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Your fortune cookie for the Chinese New Year
By Marlene Parrish, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Get ready to celebrate the Chinese New Year 4700 -- the number of years since the mythical founding of the Chinese people. This is the Year of the Horse, and the celebration begins Feb. 12, when the first full moon of the first Chinese lunar month occurs. The New Year is also celebrated as a birthday by the Chinese people, who count themselves one year older on this date.

All the stops are pulled for a bang-up good time. Family and friends gather for celebrations that include feasting, fireworks, dragon dances and the beating of drums and cymbals. Ancestors are remembered, and there are prayers for blessings in the New Year. Communities experience reconciliation as debts are paid, and gifts of red envelopes containing lucky money are shared by all.

Favorite colors during Chinese New Year are red and gold -- red symbolizes joy, luck and happiness, and gold symbolizes wealth.

Hey, you don't have to be Chinese to celebrate Chinese New Year. It's a great excuse to have some fun, and you might take the family to a Chinese restaurant for a banquet.

Stay-at-homes can get into the spirit, too. Haul out the wok for a festive stir-fry, and make giant fortune cookies for a dramatic dessert.

The fortune cookies are fun to make any time of the year if, say, you have good news to tell or a special announcement to make. Years ago, when I taught cooking classes for kids, fortune cookies were an annual production the week before Mother's Day. Instead of buying a commercial card, my young students tucked secret love notes to their moms into fortune cookies.
Constructing the cookies is easy and mostly about manipulating ingredients, so don't worry if you don't consider yourself a baker. All you need are a few hours, minimal skill in the kitchen and lots of patience. The cookies can't be rushed.

Here are some tips to ensure success.

Set aside several hours. Before you get too carried away or plan to make a million, consider this: You bake and fold one cookie at a time. It can take about an hour to make three big cookies.

Buy a pair of cotton dermatological gloves in the drugstore. A box containing two identical gloves costs about $2.19, and they're handy for other too-hot-to-handle projects such as turning crepes.

Customize the fortunes. Spend time creating your messages and prepare them in advance. Write the fortunes by hand or on the computer in big, bold print. Cut the fortunes into strips 5 inches long by 1/2 inch wide. It's fun to put several messages into one cookie. If you're taking these to a party, you might want to serve one cookie to four people, so include four fortunes.

You need counter space. (Don't even think about making small ones; the whole idea is to make a dramatic presentation based on huge scale.) Even if you set up an assembly line, you might use every tray in the kitchen and spend an entire evening.

Choose the right baking trays, preferably those with a nonstick finish and that won't warp in the hot oven. A warped tray might cause the cookie batter to flow into an amoeba shape. If that happens, some fast work on uneven edges with kitchen scissors before the cookie cools will save it.

Trace a perfect circle. Spritz cookie trays with nonstick cooking spray or grease with solid shortening. Invert an 8-inch cake pan on the tray, and trace its circumference with a Q-tip.

Expect the first cookie to be a "tester" and to be thrown out (just like a first pancake). You have to judge timing and get the hang of the folding. As in poker, "You have to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em."

Giant Fortune Cookies

Organize your work area before you begin. Type out fortunes in advance. Since the cookies are big enough for three or four to share, consider placing several fortunes in each cookie. A pair of cotton gloves is recommended (but not necessary) for tender fingertips because the just-baked cookie must be handled while hot. Bake one cookie at a time. The recipe can be doubled to make six cookies.

1/2 cup flour (don't sift, just dip and sweep)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup salad oil
1/4 cup egg white (about 2 medium)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

To make the batter: In a medium bowl, combine the flour (don't sift -- just dip and sweep), cornstarch, sugar and salt. Stir in the salad oil. Add the egg whites, vanilla and water, and blend.

Grease baking tray, and draw an 8-inch circle using a cake pan as a stencil and a Q-tip as a pencil.

Pour a scant 1/3 cup batter in the center of the circle on the baking sheet. With a rubber spatula held almost flat, spread and drag the batter into a circle or tilt the pan using a circular motion to make an even circle. Place in the oven and bake until cookie turns a light golden brown, 13 to 15 minutes.

While the cookie bakes, prepare batter for the next one.

Remove tray from oven, and immediately loosen cookie from pan with a metal pancake turner, but let the cookie remain there. Place one or more fortunes in the center. While the cookie is still hot and pliable, use your fingertips to bring the two opposite edges toward each other until they touch, making a half-moon and leaving the center section of the cookie flat against the pan. Hold briefly, about 5 seconds, until the sides begin to set.

Immediately remove cookie from pan, and, using both hands, slowly and gently bend the flat side of the cookie in half over a sharp edge, such as the rim of a deep bowl, pinching the two sides together and holding the now-pointed ends. Hold cookie in this position about 30 seconds until it cools and becomes crisp. When finished, the 2 points will be close but will not quite touch. Make the other cookies, but always begin with a cool baking tray. Store in an airtight container.

Note: An easier but not authentic way to shape the cookie is to loosen the cookie from the baking sheet with a pancake turner, place fortune in center, and fold cookie in half. Lightly fold it again into fourths, keeping ends slightly apart. Hold cookie in place until it cools. This is a good method when young children are helpers. Makes 3 Cookies

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette

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Chinese New Year actually lasts for 15 days. There are particular rituals to be observed on each day that largely have to do with eating and visting relatives.
The "cookie" in fortune cookie is an old Chinese tradition but the "fortune" in fortune cookie is strictly a western invention. But, what the hey. It's all just good fun.

Jock :)

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Oh, man....I love Chinese New Year! It has been so long since I celebrated - there was a little more celebration in Kansas City than in Wyoming, you know?

What can I make? I haven't spent all day making dim sum in such a long time!!!!!!!

Oh, but the carbs and fat and stuff.


Maybe I'll just go out to eat.

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I love dimsum, even have a dim sum cookbook. I was just looking at it tonight Nancy thinking it's been far too long since I made some.
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