Happy Great British Bake Off season! I love when GBBO hits our screens for many reasons. It marks the beginning of the end of summer and by this point, I fancy me some bed socks and darker evenings where you can’t do anything but stay in, in front of the TV. That was just reason one. Reason two is obviously CAKE. And that leads us on to reason three, me actually being arsed to make cake because I feel just so darn inspired (see: hypnotised by the sugar). Or biscuits. But I’ll probably lay off Bread Week. Or will I? I’m actually intending to bake something from the show, or at least its theme, every week. I’m off to America for three weeks in between, so there’s already a spanner in the works but let’s ignore that and pretend I’m going to stay committed come hell or high water.
Wagon Wheels. What are your thoughts on them? I imagine if you grew up past 2000, they weren’t such a big deal for you. Kids of the Nineties, like me, were mad for the chocolate-covered, marshmallow and jam-filled biccies. There were some variations, which, I’ve no doubt my fellow stirupped-leggings-wearing buddies will attest, caused quite the controversy. The plain ones – that’s no jam – were a bit boring. There was also a toffee one – pretty nice. And then there was the chocolate one – that’s choc instead of jam. It’s OG all the way though really, isn’t it.
Making your own Wagon Wheels at home. I thought it’d be quite simple. It is not. So, you’ve got to make a biscuit that’s pretty light in colour and not too chunky or crunchy. And it needs to cool completely before you slather it with the marshmallow fluff, which you also have to make, and the jam. That little mountain of sweetness needs to be carefully compiled and perfectly solidified (more instructions below) before you coat it in chocolate, which you’ve melted and made thin enough to cover without being too thick or ugly (I’m still working on this myself but I’ve never been one for great presentation so who knows if I’ll ever perfect it). I think we’re all agreed there’s quite a lot involved and it’s good to have an afternoon set aside so you can let each stage do its thing, yes? Great. Let’s get started…
You will need:
For the biscuit
85g unsalted butter, softened
80g icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp honey
1/2 egg (crack one egg into a bowl, mix it up and then use half of that)
200g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
For the marshmallow fluff
3 large egg whites
1 tsp white wine vinegar
135g caster sugar (+ 2 tbsp)
2 tsp vanilla extract
Strawberry jam (if you can, get a squeezy bottle as it makes application much easier)
600g milk chocolate buttons
2 tbs vegetable oil
Stand mixer (or handheld one, but electric rather than man-powered is my point) – seriously, I don’t know how anyone turns egg whites from suspicious-looking goo to anything remotely edible by hand!
Cookie cutter (or something with a 5cm circumference you can draw around)
First up, the biccies. Put the butter, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of your stand mixer and cream together for 4-5 minutes. It should look pale and smooth. Add the honey and egg, and combine, making sure to scrape down the sides. Lastly, add the flour, baking powder and baking soda and mix for a few minutes. The dough will be a bit sticky and that’s okay – scoop it all out with your hands, roll it into a ball and pop it in a bowl in the fridge. Leave for about 45 minutes to firm up.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 180°C.
When the dough is ready, roll it out on a sheet of baking paper with a well-floured rolling pin until it’s about 1/2cm thick. A little thicker is fine, but don’t go any thinner. Use a 5cm-round cookie cutter to cut out 32 biscuits. Do them all in one go, without removing them from their doughy homes, and then peel the border dough away leaving 32 cookies already on a baking sheet ready to go on a tray in the oven. Bake for 4 minutes. They should be pale when you retrieve them, with slightly golden edges. Use a palette knife to transfer them to a cooling rack. It’s really important to let them cool properly, otherwise, the marshmallow and jam will slide straight off, so be patient. 10-15 minutes away from the heat of the kitchen is smart.
While you wait, make the marshmallow fluff. Keeping your stations tidy and washing up as you go along is really key with this recipe, for example, now we’re going to use the stand mixer bowl again, so it’d be handy if that was just ready to go.
You’ll need to use the whisk attachment to whizz the egg whites and white wine vinegar together until they’re a pool of foamy bubbles. Add 2tbs of sugar and beat on medium-high until soft peaks form, as if you were making meringue.
Now, pour the honey and rest of the sugar along with 300ml water into a saucepan on a medium heat. Keep stirring and you’ll notice the consistency change quite rapidly. Once it reaches 110-120°C on a sugar thermometer (I used a meat thermometer because that’s what we have and while pros might say otherwise, it worked for me), it’s done. If you really can’t take the temp, 15-20 minutes should get you there.
Once you’ve got soft peaks and a temp-approved sugar mixture, pour the latter slowly into the former while the whisk is going. Then beat on high for five more minutes, adding the vanilla in for the last minute. You’ll probably be left with excess marshmallow fluff after you’ve made your Wagon Wheels, so heads up that you can store it in an air-tight Tupperware for a week.
Wagon Wheels, assemble! This bit is fun. Use your palette knife – see how useful it is! – to slather about a tbs of marshmallow fluff onto the top (as in, the rounder more raised bit so that the flat sides will be on the outside for a smoother finish) of each biscuit. Top the marshmallow fluff with one good squeeze of strawberry jam. Then, smoosh two biscuits together so the fluff/jam is on the inside. Don’t smoosh too hard, or the filling will fall out, go gentle.
Put all the biscuits on a plate and place in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. If you don’t have room, the fridge will do (but isn’t as effective) for an hour.
The final step is chocolate covering, so you better prepare the chocolate buttons. I find the best way to melt chocolate is using a glass casserole lid (opt for the bottom dish if you’re melting large quantities), a spatula and a saucepan of almost boiling water. Put the chocolate buttons in the dish with the vegetable oil, over the water, and gently stir until you have a smooth, runny result. If it needs thinning, you can melt a little butter in there too.
There are a few different ways to coat the Wagon Wheels, so I’ll tell you my favourites and then you can choose. It might be a good idea to try each one and then do the rest of your biscuits with your preferred method. Option A) Place the biscuits on a wire rack with parchment paper underneath and pour the melted chocolate over each one. This is a bit messy and wasteful since lots of the chocolate will end up on the baking paper, but you can scrape it back into your bowl. Also, it’s hard to get to the bottom of the biscuits. It does make for one of the neater finishes though. Option B) Dunking. Dunk the biscuit in the bowl of melted chocolate (you might want to transfer it to a deeper vessel for this one) and retrieve with a fork. Sometimes with this way the marshmallow starts coming out and mixing with the chocolate and it’s hard to make it look good, but it offers, IMHO, the best coverage. Option C) A combination of both. Put the biscuit in a shallow chocolate-filled bowl so you cover the bottom, then lift it onto a wire rack and pour more chocolate over the top. You might find you need a bit more chocolate than my recipe suggests for this one.
Finally, freezer those babies for another 20-30 minutes, then let them sit on the worktop for 5 before tucking in.