Diary of a Foodie

Five-Spice Fortune Cookies

Diary of a Foodie: Season One: China: One Billion Foodies

Makesabout 16 cookies
  • Active Time:1 hr
  • Start to Finish:1 hr
January 2007
You might want to begin by baking one cookie to get the hang of folding before trying two at a time.

The Chinese custom of slipping messages of good fortune into little cakes to give as gifts is one explanation for a Chinese-American icon: the fortune cookie. Our very own Sara Moulton was determined to make them from scratch, adding five-spice powder—a distinctive, alluring blend of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, and Sichuan peppercorns—for a truly delicious cookie. The one thing you must remember is that you have to work lightning fast; if you’ve ever made
tuiles, you’ll get the hang of fortune cookies in no time. And don’t let any anxiety over forming the cookies make you forget to have fun with what’s inside. Let whimsy (and Confucius) be your guide.
  • Butter for baking sheets
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder*
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • Special equipment:

    about 16 (3- by 1/2-inch) strips of white paper and a pen with nontoxic ink
  • Write fortunes on strips of paper.
  • Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 400ºF. Butter a 6-inch-wide strip lengthwise across middle of 2 baking sheets (from one short side to the other).
  • Sift together flour, five-spice powder, and a pinch of salt into a bowl and stir in sugar.
  • Whisk egg whites in a bowl just until foamy. Add flour mixture and whisk until smooth.
  • Put 2 teaspoons batter on 1 side of buttered area of 1 baking sheet and spread evenly into a round about 3 1/2 inches in diameter using back of a spoon or a small offset spatula. Place 2 teaspoons more batter on other half of buttered area and form another round.
  • Bake rounds until golden around edge and paler gold in center, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove rounds from oven and, working quickly, flip 1 cookie over on baking sheet with a spatula. Transfer same cookie to a work surface, then put a fortune in center of inverted cookie and fold cookie in half (cookie will be hot). Lift up cookie with both hands by corners and press center of folded bottom edge perpendicularly against the edge of a countertop, making a crease. Continue folding in same direction to bring corners together to create a C shape. Hold for a few seconds while cookie cools and shape sets, then set aside to cool. Quickly invert and fold second hot cookie, this time working on baking sheet to keep cookie warm and malleable.
  • Make 2 more cookies in same manner on second buttered baking sheet, then continue with remaining batter, using a buttered cool baking sheet for each batch.
*Available at Asian markets and specialty foods shops.
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