisking to full volume. If the uncooked meringue looked fairly stiff then it is possible that the whites were whisked a little too much or too quickly before the sugar was added. This causes uneven air bubbles and the larger ones will expand and then collapse as the meringue bakes. If using a hand or freestanding mixer then start whisking the whites on low speed until they are frothy, then turn the speed up to medium and whisk until the whites reach firm peak stage - when you lift the beaters the whites should form a peak that flops over slightly just at the very tip.

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