ATK Kids

Kitchen Classroom: Week 20

Week 20 of resources to help kids learn in the kitchen—and make something delicious along the way.

Published July 24, 2020.

Welcome to Kitchen Classroom, where America’s Test Kitchen Kids is sharing a weekly set of kid-tested and kid-approved recipes, hands-on experiments, and activities, each paired with a suggestion for bringing learning to life in the kitchen.

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This week, celebrate summer by blending a batch of No-Churn Ice Cream (no ice cream maker required)—eat it in a cup or a cone, or turn it into a sundae or milkshake! Then, learn about some of the chilly science behind frozen desserts in a hands-on science experiment. Serve Crispy Oven-Fried Chicken for dinner (the secret ingredient: cornflakes!) and learn about the salty science of brining. Finally, a slice of Corny Cornbread makes a wonderful summer side (we love it alongside the oven-fried chicken), plus it’s a great way to use some in-season sweet corn.

Don’t forget to share what your family makes by tagging @testkitchenkids or using #atkkids on Instagram, or by sending photos to Visit the America’s Test Kitchen Kids website for more culinary content designed especially for kids, plus all of the Kitchen Classroom content in one easy-to-scan location. 

Here’s what’s cooking for the week of July 27th through August 2nd.

From left: No-Churn Ice Cream, Chill Out

No-Churn Ice Cream

Make rich, creamy ice cream at home, no ice cream maker required! Kids can make Vanilla ice cream or tackle a fun flavor variation, such as Peanut Butter Cup, Mint-Cookie, Strawberry-Buttermilk, or Milk Chocolate. Itching to get even more creative with ice cream flavors? Tackle the Make It Your Way Challenge: Ice Cream Flavor Creator, which uses this recipe as its bases and provide some guidelines for creating just about any ice cream flavor kids can dream up!

What You’ll Need
2 cups (16 ounces) heavy cream, chilled
1 cup (11 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup (2 ounces) whole milk
¼ cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt

Learning Moment
Science (Scientific Practices):
Before beginning the recipe, explain to your young chef that most ice cream is made using an ice cream maker that churns—slowly stirs—the ice cream as it freezes. Churning ice cream incorporates air, which is what makes ice cream light and scoopable rather than solid like an ice cube. 

Ask kids to predict how the air will get into their ice cream in this recipe, which uses a blender instead of an ice cream maker. Then, help them observe how the air makes its way into their ice cream:

  • After adding the heavy cream to the blender in step 1, use a piece of masking tape or a dry-erase marker to mark the level of the cream on the outside of the blender.
  • At the end of step 1, ask kids to observe the blender jar and the level of the cream. What do they notice? What do they think happened? (They should observe that (1) the cream has turned from a liquid into solid and (2) the whipped cream reaches much higher in the blender jar. Blending the cream—spinning it really fast—incorporated lots of tiny air bubbles, which get trapped and give the whipped cream lots of fluffy volume.)

Take It Further 
Science (Biology):
When you eat or drink something cold very quickly, like ice cream, sometimes you’re struck by . . .  brain freeze! Ask kids if they’ve ever experienced brain freeze and, if so, what it was like. (Share your own brain freeze experience, too.) Ask kids why they think brain freeze happens? 

After they make their guess, tell them about some brain freeze science: When you eat or drink something very cold, the quick drop in temperature in your mouth causes a cluster of blood vessels on the roof of your mouth to tighten. That tightening is a signal to nearby nerves to tell your brain that something painful is happening. For reasons that scientists don’t quite understand, your brain registers that pain near the top of your head, instead of in your mouth. 

Brain freeze—also known as ice cream headache—is very common. According to one study, at least 75 percent of people experience it. And it’s not permanent. The pain usually goes away after less than a minute. While there’s no way to completely prevent brain freeze, one study did show that eating cold things slowly might help you avoid them. Maybe that’s a good reason to take your time enjoying your next ice cream sundae!


