>Recently, I learned a great tip from my cousin's wife Vicki who comes from Australia and now lives a mere hour away from us. We were talking about the famed Pavlova--a fabulous crisp meringue shell with marshmallowy interior, filled with whipped cream and fresh fruit. Woody and I had made numerous tests to perfect the consistency of the meringue for our upcoming Rose's Baking Basics book. I've always baked my meringues by piping or spreading them on parchment, which effectively prevents sticking. Vicki, however, said that she instead dusts the pan with cornstarch and the meringues slide off with ease. Of course I just had to try this immediately with the always tricky/sticky piped meringue baked in a pie plate, featured in The Baking BIble for the "Pomegranate Chiffon Pie." Prior to Vicki's suggestion, I had recommended coating the pie plate with vegetable shortening and then dusting with Wondra flour. It was always difficult to remove the first piece, and not that much easier to achieve attractive slices. (Note: meringue does crumble when cut.) My first test was using cornstarch instead of flour and the meringue still stuck. I suspected that the shortening did not coat evenly so the next test was coating the pie plate with non-stick cooking spray and then dusting it with cornstarch. This test proved to be the charm. I waited impatiently for the meringue to cool completely and then dislodged the very top edge along the rim with the tip of a small knife. I hesitatingly nudged the meringue forward slightly and, to my great joy, it moved. Holding my breath, with my fingers, I then lifted out the entire meringue shell onto a plate. I gazed at this wondrous sight, but it didn't take more than a few minutes to start wondering how it would work with just the non-stick cooking spray and no cornstarch. I coated the pie plate with non-stick cooking spray and removed excess with a paper towel. Instead of piping the meringue, I just spread an even layer into the pie plate. Without the cornstarch it was more difficult to spread the meringue. At the same time and temperature (and the day was actually less humid) the meringue was still a little gooey in places so I returned it to the oven because meringue will not unmold in one piece if not completely dry. It stuck in places even when completely dry, which indicated that the cornstarch is necessary. Conclusions: Piping the meringue makes it easier to make it consistent in thickness but spreading it looks just as good. Non-stick cooking spray plus cornstarch is ideal and makes it possible to unmold the meringue. Non-stick cooking spray alone is slippery, which makes it harder to spread the meringue, and will not be possible to unmold in one piece. With or without cornstarch, non-stick cooking spray makes removing the slices much easier than shortening and flour.
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