MasterChef Season 10 episode 15 review: Small desserts cause big problems


In this review of MasterChef, the top eleven are pared down to the top ten as the cooks must produce perfect classic French macarons. Who will find these little cookies to be a major roadblock?

Everyone enters the MasterChef kitchen to find a large display of macarons. Imagine a Christmas tree made of cookies, with a 10 on top as the star. Just in case you haven’t noticed, this is season 10 of MasterChef, something everyone is contractually obligated to tell us each episode.

Noah sees the macarons and says, “It’s Season 10, baby!” He then comments on the “mackronays.” Joe also mentions the “macaroons.”

Folks, these are French and they are not pronounced like that. Macaroons are a legit confection of their own made with coconut. I’m probably being petty but this is a pet peeve of mine.

As Dorian stands on the balcony, Gordon points out this is her first time not cooking in an elimination challenge. Is that true? Anyway, she is of course thrilled to not have to cook, though she is an accomplished baker so could have handled the challenge.

Shari, another excellent baker, reveals that she makes three to six batches of macarons per week at home! She does this simply for her family’s consumption which seems like an awful lot of work for family snacks. She says it is her two-year-old’s favorite food. That is one fancy baby.

Gordon introduces the guest judge, Candace Nelson. If you are a fan of baking competitions, you have probably seen her as a judge on numerous different shows. She is the founder of Sprinkles Cupcakes, some of which feature a cupcake ATM. Fred is particular excited to see Candace as she is one of his inspirations.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestant Jamie with judge Joe Bastianich in the “Small Dessert, Big Problems” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Thursday, Aug. 1 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

The challenge today is to create twelve perfect macarons, two flavors, in sixty minutes. Having made macarons before, this is no easy feat.

Macarons are notoriously finicky. Also, they require time to dry and form a skin before baking and drying time can vary based on humidity.

An hour is a very short time to make batter, pipe and dry the batter, bake, make two fillings, and assemble. Not only that, but they start their hour racing to the pantry for ingredients.

The bakers start working and initially everyone seems to know what they are doing, even if they have never made macarons before. Dorian, comfortable on the balcony, is very supportive. At one point, Wuta asks her if his batter is stiff enough and she recommends he beat it more. She even supports Subha, giving him encouragement and advice.

It seems Subha needs all the help he can get. As everyone else pulls ahead, he is struggling to get his batter together. He realizes he forgot to get colors and returns to the pantry to grab some, only to find that the colors he needs have already been taken. He wants orange and ends up grabbing yellow and red to blend his own colors.

Joe makes it clear that they expect the shells to be colored and for the colors to relate to the flavors. When we made macarons at home, we didn’t mess around with colors and I will admit that the finished cookies didn’t look that appetizing. They were delicious but not eye catching.

Jamie also has a problem with colors. He is planning to make a red peppermint cookie in honor of his Grandmother’s Christmas meringue cookies but he has grabbed burgundy. After adding the color, he realizes this is not true red but pink-purple. Seeing his color, he decides he can no longer use peppermint. He changes his plan to raspberry to match his shells.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant in the “Small Dessert, Big Problems” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Thursday, Aug. 1 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Sarah completes her batter first and is first to pipe. Most others begin to pipe soon after, but Subha is still lagging. Dorian tells him, “just start piping! You don’t need the whole bowl” as he stands trying to mix his bowl of batter. Soon the judges join in. “Pipe, Subha, pipe!” Though he needs to hurry, I wonder if his batter is ready or if this rushing will be a fatal flaw.

As he goes to pipe, he immediately sees an issue. His macarons are not piping out smoothly. They are thick and sort of chunky. Candace says they look like kisses as they feature a defined point.

Subha feels he has overmixed his batter, so maybe everyone should have started telling him to pipe even sooner. Joe reminds us that Subha’s flavors often save him so he could still pull through.

Meanwhile, Bri has also not piped her macarons. With even Subha ahead, she is in a bad place. She finally has her batter complete and begins to fill her pastry bags. Dorian tells her to fill just one bag and get those piped so they can start to dry, and then go back for the other color. Bri wisely listens.

Shari is having the opposite experience, as one would expect given her practice at home. She tells us an endearing superstition. “My oven light has been burned out for like two years and I refuse to change it because I have not had a bad batch of macarons since the oven light burned out. I use a flashlight.”

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Shari in the “Small Dessert, Big Problems” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Thursday, Aug. 1 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Micah seems to be having some trouble as his rested macarons have spread into each other. He feels he can still get enough good shells to make twelve. He goes ahead and bakes them off, only to find that his light pink shells have turned an unappetizing brown.

