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Fortune Cookies: A Sweet Mystery Unwrapped
Most of us have tried to decipher the occasionally cryptic proverbs hidden inside a fortune cookie, but inside each treat looms a bigger question: how do the paper fortunes even get inside?
The answer lies in the ingredients. Mostly composed of sugar, flour, water, and eggs, fortune cookies emerge from the oven soft and malleable, hardening as they cool. Within that short time frame, a baker must keep the cookie warm while inserting the paper and folding the dough over. In many cases, oil- and moisture-resistant paper allows for added protection as the cookie dries.
Naturally, this process can be quite labor intensive. The first fortune cookies were made one at a time, and bakers used chopsticks as a folding tool. But in 1974, Edward Louie—the owner of the Lotus Fortune Cookie Company in San Francisco—invented a machine that was able to do the work much faster. This machine, like most in use today, employed a vacuum to suck the fortunes into place before two mechanical fingers grabbed the hot cookies, folded them in half, and bent them into their iconic crescent shape. Today, machines can fold as many as 8,000 cookies an hour—forcing many a psychic to furiously type away just to keep up.