Calamity Janes

Photo: Bec Hudson and Emily Weaving (courtesy Hardie Grant)

Beatrix has occupied a special place in the hearts of Melburnians since it opened in 2011. The tiny shop nestled deep in North Melbourne is the work of Natalie Paull, who has a knack for capturing the childish joy we have for sweet treats no matter our age through her picture-perfect displays: glazed scrolls, fruit-filled doughnuts and towering sponges iced in pastel shades are regular fixtures.

Paull’s debut cookbook, Beatrix Bakes, is about slowing down and appreciating the process of baking, becoming totally absorbed in what you’re creating. It’s a message that couldn’t come at a better moment.

Use some of your newfound leisure time to tackle the Wagon Wheel-inspired Calamity Janes: there are a few stages to them, but many hands make light work so get the rest of the household involved.

“These are the bouncy marshmallow, strawberry-hearted chocolate-coated pucks of my baking dreams!” says Paull. “Here, snappy cinnamon wholemeal cookies sandwich squares of handmade lemony marshmallow, with a vivacious heart of Strawberry Jewels. The recipe is an homage to the Wagon Wheel™ but the name to Doris Day’s singin’, dancin’, pistol-packin’ portrayal of Calamity Jane. Whip, (chocolate) crack away!”

Makes 12 cookie sandwiches.

Takes This is a minor quest but well worth it! I recommend making the mallow, jam and cookie dough the day before, then bake the cookies and assemble the next day.

Keeps For up to 5 days refrigerated.

Ingredients

Cooking oil spray
½ batch Lemon Zest Marshmallow, uncut (the remainder makes a nice treat to have on hand. Store refrigerated and airtight for up to 2 weeks)
1 batch Strawberry Jewels (you will only need half the amount, so slather the remainder on croissants. Keeps for 1 month in the fridge.)
10 g freeze-dried strawberries, to garnish (optional)

Cookies

110 g unsalted butter, cool and pliable
60 g light muscovado (or soft brown) sugar
40 g honey
120 g plain (all-purpose) flour
30 g wholemeal (wholewheat) flour
¼ tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground cinnamon

Chocolate dip

600 g milk chocolate (30%-plus cocoa) 

Lemon Zest Marshmallow

650 g caster (superfine) sugar
40 g light corn syrup or glucose (or honey)
½ vanilla bean, split
500 g/ml cold water
25 g gelatine powder
Zest of 2 lemons
½ teaspoon sea salt flakes
Cooking oil spray

Strawberry Jewels

500 g best fresh strawberries
150 g caster (superfine) sugar
30 g/ml lemon or lime juice (from approx. 1 small lemon or 1–2 limes)
40 g/ml cold water
1 vanilla bean, split (optional – if you’re feeling fancy)

Method

Lemon Zest Marshmallow

1 Begin the syrup by combining the sugar, corn syrup, vanilla bean and 300ml of the cold water in a 20cm-wide saucepan over a high heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.

2 As soon as the syrup comes to a rolling boil, whisk the gelatine powder and the remaining 200ml cold water together in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Leave at room temperature. As the gelatine grains swell, the powder will thicken into what looks like jellied sea foam.

3 Boil the syrup until it reaches 120°C – this will take about 10 minutes. (If the syrup is boiled past 120°C, whisk in a tablespoon of cold water and reboil to 120°C.) The syrup should look like bubbly, clear liquid plastic.

4 Carefully pour and scrape all the syrup onto the gelatine in the mixer bowl and stir with the balloon whisk until well mixed. To be honest, it’s going to smell a bit weird at this stage, but that will dissipate and I promise it won’t taste like that at the end. Using tongs, remove the vanilla bean. Stir in the salt and allow to cool for 5 minutes but no longer. You want to start whisking while the syrup is warm – around 75°C.

5 Place the bowl on the stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip on speed 8 (under high) for 5 minutes. The mix may spatter a little at the start, so drape a tea towel (dish towel) over the top until it subsides, but don’t keep it on the whole time – the hot air needs a way out of the mallow syrup to allow it to cool.

6 After 5 minutes, you should start to hear a thrumming sound of the thickening mallow slap against the side of the bowl. Drop the speed down and whip on speed 4 (medium) for another 5 minutes.

7 While the mallow is whipping, spray a 20cm x 35cm rectangular, 5cm deep cake tin with a generous coat of cooking oil spray.

