In the battle of New Year celebrations, I think the Chinese take the title of best food. (Gefilte fish isn’t doing much for Rosh Hashanah, and even Hoppin’ John can’t compete with traditional Chinese New Year dishes.)
As far as I can tell, the only drawback of Chinese cuisine is that it often requires a trip to a specialty store to buy irreplaceable ingredients. (My favorite Asian grocery destinations are Super 88 in Allston and Ming’s Supermarket in the South End.) That’s fine if you plan ahead, but it’s not ideal if you’re trying to make something with ingredients you can get at your local grocery or already have in the house. But there is one American Chinese restaurant staple that doesn’t require any special ingredients or equipment, and is a great way to amuse your friends: homemade fortune cookies.
The key to making your own fortune cookie is to work fast. The cookies start cooling the second they come out of the oven, so I highly recommend only baking two at a time—any more than that and you’ll end up with crispy cookies that are too brittle to bend. So have your homemade fortunes (or personalized messages, jokes or trivia questions) ready to go before you start baking them, and expect to lose a few along the way as you get the timing down. The thinner you make the cookies, the crisper—and quicker to harden—they’ll be. I also recommend placing the just-formed cookie into the cup of a muffin tin, which will help it keep its shape as it cools.
Homemade Fortune Cookies
Makes about 14 cookies
1 large egg white
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon water
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
⅛ teaspoon cornstarch
⅛ teaspoon 5-spice powder
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In small bowl, whisk egg white vigorously until foamy, about 20 seconds. Stir in vegetable oil, water, vanilla extract and almond extract.
2. Sift together flour, sugar, cornstarch and 5-spice powder. Add to bowl with egg-white mixture. Whisk to combine. (Batter will be very liquidy.)
3. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Drop two heaping teaspoons onto baking sheet, leaving several inches between them. Use spoon to spread batter into 4- or 5-inch circles.
4. Bake until edges of cookies are light brown, about 8 minutes. (Middle of cookie should still be tan-colored.) Remove baking sheet from oven, and, working quickly, use small, thin spatula to remove cookies from parchment. Place fortune in middle of each cookie, fold in half and gently pinch edges so they’re touching but not tightly sealed. Bring both edges together in front of folded side to make fortune cookie shape. (You may also bisect the folded side of the cookie with the edge of a mug or bowl and push edges down to create fortune cookie shape. I found some great step-by-step photos here.) Place the just-formed cookie into the cup of a muffin tin as it hardens. Cookies are best eaten the same day they’re prepared.