Calls to Adventure with Pineapple Weed Fortune Cookies
Once the novelty of summer vacation starts to wear off (for those that have one, that is), the biggest threat to contentment is, well, boredom. While some people have no trouble filling up every spare moment of their free time (like yours truly), others can fall into a slump if they don’t have deadlines to work towards or assignments to fill. Vacations are a great time to exercise creative thinking and problem-solving and learn to make your own entertainment. Is there something you’ve been wanting to try? Somewhere you’ve been wanting to visit? Even if you still have to work during the day, maybe your evenings or days off leave a little room for play. Life is short - make the most of it! These cookies are not only a fun culinary challenge to tackle, they can also be filled with any number of little messages. One great theme to use is “calls-to-adventure,” little suggestions for interesting activities to do when boredom strikes (or just when you need a little push outside of your comfort zone.) Brainstorm some ideas and write them down, then get cooking.
Fortune cookies bring images of Chinese take-out, though they most likely originated in California in the early 20th century. Their batter is most closely based on the French tuile cookies and are also similar to cookies that Japanese immigrants made to serve with tea, flavored with sesame and miso, called tsujiura senbei. Most of our associations with fortune cookies today involve stale, flavorless crisps manufactured in bulk. That’s a shame, since homemade fortune cookies are absolutely delicious and totally customizable - both in message and in flavor. Sure, you could keep them plain and fill them with boring every-size-fits-all fortunes, but why not jazz it up a bit with some bright flavors and creative fortunes? For this recipe, I chose to feature pineapple weed, the more fragrant wild cousin of chamomile, but you could substitute the liquid with many other flavorings, from orange juice to green tea.
Pineapple weed grows prolifically throughout the Pacific Northwest, often in areas of very poor compacted soil. Look for it in driveways, at the edges of hiking trails, and even in parking lots. (Though be careful to only harvest it from a clean environment, of course.) It has a bright pineapple flavor with an herbal aftertaste. Like its cousin chamomile, pineapple weed is known to be gently soothing and uplifting. Native Americans used its sweet scent to line bedding and cradles and added it to flavorful foods. Soon early settlers adopted it as well, using it to soothe sore throats, colds, and as a tea to relax before bedtime. The Latin name is Matricaria discoidea, which translates literally to “mother dear.” And, as Gather Victoria points out, “…when it comes to food magic it’s said that pineapples weed’s golden heads bring us gold, and it’s good for domestic and familial harmony.”
This reminds me of my own dear mother gently encouraging us to find our own entertainment on the summer days she was busy working. For those that struggle with boredom during the summer months, sitting down and brainstorming a list of adventures is a great way to encourage yourself to go try something new! These would also be a great treat to bake for bored kiddos who need a little encouragement to make their own fun. They keep quite well in an airtight container, so you could use them as a daily treat for weeks. And, let’s face it, nothing promotes familial harmony quite like keeping everybody busy and away from bugging each other. Right?
Pineapple weed Fortune Cookies:
These fun fortune cookies get their bright greenish yellow color from the addition of powdered pineapple weed and cattail pollen, which also gives them a pleasant floral flavor.
fortunes or calls-to-adventure, pre-written
4 egg whites
1 c. granulated sugar
5 Tbs. butter, melted and cooled slightly.
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. cattail pollen
1 tsp. powdered pineapple weed
pinch of salt
1/4 c. water
1/4 c. pineapple weed, fresh
1 tsp. raspberry powder
white chocolate, for decorating
candied elderflowers, for decorating
- Pour hot water over the pineapple weed to make a tea. Let steep for about 20 minutes. Strain through a fine strainer. You’ll need 3-4 Tbs.
- Preheat the oven to 375F and line two baking sheets with non-stick silicone baking mats (trust me, these make the whole process MUCH easier.)
- In a large mixing bowl, whip the egg whites and sugar until frothy. Add flour and salt and beat until combined. Add butter and beat. Add the tea a spoonful at a time until the batter is slightly fluid but still spreadable, like a thin pancake mix. It’ll be about 4 Tbs.
- Place a Tbs. of batter on one of the baking mats and quickly spread into a circle about 5” diameter. Repeat process to make 1 more round. Bake until the edges are just barely golden brown, about 5-7 minutes (watch closely!)
- Remove baking sheet from oven and, working as quickly as possible, use a large spatula to lift up one cookie at a time and set it on a cooler surface. Place a fortune in the middle and, using your fingers, gently fold the two edges of the cookie together to form a “taco” shape, then press over the lip of a glass to fold into the fortune cookie shape. Place in a muffin pan to cool so it holds its shape.
- Tips: fortune cookies are a bit tricky to get the hang of, so it’s helpful to practice the folding technique with a circle of fabric first. The cookies need to be quite hot and not over-baked to fold properly so work quickly! (If they cool too much they’ll crack instead of fold.) If your fingers are sensitive to heat you may want to wear a pair of clean cotton gloves. Your first few attempts may look ridiculous; even though I’ve made fortune cookies many times it still takes a bit to get the hang of them. Be patient and keep trying - those first few cookies are for eating anyways. I’ve found that I can fold 2 or 3 cookies per round before they get too cool. You can make more if you have a friend with you, then you can put 5 or 6 rounds on each baking tray and fold at the same time. Keep the two pans alternating so one has a chance to cool while the other is being used.
- Once all of the cookies have cooled, feel free to decorate as you desire. I mixed some raspberry powder into white chocolate to make a nice light pink, which I then drizzled over the top. I also topped some with candied elderflowers, below:
These little bites of springtime are one of my favorite sprinkles or garnishes. They’re super floral and the sugar preserves the fresh scent of elderflower wonderfully. Use them to sprinkle on cakes, cookies, and even yogurt!
1 c. fresh elderflowers, carefully plucked from their stems
1/2 c. elderflower syrup (recipe below)
1 c. sugar
- Gently moisten the fresh elderflowers with the elderflower syrup, adding it a spoonful at a time. You want the flowers to be coated but not dripping. Strain them, then pour into a bowl.
- Add the granulated sugar and toss to coat evenly. Lay the candied elderflowers out on a baking sheet to dry completely before using or storing.
1 c. hot water
1 c. elderflower blossoms, plucked from their stems
1 1/ 2 c. granulated sugar
- Heat the water and pour over the elderflower blossoms and let steep for at least an hour or up to overnight. Strain.
- Head the strained water with the granulated sugar until all of the syrup has dissolved. Will keep in the fridge for several weeks or you can water-bath can it for 15 minutes in sterilized jars to store for longer.
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