I have tried on numerous occasions to make various versions of Nigella's pavlovas. Sometimes the meringue cracks quite a lot and pieces fall off, sometimes I struggle to get it off the baking sheet without it completely collapsing. I follow the instructions, and have an oven thermometer to ensure the oven is at the correct temperature. What am I doing wrong?
Nigella's has several pavlova recipes, such as the Lemon Pavlova and Rose And Pepper Pavlova With Passionfruit And Strawberries but the method is the same for most of the meringue bases. The egg whites have cornflour added and the meringue base is baked at 150C/300F for an hour, then left in the oven as it cools. The meringue base should then be soft and marshmallowy in the centre, with a crisp crust.
It is quite normal for a pavlova meringue to crack slightly and a few small pieces may fall off. However if the pavlova is collapsing completely it could be too soft. If it is wet or humid weather then this can affect a meringue and make it very soft. Also the baking sheet should be lined with non-stick baking parchment (parchment paper) to help the meringue to release more easily. Nigella often serves her pavlovas bottom side up as it allows the whipped cream to meld deliciously with the soft underbelly of the meringue. So if you have trouble moving the meringue from the lined baking sheet we suggest placing a large serving plate over the top of the meringue, then carefully inverting the plate and baking sheet so that the meringue is sitting top side down on the plate. You can then gently peel the baking parchment away from the meringue and slather over the whipped cream.