Last Thursday was the release party for my new book Unusual Creatures, and as a party favor, I thought it would be fun to supply the guests with wombat poop fudge. You see, wombats poop cubes — a fact I'm so fascinated by that I've even included a diagram of the poop in the book. Why does the wombat poop cubes? Simple: it uses its poop as a trail marker, and it doesn't want the marker to roll away. Duh!
So, here I set off to make a tasty treat that looks like the fecal matter of this short-legged Australian marsupial. Actually, I started with the idea to make wombat poop brownies. My first recipe was derived from Karen DeMasco's book The Craft of Baking. Unfortunately, as delicious as those brownies were, they didn't have the right consistency to mold into small cubes. Also, I'm not sure what sort of oven DeMasco used for testing her recipes, but I pretty much needed to double the cooking time, and even with that, the brownies were gooey in the middle. It occurred to me that perhaps wombat brownies were not the best option and I should shift gears to wombat poop fudge.
I opened up my copy of Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything and got to work. Within a matter of minutes, my entire apartment building reeked of burnt sugar. Ack. In order for fudge to become fudge, the temperature of the mixture needs to reach 236°F. Mine never got there. Even at a relatively low temperature, the mixture just burned. In fact, it was so badly burned that the pot I had been using was thrown out. (Yes, I tried to soak it with hot water. I even tried a hammer and chisel.)
Anyway, moving on, I decided to make a slightly more lame — but perfectly delicious — version of fudge. Really, it all comes down to the shaping anyway. Oh, and I added some salt because salt makes just about everything taste better.
Over low heat, melt butter in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips. Stir constantly until chips have melted and mixture is well blended. Pour mixture into a foil-lined 9x11-inch baking dish. (Yes, it will be a thin layer of fudge.) Allow to cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then place in the refrigerator for another hour or two. Remove from the refrigerator and cut into 1-centimeter-wide strips. With strips still in place, cut perpendicular so that you now have many 1-centimeter-wide cubes. Place three or four cubes in a small baking cup. Sprinkle with salt, and serve. Wombat poop fudge!
Illustrations by Jelmer Noordeman; design by Arjen Noordeman and Christie Wright
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Michael Hearst is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, and writer. He is a founding member of the band One Ring Zero, whose albums include Planets and As Smart As We Are, and his solo works include Songs for Ice Cream Trucks and Songs for Unusual Creatures. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Books mentioned in this post
Michael Hearst is the author of Unusual Creatures: A Mostly Accurate Account of Some of Earth's Strangest Animals