Happy Year of the Horse! Last Friday marked the beginning of the celebration of the Chinese New Year, which dates back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD). The Chinese calendar coincides with the cycle of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals—rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. This year is the year of the horse, which Chinese astrologer/fortune tellers predict will bring many scandals and conflicts (um, yikes!), much like Georges de la Tour’s work The Fortune Teller, which was completed around 1630, which was also the year of the horse. Coincidence?
The Fortune Teller depicts a young wealthy male surrounded by four women, most likely gypsies. While the older woman to the far right of the picture reads his fortune (and distracts him)—he is in the process of handing her a coin, which serves as both payment and her source of telling his fortune, the younger women surrounding him are in the act of robbing him. The woman to the far left of the picture is reaching in his pocket to steal his coin purse, while the woman directly behind
her reaches her hand out to catch it, and likely run. Meanwhile, the woman standing behind and between the young man and old fortune teller is watching the victim closely (and not quite making eye contact) while she slowly cuts away at the gold chain he has fastened around his torso. Since moving to New York, I have been blown away by the number of modern-day fortune tellers operating businesses out in the open. There are your everyday run-of the-mill fortune tellers handing out coupons and flyers on the streets, and then there are the successful fortune-tellers with storefronts in some of the most expensive and sought after real estate in the city (color me surprised the first time I saw a fortune teller set up in a swanky Upper East Side neighborhood). Evidently these mystical entrepreneurs have (mostly) come along way since the stereotypes of their profession that were prevalent during de la Tour’s time, and for that, I celebrate them, along with this new, horsey year. So much in fact, that I baked healthy fortune cookies made with apples and oats, so that they may just appeal to the horses eating in kitchens these days, or at the very least, those with healthier goals this year. You can restart your New Year’s resolutions at the Chinese New Year, right?
Apple-Oat Fortune Cookies
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup oat flour (grind oats in your blender or food processor until they reach a flour-like consistency)
pinch of salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons apple cider
1 teaspoon almond extract
15 assorted printed fortunes, cut into tiny strips
Preheat the oven to 400°F, and line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. With an electric mixer, beat the sugar and egg whites on medium speed for about a minute, before adding the flours and salt. Beat until combined, and then add the butter, cream, apple cider and almond extract, beating for about 30 seconds after the last addition.
Using a rubber spatula, gently portion a small amount of batter directly onto the left side of the baking sheet. Spread out into a thin, yet even, 5 inch-diameter circle, ensuring that the batter is thin, yet not so thin that it is translucent. Spread another identical circle onto the right side of the baking sheet, and bake for 6-7 minutes, until starting to turn golden brown.
When the cookies are ready, quickly remove from the oven, and gently flip over with a slim offset spatula. Working quickly, arrange a fortune (or two!) in the bottom half of the cookie, and fold over, gently pinching the sides closed. Fold over once more (so now quartered), and then balance cookie over the edge of a glass, so that as it cools and hardens, it maintains its folded shape. Once cool, transfer the finished cookie to a muffin tin, which will also help it keep its shape, and start the process over, baking until you have used up all of the batter and/or fortunes. Happy Year of the Horse!
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart, makes about 15
Featured art: Georges de la Tour, The Fortune Teller, circa 1630, oil on canvas