Katherine Hayton | Leaking Pavlovas
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27 Dec / Leaking Pavlovas

This year for Christmas my darling and I decided not to exchange presents. We also didn’t have any decorations around the house (except for a handmade Xmas tree ornament made by my darling’s nephew which has been hanging from the nose of our Happy Bunny™ since we received it as a present last year which doesn’t count because it’s always there.)

There was a vague idea going around early on that we might wander down the street when it was dark and have a look at the Christmas lights in the one house in our neighbourhood that bothers. This was shot down through a combination of lack of interest and needing to stay up after our bedtime for it to get dark.

So my big Christmas moment was making the Pavlovas for our Christmas Eve dessert.

I read up on the Internet and saw legions of people complaining about how their Pavlovas leaked or fell or otherwise didn’t make the grade. I scoffed at these people, safe in my “I haven’t tried yet so I don’t know how hard it’ll be” state of innocence. I whipped up some eggs and gradually added sugar. I kept at those peaks until they were smooth and glossy and I couldn’t feel any grains of sugar when I smooshed a bit between my fingers.

I added cornflour and vanilla and white vinegar (???) even though it didn’t seem like an ingredient that should be added. I stirred in some JUST BOILED WATER which must have been integral because it was called attention to in capitals.

I separated my one pavlova into two pavlovas so that there weren’t any fights later on, then put them into the 100 C oven to cook for an hour and a half while I tidied the kitchen.

Half an hour later I peered into the oven to see a disaster forming.

A small puddle was leaking from one side of one pavlova. I refused to look for the remaining time in case it was my special vision powers that made the disaster happen. It wasn’t. Or, if it was, I inflicted the same powers again when I took the tray out of the oven.

Never mind. I’ve baked before. I know the score. I bought double ingredients at the supermarket because I know these things happen.

I double checked all the reasons this disaster could’ve happened. They were many and varied.

Beating the egg whites too much. Not beating them enough. Adding too much sugar. Adding damp sugar. Not integrating the sugar into the mixture effectively. Humidity. The oven was too hot. The oven was not too hot.

Having narrowed it down a bit, I tried an entirely different recipe that nevertheless used the same ingredients. Except for the water. The second one not only didn’t think the water should be just boiled but didn’t see the necessity for water at all. They looked remarkably similar when I put them into the oven. Unfortunately, they looked remarkably similar when I pulled them from the oven also.

Oh well. I’m used to disasters in the kitchen and you know what I always say? There’s nothing that can’t be fixed with lashings of whipped cream and chocolate chips.

I can also reliably report that meringue tastes like meringue whether it leaks in the oven or not.

By Katherine Hayton in Katherine Hayton's Blog

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