Why We Don't Make Fortune Cookies for Restaurants
Ever wonder why the fortune cookies you get for free from restaurants don't always taste that good?
People are always surprised when we tell them that we don't make fortune cookies for restaurants. They always remark how different our cookies are from the ones they normally eat. That's because each bakery has their own recipe and method.
The fortune cookie itself, while retaining the same shape, has actually gone through multiple changes over the decades. The first machines that automated the process of folding the fortune cookies were introduced in the 1980's.
That means our parents and family members who grew up before the 80's most likely grew up eating hand-made fortune cookies. As the usage of automated machines grew, more and more bakeries that handmade their cookies either abandoned the traditional methods or dissolved into obscurity altogether.
As an item that most places give away for free, it's necessary to make fortune cookies as cheaply as possible so that clients can afford to buy them at a low cost. Once the cost of labor is removed from the equation, the next thing to do is cut cost on ingredients. This process has evolved the original fortune cookies into what you see today.
1. Oven Temperatures
Gas and electricity is expensive! So the first step is to make a batter that cooks at a very low temperature to save on municipals. You can do so by thinning out the battery and substituting some of the ingredients with ones that cook at a lower temperature.
Some places don't thin out the batter, but even so their cookies come out super hard.
We've had people tell us about how they've tried cookies that are so hard to chew it feels like they're breaking a tooth. The high temperature of our ovens are necessary to create a light, crispy texture.
2. Artificial Coloring
Ever wonder why the fortune cookies you get are a bright orange color? That's because of our previous point, they were baked at a low temperature. What happens is the cookies come out looking almost white, they're not baked enough to have a natural golden color. White, pasty fortune cookies are not very appetizing, so to fix that bakeries will add artificial coloring.
3. Leavening Ingredients
Personally, we're not huge fans of the texture of most other fortune cookies we've tried. Most places make them super crumbly, they have a weird texture that's like chewing on dried packaging peanuts. The reason why they taste like that is because the bakery adds leavening ingredients into the batter.
You basically inject tiny air bubbles into the batter so that for 1 bucket of batter can become 2 buckets. The resulting cookies are basically mostly air, made of tiny hollowed shells. There's just enough batter to hold its shape and nothing more.
4. Shrinking Cookie Size
Lastly, the best way to reduce cost - simply make a smaller cookie! Unfortunately the fortune cookie itself was not immune to shrinkflation. We're always surprised to see how tiny the cookies are whenever we come across fortune cookies from other bakeries.
We've found some that are more than 25% smaller than ours.
We like to think that our cookies are the original, authentic recipe because we've kept the same methods over the past 60 years. Thankfully, we never had to resort to changing our recipe, we've managed to stay open for so long simply by refusing to compete with other makers to see who can make the cheapest cookie. People are very surprised when we tell them that we don't actually sell fortune cookies to Chinese restaurants. There's just no way to compete with a maker that mass produces them by the thousands on machines.
Our cookies cost 10 TIMES MORE to make when you add up the ingredient costs, gas costs, and most expensive of all, the labor. Here's how our process looks like:
We still make all our fortune cookies by hand, one at a time. Our ovens are gas ovens from the 1950's that bake the cookies to a natural golden color. We don't add preservatives or additives to the batter either, what you see is what you get. The batter itself is as simple and natural as it can get, it's the same recipe for the past 60+ years.
Hopefully you get a chance to try our cookies so that next time you go out with friends to a Chinese restaurant that gives them out for free, you can tell your friends what they're missing out on. You know the truth behind how real, authentic fortune cookies are supposed to look like and taste like.