Chill Out

This simple experiment is a cool way to learn about the science of heat transfer. Kids discover whether similarly-sized ice cubes and cubes of frozen butter feel equally cold in their hand and connect what they learn to how we experience different frozen desserts, from popsicles to ice cream. Bonus: You probably already have everything you need for this experiment at home.

What You’ll Need
1 ice cube per person
2 tablespoons butter per person 
2 zipper-lock bags per person 

Learning Moment
Science (Heat Transfer):
When your young chef holds the ice cube in one hand and the frozen butter in the other, they will likely notice that the ice feels much colder than the frozen butter—even though they’re the same temperature. Start by explaining that things feel cold to us when heat is removed from our bodies. Heat moves from warmer things (like your hand) to colder things (like the ice cube or frozen butter). 

The ice feels colder because water needs a lot of heat energy to warm up. The frozen butter needs a much smaller amount of energy to warm up because it contains so much fat (about 80 percent). When you hold ice, it takes more energy (and heat from your hand) to warm it up. Because the frozen butter takes less energy to warm, it pulls less heat from your hand and feels less cold. Kids can learn more about the science about heat transfer in the “Food for Thought” section on the web page for this experiment. 

Take It Further 
Science (Heat Transfer):
Kids can experience the same sensation in their mouth when they eat frozen desserts. Frozen treats with more fat in them, such as ice cream and gelato, will feel less cold in their mouths than frozen treats with more water, such as popsicles or slushies. Kids can set up an experiment for their siblings (or, you can set up the experiment and kids can be tasters). Have tasters wear a blindfold, and then give them a spoonful of ice cream. After they eat that spoonful, give them a spoonful of a slushie or a chunk of popsicle. Ask them if one bite felt colder than the other, then discuss how heat transfer affected the way you experienced eating each food. 


From left: Crispy Oven-Fried Chicken, Corny Cornbread

Crispy Oven-Fried Chicken

In this recipe, kids brine chicken pieces in a mixture of buttermilk, mustard, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. This not only seasons the chicken inside and out, it also makes the chicken tender and juicy. Salt helps meat retain moisture, even after it’s cooked, and acidic buttermilk gently breaks down some of the chicken’s proteins, making it even more tender. The brined chicken gets a coating of crispy crushed cornflakes before it's baked, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “breakfast for dinner”! 

What You’ll Need
2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 pounds bone-­in chicken pieces (split breasts, drumsticks, and/or thighs)
Vegetable oil spray 
4 cups cornflakes
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon paprika

Learning Moment
Science (Chemistry):
Kids can explore the science of brining by turning this recipe into a small science experiment. First, explain to kids that a brine is a mixture of salt and water—or in this case, salt, buttermilk (which is mostly made of water), and spices. 

In step 2 of the recipe, have kids reserve one piece of chicken—don’t put it into the brine (though, they should wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it). Ask kids to make a prediction: What do they think brining does to the chicken? 

When it comes time to coat the chicken in the crushed cornflakes mixture, make the following modifications:

  • Coat the brined pieces of chicken in the cornflakes mixture first, placing them on the greased cooling rack.
  • Then, dip the unbrined piece of chicken into the buttermilk mixture, coating it completely before coating it with the cornflakes mixture.
  • Place the unbrined piece of chicken on the greased cooling rack. Use masking tape and a marker to label the rack next to the unbrined piece of chicken as “Unbrined”—this way kids will remember which piece it is!
  • After the chicken has baked and cooled for 5 minutes, conduct a taste test: Take a bite of brined chicken and a bite of unbrined chicken. (Try to taste two of the same chicken piece—if your unbrine piece is a chicken thigh, then taste a brined chicken thigh.) Do they taste the same or different? What do you notice?