As we approach the final minutes, Subha’s shells are still in the oven. Nick’s shells won’t come off his silpat so he sticks them all back in the oven, thinking they are undercooked. When he takes them back out, he still ends up with thin, empty shells. Once filled, he has way more cream than shell.

Each cook has been given a fancy box to display their macarons, a rectangle with a little plastic insert that has dividers to house twelve macarons. If your macarons are not the exact size of the dividers, they will not fit, and many people find they can’t get all twelve in their box.

Macarons, in my opinion, should be relatively flat (not rounded). They should be glossy and smooth with no bubbles or points. They should have a delicately crunchy surface which gives way to chewiness. The filling should be flavorful and should sit perfectly between the two, perfectly aligned shells. The shells should also sport feet, a ruffled bottom.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Noah in the “Small Dessert, Big Problems” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Thursday, Aug. 1 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Noah is up first. His macarons are large, rounded, cracked, and some lack feet. They don’t fit in the box and look messy. He has made pink raspberry and chocolate macarons and orange coffee and mint chocolate ones. Candace doesn’t like his shells which lack body and crumble away to nothing but the judges feel the flavor is pretty good.

Bri is up next. She tells us, “I’m feeling super confident. They all came out perfect.” This surprises me as her macarons are unevenly assembled with filling squishing out.

Her macarons don’t fit in her box so some are laid on top. Candace tells her they lack refinement. She finds the shells grainy and lumpy. Joe says he is really disappointed and Gordon simply says “what a shame.” Bri now interviews, “this is embarrassing. I’m so disappointed in myself.” What a 180 degree change in attitude.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Bri in the “Small Dessert, Big Problems” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Thursday, Aug. 1 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Fred presents his box and it is frankly beautiful. They all fit in the box perfectly. They are all flat, smooth, and have feet.He has made cinnamon infused macaron shells with mascarpone and lemon berry coulis. He has also made black sesame macarons.

Gordon is highly doubtful about his flavors but finds them exceptional once he tastes them. Candace tells him she would love to sell his macarons and Fred is over the moon. Gordon sends him directly to the balcony, taking his macarons to share with Dorian.

Micah comes up next, feeling disappointed. Given the spread of his macaron shells, he has only managed eleven completed cookies. Candace notes the brown color of his shells and tells him his oven was too hot. His lavender macarons are also lacking lavender flavor, so he has had a bad day overall.

MASTERCHEF: Contestants in the “Small Dessert, Big Problems” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Thursday, Aug. 1 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Nick doesn’t even want to deliver his macarons. Imagine if a macaron shed its skin and you used that for your cookie. His shells are very thin, with most of them left behind on the silpat.

Candace notes that what is there is shiny and smooth and they like his flavors, so it isn’t all bad. He has made rosewater and pistachio as well as passionfruit, and they especially like the passionfruit curd.

Wuta has clearly has a rough time. His box holds only seven macarons- five green, two orange. There aren’t even enough for all the judges to try each flavor. He presents lemon and blueberry as well as carrot cake flavors. Candace notes that his shells are brittle but the worst offense is that his flavors are way too sweet. The especially dislike his cream cheese frosting.

Sarah has been very ambitious, making Swiss meringue buttercream and her own preserves. You can see that this has pushed her for time.

Her macarons are very round and the sides are sliding away from each other. She has made raspberry rosewater as well as blackberry almond flavors. Gordon feels they are messy and too large but he loves the flavors. She earns her place on the balcony, taking her macarons with her.

Shari is up next with her saffron and cardamom and dark chocolate lavender flavors. Like Fred, her box looks professional. Candace finds her macarons to be perfect and Gordon tells her these are some of the best macarons he’s tasted in ten years of competition. She of course goes straight to the balcony.

Poor Subha has to follow these two winning boxes. His macarons are the ugliest I have ever seen. They are small, incredibly misshapen and lumpy.

Gordon tells him they look like they were just picked out of the trash. He has made orange macarons as well as his beloved rosewater. Joe finds them to be deformed but crunchy, chewy and flavorful. Candace says, “I have to say visually this is just macawrong.” Gordon tells him he has one foot out the door.

Jamie is last up for judging. His box is surprisingly neat. His vanilla latte and espresso and raspberry flavors impress and he too goes straight to the balcony.

The judges confer and decide that Bri, Micah, Nick and Noah would be leaving any other day but that Wuta and Subha have done even worse. After the rest head to the balcony, they tell Subha that his flavors have saved him again. Wuta is going home.

As a vegetarian who also doesn’t eat dessert, he has done remarkably well. He tells us he is happy to get back to his students and everyone is clearly sorry to see him go.

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Gordon explains to the remaining cooks that the competition is “shifting up a gear” and they will all have to move super fast to keep up, and then we see a teaser for a speedway. If speed is really a factor, poor Subha is in trouble.