They say that second chances are hard to come by, but that’s exactly what MasterChef Canada competitor Alice Luo got when she was given the opportunity to return to the kitchen on Thursday night. The home cook walked through the doors to surprise the top six competitors with her big return — and her even bigger grin.
Unfortunately, it seemed as though her second time around in the kitchen was to be just as short-lived as her first.
During one of the toughest challenges on the show, the competitors were asked to face off in an egg showdown. (How appropriate for Easter, right?) First they had to create a scotch egg, with the bottom five then competing in a 10-minute eggs Benedict challenge. From there, the bottom two, Alice and Miranda, went head to head in a cheese soufflé showdown that left us hungry as Alice hung up her apron for the second time.
Luckily, the home cook has since perfected her eggs Benedict and soufflé-making skills, so we caught up with her to find out about her egg-cellent secrets.
What went wrong?
Because the rest of the home cooks got more of a chance to cook in that kitchen, they were already at a greater advantage than I was. It’s okay though. They all deserve to be in the top six.
Which one of those three dishes was the most intimidating to recreate?
The eggs Benedict. It was more of a time constraint than anything else. To have a perfectly poached egg as well as a homemade hollandaise sauce… you only have two eggs to cook it all with on top of everything else. There was no room for error. Because of that challenge, when I went into the final to make the soufflé — which really I make all the time at home so it’s ridiculous — I couldn’t make it. It was a mindset, I was already so bumbled.
What’s the secret to a perfectly poached egg?
The idea is you want the yolk to be runny and to have the egg white encasing it. In order to help make sure it doesn’t break you add vinegar — it’s nice and acidic so it protects the yolk from cracking. It’s actually one of the techniques most chefs would use. You don’t need a lot of vinegar… I like it light, so maybe one teaspoon for every full pot.
How do you keep a hollandaise sauce from breaking?
Have hot butter. Cook your yolks about halfway on a double boiler and then add the butter while constantly whisking. The problem is that if you under whisk or your ratio is off, it will break. You want the fat from the egg yolk to hold the oil from the butter. If it doesn’t hold that, the whole sauce would break down. So if the yolk is overcooked, it can’t hold the butter.
How would you fix a broken sauce?
If it’s overcooked, one way is to add more egg yolk. I didn’t have any more eggs so I couldn’t do that. So another way is to splash a bit of hot water. The water disintegrates the yolk a bit and exposes some of the fat. I tried doing that, but because most of the yolk was already overcooked at that point, I couldn’t.
The judges critiqued the way you separated your eggs for the soufflé; what’s the best way to separate an egg?
Normally I would either separate it with my hands or use the egg itself. I don’t know why I separated it with the shell that time. There are pros and cons. When you use the shell, if you do it slower, you can actually get more egg whites. When you do it with your hands, sometimes the whites stick to you. Additionally, there’s a risk that the natural oils from your hands get into the whites. When you’re whipping a meringue the number one rule is do not get any fat into it. If you get any fat into your meringue, it won’t whip. Make sure your hands are very clean if you do it that way. If you do it with the shell, you’ve got to make sure that the sharp part doesn’t touch any of the yolk. I guess I did not do that.
Why did whisking your egg whites by hand versus by the machine make such a big difference in the end?
By then I just wanted to whisk as hard as I could, and the machine’s whisks weren’t really reaching the bottom of the bowl. I wanted to create a little more volume, and it sort of worked.
Why are savoury soufflés harder to create than sweet ones?
Sugar. Sugar helps stabilize the meringue a lot more and it fluffs up easier. If it’s savoury, you don’t add as much sugar and that makes it harder. You also have to add your savoury component into it, so you have to make sure you balance that savoury part with the meringue.
How do you know if you’ve done it right?
You have to know your ratios and you can’t really tell your final product until it’s out of the oven. The more you do it, the better you get at it. When it comes to baking, literally, you just pray.