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I'm learning to make Pavlova. I'm five attempts in and generally pretty happy with my latest one except for the weird "leaking" that happens during baking. Anyone know why this happens and how to stop it?

Photos: First attempt Second attempt

Ingredients:

  • 160g egg whites (at room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 200g icing sugar (I tried caster sugar the last time which had the same problem)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • A few drops vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Wipe the bowl and whisk with a piece of paper towel dipped in a little lemon juice
  2. Preheat oven to 150c (300f)
  3. Beat until egg whites are stiff - check by turning the bowl over (slowly!), if they move keep whisking! (I tried doing a bit less whipping one time - same problem)
  4. Add lemon juice to egg whites
  5. Add the sugar gradually, one heaped tablespoon every 45 seconds; check for graininess every 8 additions
  6. Put the pav in the oven and then turn down it to 100c (200f) right away
  7. Cook for 1.5 hours
  8. Turn off oven but leave pavlova in overnight
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The most common reasons I know are:

  • Preparing when humidity is high. Tough to avoid when you are on a schedule like wanting it for an occasion. But in my experience, having an oven that circulates fresh air in can make this worse by bringing in more moisture all the time, or ever opening the door or trying to cook something else at the same time.
  • Over beating can cause it.
  • Undissolved sugar, which of course is opposed to trying to not over-beat.
  • Overcooking.

A couple things I do see in your recipe: I am used to seeing a bit of vinegar. I assume the lemon is to cover the same with a bit fresher flavor, and it may but it might be worth trying such a recipe. I know the point it to help create the classic Pav crust while I am used to lemon in pavs being more to help the foam form buy your recipe calls for it after you already have peaks.

The 2nd thing I see is your recipe calls for a bit higher temp than I am used to. For instance the first I checked to refresh my memory called for 190F for 5 minutes, then drop to 130F for an hour, then turn off. I think what may friend from NZ who made much better than I do used was 200F for about 10 minutes, then just the light that kept the oven at about 140F for an hour. That is quite a bit lower than yours, so I would question possible over cooking as the issue.

I have even seen the higher pre-heat skipped and instead torch the meringue and only do the low heat to slow cook the center, but when I tried that I got the nice cruch, but raw egg inside and it also leaked, but it was a egg white leak. Yours visibly looks more of a sugary leak to my eyes.

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    Thanks for this! You're right about the humidity - I think that's part of my problem. Hopefully next time it'll be a dry day! I've tried vinegar and lemon juice and haven't noticed much difference. I'd honestly be curious to leave out an acid and see what happens. I can try the vinegar again to double check. I actually thought my temp might be too low! the inside is less cooked than I would have liked - perhaps just longer is better. I think the over beating/undissolved sugar issue is involved - I've had undissolved in the past, so I might have gone too far the other way! – Felix Lover Dec 21 '18 at 0:16
  • @FelixLover I have definitely seen people do higher temps, even to the point of confusing C and F. There is definitely some conflicting information out there. I have not made one in a few years the the Kiwi co-worker that hooked me on them years ago swore by the low temps with the acid and starch for the classic shell. He did not consider it to be a Pavlova unless he could hit it with a spoon and break if like glass before adding the fruit. – dlb Dec 21 '18 at 17:28
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one of the really important factors is getting the ratio of egg whites to sugar correct, which you have correctly done by weight, but placing them in a jug and checking the mils can also help. 225mls to 1½ cups (330G) of caster sugar works well. As said above a table spoon at a time and make sure all the sugar is dissolved. It's a bit like making toffee - if you don't dissolve the sugar it can crystallise and this is similar to the 'weeping'. Don't over beat. I run the balloon whisk on medium speed but just for 5 mins or so and this helps dissolve the sugar but doesn't get too much air in - which seems weird but you want to stiffen the mix not fill it full of bubbles (like you were doing a cream or cake). At the end mix 2 teaspoons of white vinegar with 1 tablespoon of cornflour and fold through or just whisk it for a few seconds. Using a pinch of creme of tartar at the beginning with the egg whites also assists with it as this reduces the beating required ...but make sure the sugar is dissolved, I think this is the problem. from Sam in Sydney making heaps of pavs for christmas :)

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