8 Once the mallow is airy, creamy and sticky, add the lemon zest and combine. Quickly scrape the mallow into the prepared tin and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Spray the top with more cooking oil spray and lay a piece of plastic wrap on top. Smooth the marshmallow out with your hands, using a moderate degree of pressure to even it out. Chill for at least 2 hours until set.

Strawberry Jewels

1 Remove the green tops from the strawberries, chop them into halves or quarters (depending on the size, but keep it chunky) and place in a small non-reactive saucepan. (If your strawberries have white shoulders, add these parts too. It is the result of uneven ripening and the white parts will have a little more pectin (fruit’s natural setting agent), and that’s a good thing here.)

2 Add the sugar, juice and water (and vanilla bean if using) and bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring occasionally to loosen the sugar, then let it bubble away for 2 minutes without stirring. Don’t let it boil too long or at too high a heat, as you need the strawberry pieces to remain intact.

3 Have a colander sitting over a bowl ready. When the strawberries finish the first boil, pour them in, scraping in all the jammy goodness. Set aside for at least 2 hours at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge, to drain completely – no need to cover.

4 For the second boil, bring the strained syrup to a boil in a fresh pan – no need to stir. Boil eagerly over a medium–high heat for 3–8 minutes until the syrup is viscous and halved in volume.

5 Add the strained strawberries from the colander and keep boiling for a further 2-3 minutes until the jam is thick and syrupy. Scrape the jam into a bowl or plastic tub and allow to cool. If not using straight away, store it in the fridge (you can also freeze for up to 12 months).

Cookies

1 To make the cookies, put the butter, brown sugar and honey in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, cream the ingredients on speed 4 (medium) for 10 minutes until creamy and a pale malty colour.

2 Combine the flours, salt and cinnamon in a bowl. Add to the creamed butter and mix on speed 2 (above low) until the dough just comes together and cleanly leaves the side of the bowl. Scrape the mix out onto a piece of plastic wrap, form into a disc and cover with the plastic. Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

3 Preheat the oven to 130°C. Lightly spray two baking trays with cooking oil spray and line with baking paper. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 2mm thick. Stamp out twenty-four circles with a 7-cm fluted pastry cutter. Reroll the scraps and stamp out more circles until all the dough is used. (You may have a walnut-sized lump of dough left, so bake it and crush it over your next bowl of ice cream.) Using a metal spatula, lift the cookies onto the lined trays and bake for 35–40 minutes until deep golden all over.

4 Cool before the next step. If you aren’t using the cookies that day, store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Assembly

1 Put the slab of Lemon Zest Marshmallow on a chopping board and have the Strawberry Jewels and freeze-dried strawberries (if using) nearby.

2 Place the fluted cutter (the one you used to stamp out the cookies) in a small bowl and fill with enough just-boiled water to come halfway up the side of the cutter. The cutter needs to be hot but not so hot that it burns your fingers.

3 Spread a large piece of plastic wrap over the work surface and place a wire rack on top.

4 Line a baking tray with plastic wrap; have an offset spatula handy.

5 Lay twelve cookies out on the work surface, bottom sides facing up. Have the remaining cookie ‘tops’ close by. Stamp out twelve marshmallow circles with the hot cutter, pressing slowly to keep a nice shape. Dig out a small nest from the middle of the mallow with a teaspoon or melon baller (if your '70s garnish tool collection is en pointe). Place the mallow circle on a cookie bottom and fill in the nest with a fruity chunk of the strawberry jewels – but don’t overfill. (You can keep the marshmallow offcuts to make something else, like rocky road.)

6 Lightly press a cookie top on the marshmallow, top side facing up. Continue cutting, scooping and filling the remainder until you have twelve naked Janes.

7 To make the chocolate dip, put the chocolate in a small, deep heatproof bowl. (If the chocolate is too shallow in the bowl, it is hard to roll the Janes around to coat evenly, so choose a bowl with a smallish diameter to give you a deep chocolate pond.) Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, turn it off and place the bowl on top. Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until smooth and runny. Keep it warm but not so hot that it overheats and seizes.

8 Last step, promise! Working in batches of three or four, plunge the Janes into the warm chocolate, then remove and place on the wire rack to drain. Crush/sprinkle a little freeze-dried strawberry on top, then use an offset spatula to lift them onto the lined baking tray. Keep dunking and sprinkling until they are all done. Chill for 30 minutes, then peel them off the plastic wrap. Eating one just after it completely sets is remarkable.

This is an edited extract from Beatrix Bakes by Natalie Paull, published by Hardie Grant Books ($45). Available where all good books are sold.