When I was nine years old, my Aunty J migrated to Vancouver, Canada. Every couple of years, she would make a trip back to Singapore to visit my grandma. Each trip, she would lug goodies from Canada for all of us. I remembered seeing Aunty J unpack her luggage, anxiously anticipating the treats that I was going to receive. We got boxes of peaches and cherries, salmon jerky and my favourite – Wagon Wheels.
Wagon Wheels is essentially a cookie sandwich with a marshmallow and jam center, and coated with chocolate. There are many names for and versions of Wagon Wheels – the Americans call them moon pie and the Koreans have their version, choco pie. Whatever its name, it is a delicious, rich chocolate snack that has kept me a happy child for many years.
So when I came across the Wagon Wheels recipe in Donna Hay’s Black and White issue, it was simply not possible for me not to make them. I do admit it takes quite a bit of effort but it is definitely better than store bought ones. Do not be intimated by the length of the recipe, as I tried to be as detailed as I can, and am also sharing some of tips and tricks in making this nostalgic childhood snack.
(Adapted from Donna Hay’s Black and White issue (Aug/Sep 2013, issue #70)
This is not a difficult recipe to follow especially if you break it down to a few key steps – making the biscuits, filling them and dipping them into chocolate. This recipe might be challenging for those who’ve just started baking or not very good with rolling out dough. My advice is to be patient, don’t give up and – keep your eye on the prize.
355g all-purpose flour
170g unsalted butter, softened
140g icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons honey
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
115g store-bought marshmallow fluff*
120g raspberry, blackberry or mixed berries jam (you need a tart jam to help cut through the richness of the cookies so avoid apricot and strawberry jam)
400g dark chocolate
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or 30g unsalted butter
Before you attempt this recipe, make sure you have enough refrigerator and freezer space for a baking tray (or two).
In a stand-mixer bowl or a large bowl, add in the softened butter, sifted icing sugar and vanilla extract. Using a stand-mixer or hand-mixer on medium speed, beat the mixture for 5 minutes or until it is pale and creamy, and forms streaks, looking like layers of ribbon. It is not impossible to do this by hand but not something that I’d encourage, as the mixture will thickened to almost dough-like and you might not be able to mix it properly and evenly.
Once the butter, sugar and vanilla are creamed, add in the egg and honey and mix well.
(If you are using a stand-mixer, remove the bowl. Have a large piece of cling wrap and a spatula on standby) Sift the flour, baking powder and soda into the bowl. As you know, I am not a fan of sifting. It is necessary as it will affect the texture of the biscuits, and also baking powder and soda tend to be lumpy. On low speed, mix the sifted flour mixture into the butter and sugar mix. You might need to scrap the side of the bowl with a spatula. Once combined, remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a piece of cling wrap. At this stage, the dough is very soft but it should not be in thick liquid form.
Once the dough is on the cling wrap, wrap it and place it in the refrigerator for at least an hour or until it is firm.
Preheat the oven to 180oC.
Before you roll out the dough, there are a couple of things you need to have on the table:
– All-purpose flour
– 1 large piece of cling wrap
– 1 small plate
– A dough/ pastry scraper
– 1 baking tray lined with silicon baking sheet or parchment paper (if you have a small oven, you might need 2 lined baking trays)
– A wire rack
Make sure you have all these items before you start rolling the dough.
Line the table with a large piece of cling wrap and lightly dust it with flour. If you do not have a large working space or not very good at rolling out dough or live in a very humid country (aka Singapore), cut a quarter of the dough and place the rest on the small plate (and put it back into the fridge)–do not throw away the cling wrap that you used to wrap the dough–you will need it to roll the dough. Shape and flatten the dough evenly and lightly dust it with flour. Place the dough on the cling wrap (that’s on the table), and cover it with another piece of cling wrap (the one that you used to wrap the dough). Using a rolling pin, roll the dough to a 5mm thickness. (In case you are lost with all these instructions, Amanda Hesser from Food 52 does a great demonstration on the rolling of dough.)
Using a 5cm cookie cutter, dip it into the flour and start to cut out the cookies. A common mistake is to twist the cutter to release or loosen the cookie. However, this way, the cookies might lose its round shape. I find it easier to remove uncut dough. And with the help of the cling wrap, lift it and turn with one hand while the other hand can be used to gently remove the cookie and place it on the lined baking sheet. Line the cookies 3cm apart (they will slightly expand but they should not spread). The original recipe yields 45 cookies but I actually got 72 cookies. Each Wagon Wheel has 3 cookies so you need to get multiples of 3 (I feel like a Math nerd).
You can combine the dough scrap with the rest of the dough (that is in the refrigerator). Continue to roll and cut more cookies until all the dough is used.
Bake the cookies for 5 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Once the cookies are baked, using a spatula, place the cookies onto the wire rack to cool. The cookies need to be cooled completely before you top them with the fillings.
Once the cookies are cooled, pile them in a stack of three–try to find the similar shaped ones and group them together. Before you top them with fillings, make sure you have:
– 1 baking tray
– 1 small plate (you can use the same one that you used for the dough)
– A butter knife
– A ½ teaspoon measuring spoon.
For each stack of the cookies, you only need to top two of the cookies with the fillings. The plain one will be the top for the wagon wheel. Using the butter knife, scope out roughly 1 teaspoon of marshmallow fluff, and swirl and spread evenly around the cookie. There is no need to spread the marshmallow fluff to the edge of the cookie, it will be push out when you top the rest of the cookies. Once the first cookie is done, repeat the same for the second cookie. Once done, place the butter knife on the small plate.
Using the ½ teaspoon measuring spoon, scope the jam and top it onto the centre of the cookies (that has the marshmallow fluff). Like the marshmallow fluff, there is no need to spread the jam – it will spread once the cookies are stacked.
To assemble, sandwich the two filled cookies and top with the remaining plain cookies (you should have 3 cookies for each wagon wheel). Place the finished cookie onto the baking tray. Repeat for the rest of the cookies. Once done, place the finished cookies in the freezer for at least 30 minutes or until they are firm.
While the cookies are in the freezer, prepare the chocolate dip. Using the bain-marie method (a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water; make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water), place the chocolate and butter or oil into the bowl and let them melt. While the chocolate is melting, using a spatula and stir the mixture occasionally to ensure the fat and the chocolate are incorporated and smooth. Once the chocolate is melted, remove the bowl from the pot and set aside (preferably somewhere warm).
To test if the cookies are firmed-up, when you poke them from the side, the cookies shouldn’t slide off. If the cookies are not firm, they might separate when dip into the chocolate mixture. Once the cookies are firmed-up, standby a baking tray lined with parchment paper or silicon baking sheet. Lower each cookie stack into the chocolate mixture (one wagon wheel at a time). Using a teaspoon, turn the cookie around, making sure the top and sides are covered with chocolate. You can use the teaspoon and twirl the cookie (like a wheel) to get the sides covered.
Once the cookie is fully covered with chocolate, using the teaspoon, scoop it out and place it on the lined baking tray. Repeat for the rest of the cookie stacks. Once all the cookies are covered, place the tray in the fridge to let the wagon wheels set. This should take around 2 hours. The cookies can be kept in the fridge for up to 1 week in an airtight container.
*Marshmallow fluff or marshmallow crème is rather hard to find in Singapore. I actually went around almost all the supermarkets in the city. In the end, I found it at Cold Storage, Kovan which is opposite my home. If you are unable to get marshmallow fluff, do a Google search for the recipe–I did spot some really easy ones.