Can I get peaks for Pavlova meringues just by whisking the whites by hand or should I use a hand/stand mixer and aim for firmer peaks?
Nigella has several pavlova recipes, including Lemon Pavlova and Mini Pavlovas. The egg whites are whisked until they form firm but not stiff peaks, before the sugar is added. To test for firm peaks, lift the whisk from the bowl and where the beaters are lifted, the whisked egg whites should form a peak with just the very top of the peak flopping over slightly.
You can whisk the egg whites either by hand or with a hand mixer or a freestanding mixer. The pavlova recipes usually use at least 4 egg whites, which means that if you are whisking by hand you may need a fairly strong arm and it is probably easier to use a machine. When whisking by machine, start on a low speed until the whites are frothy, then increase the speed to medium and continue whisking. Stop regularly and check the whites, to make sure that you do not over whisk them. Whether whisking by hand or machine, make sure that all of the equipment is completely grease free, as any traces of grease will stop the whites from whisking properly.