I love a challenge in the kitchen. I love that feeling of accomplishment when I’ve created something delicious and beautiful and I get overly excited when it looks better than the picture provided in the recipe. Last week I decided to make fortune cookies…something I signed up for at this month’s cooking party (see blog post “Cooking With Friends“) and wanted to be sure and not embarrass myself in front of all my friends. I’m very happy I decided to practice because fortune cookies proved to be a challenge. But let’s get real here…they were more than just a challenge…they were a pain in the butt.
The first red flag was the items I would need to purchase to get the job done. I would need a Silpat baking sheet and food safe silicone sheets that could be cut to make a custom cookie cutter. While shopping via my handy dandy Amazon app on my phone, I couldn’t help but think how easy it would be to head on over to our local Chinese restaurant and beg for a handful of fortune cookies from the cutest little couple that ran the place. I envisioned me getting said cookies for free and boy oh boy was I tempted to get in my car and drive. I dreamt about sneaking these fortune cookies into my kitchen and repackaging them in some cute homemade mini Chinese takeout boxes and shamefully allowing my friends to revel in both my craftiness AND my perfectly constructed “homemade” fortune cookies. But this idea had a flaw…it meant I had to purchase the materials for the homemade take-out boxes AND I had to spend them time constructing them and therefore…I was back at square one. So homemade fortune cookies here I come.
The recipe for fortune cookies is fairly simple…egg whites, white sugar, unsalted butter, vanilla and almond extract, flour and salt…pretty basic. But the technique was a whole other ballgame. I had read many recipes and tips before selecting the recipe I liked the best. And many of the recipes told me I could only make three to four cookies at one time because of how quickly they harden and crack or break. In reality, I could only do two at time for that very same reason. And even doing two at a time was difficult. It is difficult to get the fortune paper inserted and get them bent into proper shape before they harden. I had enough batter to make an estimated 20 cookies or so and ended up with just 13 successful cookies.
My Fortune Cookie Challenge Begins:
I started out by making my custom cookie cutter with the purchased food safe silicone sheets. The recipe says, “Create ‘cookie cutters’ for your cookies by using another silicone liner and a large plastic jar lid. Trace three circles on the silicone (using the lid as your guide). Cut the circles out, and then cut out the circle centers, making a 3-1/2″ hole. Stack the three ‘cookie cutters’ on top of one another. Set aside.” Easy enough right? Yeah…it was pretty easy. But when I stacked these cookie cutters on top of each other, they were as thin as a piece of paper and I was afraid that I bought the wrong silicone sheets or something. But I set them aside as directed and continued on. Here is a picture of my custom cookie cutter.
Custom Cookie Cutter (orange) made from food safe silicone sheets. Layer of three shown here.
I continued to follow the recipe…step-by-step. I preheated my oven and added ingredients to my Kitchen-Aid Stand Mixer. With batter prepared, I set out to make the cookies. The recipe said, “place the silicone template onto the lined cookie sheet and spoon 2–3 teaspoonfuls of batter in the center of the circle. Evenly spread the batter, edge to edge, with an offset spatula.” What you really need, in my opinion, is 1-2 teaspoons of batter or the cookie is too thick and ends up chewy. My first 4 cookies were all chewy because of my serious lack of ability to deviate from a recipe when I am uncomfortable. Here is a picture of the batter inside my custom cookie cutter and evenly spread and ready for the oven.
Batter inside custom cookie cutter and “evenly spread”
As you can see, I could use some practice with evenly spreading my batter. But hey…it worked so I was not complaining…YET! I popped these first two cookies into the oven. And by the way…the picture above is showing 2-3 teaspoons of batter which, as I already mentioned, was too much! So far this recipe was easy peasy and that feeling of accomplishment was settling in my stomach. The recipe says, “bake for 6–8 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are golden brown, but the centers are still pale.” Like almost all baking recipes, the recommended baking time is always open to a lot of interpretation. I mean, there are so many factors that can mess with your perfect timing. I chose to go with the middle ground and set my timer for 7 minutes. But in this case, the golden edges and pale center proved to be of the utmost importance. I turned on the oven light and stared at the cookies. My first batch came out too early and they were chewy and never fully hardened like a traditional fortune cookie. My second batch stayed in a little too long and I was not able to get either cookie folded before they cracked and broke into pieces. After two failures, I started to just eye ball them and not really go by the timer. I would still set the timer because that is the kind of person I am. Yes…as a kid…I was the one in the group that was nagging all the other kids who were breaking the rules.
What proved to be far more important than the timer was the color of the cookie. And believe me when I say…timing…based on color…was everything! And here is why it is so damn important:
When the cookies come out of the oven, you have less than 10 seconds to get your fortune inserted, the cookie folded and shaped into that iconic shape before they completely harden. This is soooooooooooooooooo much easier said than done!!
First, let’s state the obvious…these cookies are hot when they come out. And unlike most, if not all items you bake…you cannot let these cool. You must pick these up right way. And they are hot! Did I mention that? They are hot! By the end of this fortune cookie challenge, my fingertips were painfully red and sore. Second, I highly…HIGHLY…recommend that you have all of your fortune papers separated and within easy reach. And let’s talk about those fortune papers for a minute. The size I used, which fit very nicely inside my cookies, was 2.25 inches long by .50 inches high. Regular paper works just fine (I had wondered if the papers would become greasy inside the cookies but fortunately they did not). Fortunes are left to your imagination. On my first run, I was making cookies for my husband and my son. I made custom fortunes for each of them. I had to be sure and not mix them up as I would not want my son to get the fortunes inside my husbands treats if you know what I mean. The fortunes going into the party cookies are not PG rated and I will not be sharing those with all of you. Use Google and search for fortune cookie sayings. To get an idea of our fun fortune cookie sayings, you will specifically need to search “adult fortune cookie sayings”.
Anyway…back to baking. Get those fortunes inserted as quickly as possible and fold the cookie into a crescent shape and line the edges up so the cookie is closed but not completely. Working quickly, fold the crescent shaped cookie over the edge of a lipless bowl and place into a muffin pan so it retains its shape while cooling and there you have it…that iconic fortune cookie shape…IF YOU WERE LUCKY ENOUGH TO MAKE IT THIS FAR. Many a cookie broke or cracked before reaching this point and now I was complaining. And that sense of accomplishment was being drained right out of me. While I felt that the few I had made were beautiful and they made me smile, I was quickly realizing that this was not something I would volunteer to make for a big group of people. And it made me want to search my Video on Demand for “How It’s Made: Fortune Cookies” because I was curious about how much the robotic machine would cost to finish this project.
All-in-all it took me about two hours to successfully produce just 13 cookies. Baking just two cookies at a time…well…takes time…a lot of time. And for my next Cooking With Friends party, I need 13 adult cookies and 11 kid friendly cookies. Guess I better get into the kitchen…that party is tonight. Fortune cookies were a fun challenge and the finished product looked AND tasted fantastic. The road to greatness is filled with burned fingertips and broken cookies. Happy Cooking!
Here is the recipe I used as shared by David V, QVC Host and Resident Foodie: