How to Make Homemade Fortune Cookies

iStock
iStock

It takes about 30 seconds to rip apart and devour a fortune cookie (after reading the prescient message inside, of course), but making them by hand is a time-consuming process. While most of the fortune cookies served at Chinese restaurants in the U.S. are mass-produced, homemade cookies with personalized messages stuffed inside make great gifts and impressive party favors. Perhaps most importantly, they taste better, too.

Tammy, a Canadian cook behind the YouTube channel Yoyomax12 - The Diet-Free Zone, has broken down the process into a few simple steps. First, the batter is prepared by combining egg whites, vanilla extract, almond extract, vegetable oil, flour, corn starch, salt, sugar, and water in a bowl. Other recipes call for lemon or orange zest and melted butter to enhance the flavor.

Once the batter is well-mixed, two dabs are scooped onto a greased cookie sheet, and a spoon is used to spread it out. The batter is then baked for 11 to 12 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until the edges are lightly browned.

The next step is when things start to get tricky. The cookies are soft and malleable when they first come out of the oven, but they quickly harden, so time is of the essence. As Tammy demonstrates, one of the cookies is picked up—they’re hot, so gloves are recommended!—and a paper fortune is placed in the middle. It's then folded in half, and the folded edge is lightly pressed against the rim of a mug to fold it one more time, giving the cookie its distinctive shape. After doing the same with the other cookie, the entire process is repeated by baking more batter.

Tammy suggests that beginners start with just two cookies at a time until they get the hang of it. “You have to fold the cookies when they’re still warm,” Tammy says. “If you fold them when they’re cool, they crack and they break into pieces because they get very brittle.”

Of course, fortune cookie companies use an assembly line to expedite the process. Machines take care of the mixing, baking, and folding, and videos of that process are available online (including one featuring Jimmy Kimmel). One manufacturer reportedly churns out 4 million fortune cookies per day.

Interestingly, although the Pacman-shaped cookies are a staple at Chinese restaurants, their heritage is largely American. Some have traced the confection's origins back to early 20th-century California, while other researchers have said its shape is uncannily similar to fortune cookies served in Japan decades before they popped up in the U.S.

Ready to try it out for yourself? It may take a bit of practice to get it right, but take some advice from a fortune cookie: “All things are difficult before they are easy.”

Is There An International Standard Governing Scientific Naming Conventions?

iStock/Grafissimo
iStock/Grafissimo

Jelle Zijlstra:

There are lots of different systems of scientific names with different conventions or rules governing them: chemicals, genes, stars, archeological cultures, and so on. But the one I'm familiar with is the naming system for animals.

The modern naming system for animals derives from the works of the 18th-century Swedish naturalist Carl von Linné (Latinized to Carolus Linnaeus). Linnaeus introduced the system of binominal nomenclature, where animals have names composed of two parts, like Homo sapiens. Linnaeus wrote in Latin and most his names were of Latin origin, although a few were derived from Greek, like Rhinoceros for rhinos, or from other languages, like Sus babyrussa for the babirusa (from Malay).

Other people also started using Linnaeus's system, and a system of rules was developed and eventually codified into what is now called the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). In this case, therefore, there is indeed an international standard governing naming conventions. However, it does not put very strict requirements on the derivation of names: they are merely required to be in the Latin alphabet.

In practice a lot of well-known scientific names are derived from Greek. This is especially true for genus names: Tyrannosaurus, Macropus (kangaroos), Drosophila (fruit flies), Caenorhabditis (nematode worms), Peromyscus (deermice), and so on. Species names are more likely to be derived from Latin (e.g., T. rex, C. elegans, P. maniculatus, but Drosophila melanogaster is Greek again).

One interesting pattern I've noticed in mammals is that even when Linnaeus named the first genus in a group by a Latin name, usually most later names for related genera use Greek roots instead. For example, Linnaeus gave the name Mus to mice, and that is still the genus name for the house mouse, but most related genera use compounds of the Greek-derived root -mys (from μῦς), which also means "mouse." Similarly, bats for Linnaeus were Vespertilio, but there are many more compounds of the Greek root -nycteris (νυκτερίς); pigs are Sus, but compounds usually use Greek -choerus (χοῖρος) or -hys/-hyus (ὗς); weasels are Mustela but compounds usually use -gale or -galea (γαλέη); horses are Equus but compounds use -hippus (ἵππος).

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

Can Soap Get Dirty?

iStock/vintagerobot
iStock/vintagerobot

When you see lovely little bars of lemon-thyme or lavender hand soaps on the rim of a sink, you know they are there to make you feel as fresh as a gardenia-scented daisy. We all know washing our hands is important, but, like washcloths and towels, can the bars of hand soap we use to clean ourselves become dirty as well?

Soaps are simply mixtures of sodium or potassium salts derived from fatty acids and alkali solutions during a process called saponification. Each soap molecule is made of a long, non-polar, hydrophobic (repelled by water) hydrocarbon chain (the "tail") capped by a polar, hydrophilic (water-soluble) "salt" head. Because soap molecules have both polar and non-polar properties, they're great emulsifiers, which means they can disperse one liquid into another.

When you wash your dirty hands with soap and water, the tails of the soap molecules are repelled by water and attracted to oils, which attract dirt. The tails cluster together and form structures called micelles, trapping the dirt and oils. The micelles are negatively charged and soluble in water, so they repel each other and remain dispersed in water—and can easily be washed away.

So, yes, soap does indeed get dirty. That's sort of how it gets your hands clean: by latching onto grease, dirt and oil more strongly than your skin does. Of course, when you're using soap, you're washing all those loose, dirt-trapping, dirty soap molecules away, but a bar of soap sitting on the bathroom counter or liquid soap in a bottle can also be contaminated with microorganisms.

This doesn't seem to be much of a problem, though. In the few studies that have been done on the matter, test subjects were given bars of soap laden with E. coli and other bacteria and instructed to wash up. None of the studies found any evidence of bacteria transfer from the soap to the subjects' hands. (It should be noted that two of these studies were conducted by Procter & Gamble and the Dial Corp., though no contradictory evidence has been found.)

Dirty soap can't clean itself, though. A contaminated bar of soap gets cleaned via the same mechanical action that helps clean you up when you wash your hands: good ol' fashioned scrubbing. The friction from rubbing your hands against the soap, as well as the flushing action of running water, removes any harmful microorganisms from both your hands and the soap and sends them down the drain.

This story was updated in 2019.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER