Happy Chinese New Year!: Green-Tea Fortune Cookies

Earlier this week, I saw that Shelley at Franish Nonspeaker had great results with Joanne Chang's recipe for Green-Tea Fortune Cookies. About ten years ago, I tried a recipe for fortune cookies that was a colossal disaster -- the almond cookies were not even edible, much less foldable into the distinctive fortune cookie shape. Reading about the green tea recipe got me interested in fortune cookies again, as well as giving me a sudden wave of guilt about not doing anything to observe the Chinese New Year. It dawned on me that it's a little odd that I bake for Rosh Hashanah, even though I'm not Jewish, and yet don't bake for the Chinese New Year, even though I am Asian. I didn't feel too bad about the fact that fortune cookies aren't actually a Chinese food -- after all, Asians don't exactly have a strong tradition of baked goods, so there isn't really a large repertoire of desserts to choose from.

It only takes a couple of minutes to make the batter for these cookies -- you just whisk together egg whites, sugar, melted butter, flour, and matcha powder. You chill the batter for an hour, after which it has a lovely thick texture such that it is not runny at all, but easily spreadable. I used a #30 scoop (roughly 2 tablespoons) to drop the batter on a silpat, and then used an offset spatula to spread it into 6-inch diameter circles. This was pretty easy to do freehand. However, since the circles of batter were so large, I could only fit three on a cookie sheet. I baked the cookies for 12 minutes, after which I used a large offset spatula to free the cookies from the silpat, folded them in half, and made the crease in the middle by pulling the cookies over the rim of a coffee mug. It took me about 3 or 4 tries to get the technique down, but after that, I was surprised at how easy it was to make beautiful-looking fortune cookies.

One problem I encountered when folding the cookies is that they cooled very quickly. So much so that if I pulled a pan of three cookies out of the oven, in the few seconds that it took me to remove the first cookie and fold it, the other two remaining cookies would have already started to harden and thus would crack at the edges by the time I got around to folding them. The workaround I developed was to take only one cookie off of the silpat at a time, and then immediately return the sheet with the remaining cookies back to the oven so that they would stay warm and pliable until I could get to them. While this ended up working out just fine, it was time consuming -- given the baking and folding time, I could only make three fortune cookies about every 14 minutes or so.

Given that you start out with a 6-inch diameter cookie, the folded fortune cookie is much larger than what you encounter in a Chinese restaurant. I placed the freshly folded cookies in a muffin tin to help hold their shape until they cooled -- and as you can see in the above picture, they are huge (that's a standard-size muffin tin). I thought that these cookies were fabulous. Sweet, crispy, delicate, with a lovely (but not overpowering) green tea flavor. Tom said that the green color made them look like "hippie" fortune cookies, and that I could make a killing selling them in Santa Cruz or Berkeley if I filled them with hippie fortunes.

I did not have time to actually compose and print out fortunes to insert into the cookies, so unfortunately, they were empty. I personally love the little thrill of cracking open a fortune cookie to read the message inside. In my life, I have received two fortunes that I think were truly perfect for me. The first was in college, when I was a coxswain for the crew team. The night before our first regatta, I went out for Chinese food with some other girls from the crew team and received the fortune, "Your place in the path of life is in the driver's seat." And the second, which is actually quite absurd in its specificity, but nonetheless my favorite of all time, is pictured below: 

Needless to say, I know that that there will be a nice cake somewhere in my near future. Happy Chinese New Year!

Recipe: "Green-Tea Fortune Cookies," by Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery, available from Food and Wine.


Shelley said…
Great job on your cookies! After making a few 6 inch cookies I decided they were too large- most of my cookies were between 4-5 inches. I thought they were much easier to fold at that size. Happy Year of the Dragon!
juliechlee said…
It should be lunar new year, Chinese is not the only people celebrate the lunar new year, Taiwanese people celebrate it as well.