Explain to kids that brining chicken—or any meat—does two important things:

  1. Adds seasoning: Tiny molecules and ions (like the salt dissolved in the brine) naturally move from places where there are a lot of them, to places where there are fewer of them. This is called diffusion (“di-FEW-shun”). The brine contains more salt than the chicken. As the chicken sits in the brine, the salt moves from the brine into the chicken. This makes the chicken taste saltier and more seasoned.
  2. Makes meat juicy: During brining, water in the buttermilk moves from the brine (where there’s a lot of it!) to the inside of the chicken (where there’s less of it). This process is called osmosis (“oz-MOE-sis”) and it makes brined meat juicier than unbrined meat. But water alone doesn’t make meat juicy, salt helps, too! When the salt in the brine travels into the chicken, it changes the shape of the protein molecules in the meat. This helps the chicken hold onto its added water, even after it’s cooked, and it makes the meat more tender, too. Buttermilk takes this even further—it contains lactic acid, a mild acid that gently breaks down some of the proteins in the chicken, making it even more tender!


Corny Cornbread

Two forms of corn—cornmeal and corn kernels—give this cornbread extra corny flavor. Serve it as a side dish (it’s great with Oven-Fried Chicken) or enjoy it for breakfast or a snack. You can wrap any leftovers in plastic wrap and keep them on the counter for up to three days. Reheat them in a 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. We call for frozen corn here, but you can substitute fresh kernels—another way to enjoy this in-season vegetable!

What You’ll Need
Vegetable oil spray
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
¾ cup frozen corn
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
8 tablespoons unsalted butter

Learning Moment
Science (States of Matter)
It takes 25 to 30 minutes for this cornbread to bake. Ask kids: What do you think happens to the cornbread batter as it bakes in the oven? (It starts as a liquid and becomes solid as it bakes.) Ask kids to predict what part of the batter will start to solidify first: the top, the sides, or the middle?  

With an adult’s help, have kids observe the cornbread periodically during the baking process, observing once it has been in the oven for 10, 20, and 30 minutes. Ask them what they noticed about how the batter changed over time? What part turned to a solid first? Last? (Kids will likely notice that the edges of the cornbread, closest to the sides of the pan, solidified first.)  

Once the cornbread is ready to serve in step 8, have kids observe its exterior. What do they notice about the parts of the cake that were in contact with the pan? Do they look the same or different than the top of the cornbread? How so? Slice into the bread and have kids observe and taste a piece that includes some of the edge of the bread. Does the inside of the cornbread have the same flavor and texture as the edge? How are they different? 

Explain that the cornbread batter bakes from the outside, in. The center of your cornbread (or any cake you bake) is the last thing to turn from a liquid to a solid—that’s why you test whether it’s done by sticking a toothpick in the center of the cornbread instead of the sides. 

The batter that’s touching the sides and bottom of the pan solidifies first because the baking pan heats up and conducts heat energy from the oven to the batter. That heat energy slowly makes its way towards the center of the cornbread. At the same time, heat energy moves from the hot air in the oven into the top of the cake.

Heat energy moves more slowly through air than it does through a metal baking pan. That’s why the parts of the cornbread touching the pan turn a darker golden brown color—they get a bigger blast of heat than the top of the cornbread does. 

Take It Further
While this recipe includes two types of corn—cornmeal and corn kernels—we eat corn in many different forms and corn is an ingredient in many different foods. Ask kids how many foods they can think of that are made of corn or that include corn. Then, have kids go on a mini-scavenger hunt in their pantry, refrigerator, and freezer to see how many food items they can find that include corn as a main ingredient. (Some examples are corn on the cob, tortilla chips, corn chips, cornmeal/grits/polenta, fresh or frozen corn kernels, popcorn, corn tortillas, cornflakes, cornstarch, and corn syrup.) Once they have collected their food items, have kids taste each one to see what they notice. Do they taste the same or different? Do they all taste like corn kernels or cornbread?


On sale until July 31, 2020, the August edition of the Young Chefs' Club is full of portable, picnic-perfect recipes, games, and hands-on activities. Whether your picnic takes place in your backyard, at a park or on the beach, or even in your living room, kids will love making (and eating) Italian Picnic Sandwiches, Salad in a Jar, and Berry Streusel Bars, and Watermelon Agua Fresca, and learning about the science of staying cool with a fun design challenge.   
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