Have you ever catered for a party? And by catered I mean cooking for a large gathering of people, mostly strangers, with everything made from scratch?
As of recently, I have.
I don’t recommend it. It’s stressful, it’s exhausting. But it’s also exhilarating. And, oddly rewarding.
When my parents decided to hold a party in celebration of reaching halfway to a hundred, and the question of food arose, I became the elected “caterer”.
What ensued was weeks of rolling meatballs, filling arancini and baking cakes. All were frozen for later. Then there was the hectic few days prior to the party, where the aforementioned cakes were decorated with thick layers of glossy buttercream and fondant buttons, spring roll filling was tightly bound in flaky pastry, we ran out of mixing bowls multiple times and our fridge(s) grew very, very full.
On the night, the wooden deck of the gazebo became a dance floor, the music of the jukebox struggling to compete with the sounds of laughter, cheerful mingling and the sharing of colourful stories. The food left the cluttered yet meticulously clean kitchen piled high on platters, clasped in the arms of good friends.
The sound of praise was loud and clear after the first bites into meatballs, spring rolls, banh mi and more, but it was nothing compared to the joy that filled the air when dessert was unveiled. Layered strawberry, lime and raspberry cheesecake, adorned with a crescent of berries and flowers; four-layer chocolate orange cake drizzled with burnt white chocolate ganache; citrus confetti cake oozing with grapefruit curd; rosewater infused red velvet cupcakes. Add lashings of mango frozen yoghurt, a tray of coconut sorbet and a jeweled fruit salad and the tableau is complete.
Like I said stressful, but rewarding.
Sorry, I’ve gotten a little sidetracked. What I really wanted to talk about was my most recent creation:
Gluten Free Vegan Wagon Wheels
I hope for your sake, that you have at least heard of Wagon Wheels. They’re a very Australian creation, traditionally two oversized shortbread biscuits sandwiched with marshmallow and strawberry jam, then coated in chocolate. I have fond memories of eating them poolside on warm summer days, feet dipped in the cool water, the first bite of sweet and crunchy mallowy goodness exploding on my tastebuds, chocolate coating melting in my fingers. Alas, these were the pre-FODMAP and gluten free days.
I really miss those days.
On account of my reminiscing, I created my own version of the infamous biscuit. Here, I squashed two almond shortbreads together with coconut “marshmallow” and chia berry “jam”. Rather than a thick coat of unsatisfying milk chocolate, I drizzled my gluten free vegan wagon wheels with antioxidant rich dark chocolate and downsized them a little. All in all, compared to the original these are much healthier! But try not to compare them too much; the caramel undertones of the biscuit, gooey berry filling and rich coconut paste places them in a league of their own.
A pretty advanced league, in my opinion.
Love your nostalgic author, Rosie.
- 80g white rice flour
- 130g white sorghum flour
- 100g almond meal OR ground sunflower seeds
- 80g coconut sugar
- 140g butter OR vegan shortening
- 40g coconut oil, melted
- 10-20ml plant based milk of choice
- Coconut "Marshmallow"
- 165g desiccated coconut
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
- 2 tablespoons rice malt syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
- 200g fresh berries - I use a combination of strawberries and blueberries
- 1 tablespoon rice malt syrup
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 200g dark chocolate + 1 tbsp coconut oil melted together until smooth
- Combine the flours, almond or sunflower meal, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Dampen with coconut oil, then take a knife and chop in the butter or shortening until lumpy. Now use fingertips to rub the mixture until it looks like breadcrumbs.
- Add half the milk, and mix with your hands until incorporated. Add the remaining milk if needed. The dough should form a smooth ball and come away from the sides of the bowl. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- On a surface lightly dusted with rice flour, roll the dough to a few mm thick. Use a 6cm cutter to cut discs from the dough and place on lined baking trays. Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden. Cool slightly on tray, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. These biscuits are quite delicate once baked, so use a thin knife or spatula to slide them off the trays.
- In a food processor, blend the coconut until the oils begin to be released. Be patient; this is a slow process and may take up to 10 minutes. At this stage, scrape down the bowl and blend again until the coconut begins to become butter, another 5-10 minutes.
- Add the oil and rice malt syrup, blend again, then set aside.
- Add the berries, syrup and chia to a small saucepan over low heat. Cook for 5-10 minutes until juices are released and the jam begins to thicken. Mashing the berries against each other and the sides of the pot helps speed up the process.
- Place a wire rack over a large piece of baking paper; this catches drips and saves on mess. (Less mess = less cleaning = more time to eat wagon wheels!) Take one biscuit and place on rack. Push together a disc of coconut and add to the biscuit.
- Create an indent in the centre of the disc and add a dollop of berry jam. Squish another biscuit on top, and press down firmly. Refrigerate while you work on the other biscuits.
- Once assembled biscuits are cold, dip, coat, drizzle or roll in the chocolate coating, refrigerate until set (about 20 minutes), and then devour.