‘MasterChef Australia’ Recap: The Bigger The Arms, The Harder The Fall

MasterChef Australia Season 11

In the latest episode of MasterChef Australia, the top 12 lift their Mystery Boxes to unleash cascades of classic lollies. “Welcome to Sweet Week baby!” yells George as the contestants immediately tuck in like naughty kindergarteners.

Heston Blumenthal is also here for the day, giving hugs and kissing babies while the contestants scream like fans at a BTS concert.

“What a human,” gushes Tessa to the camera, stars twinkling in her eyes.

It’s an awesome day on MasterChef — at least for now.

To get sempai to notice them, contestants have to cook a sweet dish using at least one of the ingredients the lollies are based on within 75 minutes. Everyone badly wants to impress Heston, so a lot of contestants proceed to do the culinary equivalent of spinning doughies in the high school parking lot.

One of them is Ben, who is making a pepper panna cotta because apparently grouping strawberries, cream and black pepper is a thing. Unfortunately he only has white pepper, which doesn’t quite have the same effect judging by Matt’s expression when he comes by to taste it. I’ve never thought to add pepper to strawberries, so I’ll just have to take his face for it.

MasterChef Australia Season 11

Last week’s hero Derek is also pushing boundaries, only with time. He’s making a chocolate and strawberry mille-feuille, which requires several temperature changes. Derek has to repeatedly chill his rough puff pastry, bake it, then cool it again so he can pipe on the creme patissiere. 

This isn’t the first instance of Derek taking on more than he has time for, and it did not work out well for him in the past. Sure enough, heat is still coming off the pastry with only two minutes left in the cook, and he has no choice but to assemble the mille-feuille while it’s warm.

Derek doesn’t finish plating before time’s up, and the creme patissiere predictably melts off, turning the whole thing into a tiny sad landslide. He’s disappointed but still hopes the judges are impressed enough by his flavours to taste his dish. I admire his bold optimism but do not share it.

MasterChef Australia Season 11

Indeed, the judges do not want to eat Derek’s structurally unsound pastry. Instead, they are attracted to Steph’s cola cream and raspberries with brandy snap tuile and spearmint, featuring a nicely bitter cola caramel. Tessa’s strawberry ice cream, mint choc chip ice cream and raspberry sherbert also gets a taste, though it’s a little muddled.

However, it is Larissa’s very pretty chocolate and cola panna cotta with cola honeycomb that unanimously wins the cook. Inspired to experiment, she’s poured cola into both her chocolate panna cotta and her honeycomb.

It sounds like the invention of an unsupervised six-year-old, but the resultant honeycomb is delightfully bubbly. The judges even prompt her to fill a paper bag with honeycomb for Heston to take home before they send her up to the safety of the gantry.

MasterChef Australia Season 11

The remaining contestants in the thunderdome gear up for the Invention Test. They again have 75 minutes to cook a sweet dish, however this time they must use cereal in an inventive way. And if you were hoping Derek learned a valuable lesson about time, temperature and human limitations in the previous cook, I’m sorry to disappoint.

Once again, Derek’s dish is hot and it’s cold, it’s yes and it’s no. He is committed to making deep fried ice cream with raspberry coulis, which is a great idea in theory but a terrible idea when you only have 75 minutes. He’s also messing around with quick temperature changes again, as the ice cream has to be very cold before he fries it.

Derek knows it’s a lot to take on but is feeling inspired by Heston, who I’m beginning to think emanates a cursed aura. “Gotta risk it for the biscuit,” Derek cheerily says to the camera, like a fallen god who hasn’t yet learned how time works.

Derek’s already rushed cook becomes even more pressed for time when he thoughtlessly leaves his ice cream to churn near the stove. He quickly moves it when Matt points this out, but he estimates he’s lost about 10 minutes of his cook.

“Why the hell did I do this to myself?” says Derek as he finally puts his churned ice cream into the blast chiller.

It’s a question I ask myself whenever I have to watch one of my MasterChef favourites make terrible choices.

MasterChef Australia Season 11

Meanwhile, Steph is making honey nougat parfait with rice bubbles stirred through it. This also seems like a bad idea, as I imagine the cereal would get soggy. But I am not in MasterChef Australia’s top 12, so I trust that Steph probably knows what she’s doing. 

My trust turns out to be misplaced. George and Heston don’t outright say that Steph’s plan won’t work when they drop by, but they heavily hint at it. “It’s all about that texture isn’t it?” says George. Unfortunately, she’s already in too deep and can’t think of what else to do, so the parfait goes into blast chiller full of absorbent rice bubbles.

Steph then runs into further trouble when she goes to plate up, discovering that her parfait isn’t set enough to come cleanly out of the moulds. With six minutes to go, she grabs a spoon and scoops the mixture into some very rough quenelles. It’s a mess, and not at all the beautiful dish she had envisaged.

MasterChef Australia Season 11

Cereal milk desserts have practically become standard since the Christina Tosi episode of Chef’s Table, so it isn’t a surprise that cereal milk wins the day.

The judges are delighted by how much Ben’s cereal milk panna cotta with cereal crunch and red fruit looks like a bowl of cereal, and Prince Harry’s cardamom and cornflake ice cream with orange cake and cornflake and nut crumble also tastes delicious.

In fact, the only dish in the top three not to use cornflake milk is Anushka’s goat’s cheese parfait with beetroot and raspberry sorbet, inventively decorated with cornflakes soaked in beetroot juice and crisped up in the oven.

Ben, Prince Harry and Anushka thus make it past the bouncers and into MasterChef‘s Immunity Challenge later this week.

MasterChef Australia Season 11

Sadly, the fact that there is a top necessitates that there be a bottom.

Derek turns out right to be worried about his deep fried ice cream, which is revealed to be as melted as Derek’s smile. Steph’s honey nougat parfait with fresh raspberries and raspberry syrup also fails, with sadly soggy rice bubbles throughout a crumbly parfait.

And Simon’s whiskey chocolate tart is “one big mess”. The Weet-Bix crust is stuck to the tin base, too delicate for him to remove, and the filling is runny. “I think it’s beyond embarrassment,” says Simon’s voice over as he presents his tart to the judges, complete with metal plate. “I feel like an absolute numpty.”

Derek, Steph and Simon are thus headed into the Pressure Test — which starts right now. To the shock of all the contestants, the judges announce that it will be a two-day elimination challenge, ensuring none of them will get a restful night’s sleep.

Amanda Yeo is a Sydney-based writer, lawyer and MasterChef enthusiast who still thinks Reynold should have gotten an immunity pin for his 30/30 dessert in season seven. Follow her on Twitter: @amandamyeo.