Makes 12-18 fortune cookies depending on size and thickness.
Fortune cookies are remarkably easy to make…IF…you have the right recipe. Many of the recipes on the net call for fat in the form of butter or oil. The problem there is that you end up with greasy fortunes. The remaining recipes, at least the ones I’ve found, have a very high sugar content, and sugar is hygroscopic…meaning, it attracts moisture…so the fortune cookies quickly get soft or soggy after baking, and once this happens, the fortunes inside tend to stick to the cookie when you open it. No good.
At a recent FRANK dinner, we wanted to serve fortune cookies at the end of the meal, so I spent 3 weeks perfecting a fortune cookie recipe that will work beautifully for you. The recipe couldn’t be more simple, but the technique itself is something that takes a little practice. Once you’ve done a few trays, you’ll get faster at it and can churn them out pretty quickly, but don’t expect your first few to be perfect. You need to learn your oven and adjust the baking temp and time to get them just right!
First thing’s first…equipment. You don’t NEED special equipment to make these, but a few “specialty” items will help you out considerably. All can be gotten at a restaurant supply store for pretty cheap or snag them here on Amazon:
1/2 ounce ladle
small offset spatula
Next, you need your fortunes! They should be about 3″ long and not too wide. Get them cut out and spread out individually along the edge of your countertop before you begin.
Preheat your oven to 400F and place a rack 1 space up from the center of the oven.
Line a couple of baking sheets with silpats. If you don’t have silpats, you’ll want to spray the baking sheet liberally with oil. This will keep your fortune cookies from sticking to the pan, however, you’re introducing oil which can make your fortunes greasy. I’ll explain how to mitigate this a little later. Some people find it’s easier to turn the baking sheet upside down and bake the fortune cookies on the bottom, which is fine. But that makes them harder to handle, and there is potential for the cookies to slide off the sheet when removing it from the oven, so there’s a tradeoff.
On your workspace, have a big coffee cup or bowl handy (for folding the fortune cookies) and have a standard muffin tin ready to help hold the fortune cookies in their shape as they cool.
In a bowl, or using your stand mixer, combine:
4 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp real almond extract
1/4 tsp kosher salt
Beat the mixture until the egg whites are foamy, but not to the point where they begin to turn into a fluffy meringue:
In a separate bowl, combine:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
Sift the mixture into the egg white bowl, then mix just until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. You’ll have a fairly stiff batter:
Now loosen the batter up by adding:
1-3 Tbsp water
The amount you need will depend on the age of your egg whites, the hydration level of your flour, etc. You’re aiming for a pourable consistency, but not too loose or runny. When you ladle the batter onto the baking sheet, it should spread slowly, not quickly. When mixing, the mixture should sink right back into the bowl without holding its shape, like it does in the photo above.
Drop 1 Tablespoon (or half-ounce…thus the ladle) of batter onto the baking sheet. Then gently spread the batter until it forms a circle about 3-3 1/2 inches in width. The ladle makes this super easy, as the bottom of the ladle bowl makes a perfect spreader. But you can also use a Tablespoon to measure, and a knife or spatula to spread the batter out. Don’t get too fussy about making perfect circles. You’re really not going to notice once the cookie is folded:
The cookies will expand a little in the oven, so be sure to leave plenty of space between each cookie. Also, only bake 2 or 3 cookies at a time until you get your oven timing and temp straightened out, and until you have the folding method down. Once the cookie is out of the oven for more than a minute or so, it becomes impossible to fold without tearing or breaking. When you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll be able to make about 6 at a time on a standard half-sheet baking pan (the size that fits in most people’s ovens).
Place the cookies into the preheated 400 degree oven and bake for 5 minutes. Then take a peek. You’re looking for a slight amount of color around the very edge of the cookie, but not too much in the other areas of the cookie:
This cookie probably went about 30 seconds too long…or the oven temp was 5-10 degrees too high. This is where you’ll begin to learn what temperature and time works best for your oven. The cookie above will still fold properly and be fine, but too much more browning and it will be harder to fold and won’t look as proper once it’s finished.
When your cookies have baked to perfection, work quickly. Remove them from the oven. Tug on a pair of white cotton gloves, or a couple pairs of latex gloves…anything to keep you from burning your fingers. Using a spatula, pull one of the cookies from the pan and into the palm of your non-dominant hand. (ie, your left hand, if you’re right handed)
Now you have a choice…which side to use. If you’re baking on silpats and not using cooking spray, either side will work. If you put the side that was in contact with the pan facing up, your fortune cookies will have a matte finish. If you put the side that was in contact with the pan facing down (ie, in contact with your palm), your cookies will have a glossier and more traditional look. However, if you used cooking spray, you MUST put the side that was in contact with the pan (and thus, the oil) facing down in contact with your palm, otherwise your fortunes will get greasy. The cookie will be VERY hot…thus the need for gloves of some sort.
Wipe your dominant hand quickly to remove any oil you may have touched and then place a fortune in the center of the cookie:
Then fold the cookie in half, just like a taco:
Now, using both hands, fold the cookie in half using the rim of a coffee mug or bowl:
Now your cookie is formed, but is still too soft to hold its shape. Place it gently into a muffin pan to keep it folded:
Continue working until all your cookies are stuffed and folded. Then you can bake the next round. If you have double ovens you can have 2 batches going at a time once you get the hang of it, or you can have a helper pouring batter and baking the cookies, while you stuff and shape them. I can make about 80 cookies in an hour, twice that if I have help.
Unfortunately…you’re not done yet. Once all the cookies are baked and shaped, you need to finish them by dehydrating the remaining moisture, so they will be snappy and crisp. You’ll notice, as they are at this point, once cooled, they’re still a little soft. (You can somewhat solve this problem by baking them until they are fully brown, but they don’t brown evenly, and then they look spotted. Under-baking, like I’ve described, will give you pretty results and then you just dehydrate them overnight in the oven.)
Once the oven has mostly cooled down, set it to 180F (or “keep warm” setting) and place the cookies, still in their muffin tins, into the oven. Bake them for 6-8 hours until they are hard and crisp. Set your oven’s timer to turn off automatically if you’re worried, or just check them when you wake up. They can’t really overbake, so don’t worry about that.
To store the cookies, place them in a sealed ziploc bag. I also keep little packets of silica gel in my pantry for this type of thing, as it will help keep them crisp and dry for longer.
If, for some reason, your cookies start to get soft again, just bake them at 200 for a few hours to crisp them back up.