Cracking open a fortune cookie to reveal a prediction or piece of sage advice is a much loved tradition at the end of a Chinese meal.
So popular are these sweet treats that bespoke versions with personalised messages have become bonbonniere items at weddings. At Melbourne restaurant China Red fortune cookies are popular with the kids. At Sydney's Golden Century adults are usually the ones asking for the cookies at the end of their meal.
Kevin Leung from Fortune Cookies (Australia), which produces the biscuits for restaurants, grocers and custom orders, says the most elaborate fortune cookie his company makes are giant grapefruit-sized, hand-made cookies. Using moulds for small cookies and hand-making the larger ones, Leung's creations span a range of flavours, from barbecue to pineapple, but vanilla is the standard.
According to pastry chef Damian Flanagan from The Grounds in Sydney's Alexandria, there's no reason why you can't devise your own fortunes and make your own cookies at home. The trick is to work quickly.
Fortunes and futures
Leung says the types of fortunes that can be used are endless. Some of his company's standard fortunes include "guard against impatience", "great success awaits you", and "an old wish may come true".
“My favourite is, 'Good Times, Good Friends, Good Fortune'”, says Leung.
If you're after something with a more traditional bent, you're out of luck. Fortune cookies are about as Chinese as the fish'n'chip shop dim sim, and you'd be hard-pressed to find one in China. The modern fortune cookie is believed to have been introduced in San Francisco by Japanese immigrants, many of whom owned Chinese restaurants. After WWII, popularity for the cookies exploded, and millions of these cookies are now made on commercial machinery around the world.
According to The New York Times, the fortune cookie may actually be an adaptation of a traditional Japanese cookie, or senbei. A variation on the modern cookie can still be bought from a family bakery at a shrine outside Kyoto.
Damian Flanagan says the trick to making fortune cookies at home is to work quickly. He shares his tips and a recipe below.
Recipe: Fortune cookies
Makes 20 to 25 cookies
2 egg whites
½ tsp vanilla essence
½ tsp almond essence
3 tbsp rice bran oil or vegetable oil
¼ cup water
½ cup plain flour
½ tsp cornflour
¼ tsp salt
½ cup sugar
Empty egg carton
Preheat a fan forced oven to 160C.
Sift the flour and cornflour. Add the sugar and salt, and stir.
Using a whisk, add the vanilla essence, almond essence, oil, water and egg whites, mixing until the batter is smooth and glossy.
Spoon one tablespoon of the batter on to the baking tray and spread to form a 9cm circle.
Bake for approximately 10 minutes, or until the whole cookie has gone a light golden colour.
Folding the cookie
Once cooked, take one cookie out of the oven at a time, leaving the oven on (see tips below)
To fold the cookie, tie a piece of string over your largest pot and make sure it is taut. This will help you create the fold in the cookie.
Holding your cookie over the string (see pictures in the photo gallery above), place your fortune across the centre of the cookie, ensuring it is shorter than the diameter of the biscuit, and fold it in half, upwards. The cookie should be sitting perpendicular to the string.
Next, pull the two ends of the cookie down over the string towards each other to create the curved shape.
Repeat until you have folded all the cookies.
Flanagan suggests beginners should start by cooking only two or three cookies at a time as they set very quickly and can crack when you try to bend them.
If you're sensitive to heat, wear gloves to fold the cookies. Flanagan says you can either take the whole tray out of the oven or leave the cookies in so they stay warm.
“If they're going hard you can put them back in the oven to soften them up,” says Flanagan.
Flanagan also warns against over-mixing the batter, as the cookies will become tough.
He says to use two baking trays, so you can have a second batch in the oven as you fold the first batch. He prefers to use a silicon baking mat, but baking paper also works fine.
A handy way of making sure the fortune cookies stay in shape is to place them upside down (points-side-up) in an egg carton until they cool.
You can either source fortunes from the internet or write your own.
On that note, we'd love you to put your creativity cap on and write your very own one line line 'fortune'. Share it via the comment function and be in the running to win comment of the week.
Comment of the week
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