Welcome to week 33 of Kitchen Classroom, where America’s Test Kitchen Kids is sharing a weekly list of kid-tested and kid-approved recipes, hands-on experiments, and activities paired with suggestions for how to bring learning to life in the kitchen.
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This week, kids can bake a batch of cheesy, gluten-free Pão de Queijo to snack on or serve as a side dish; dip some Caramel Apples in preparation for Halloween; sip spiced Hot Chocolate as they learn about the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos; and make a green bean side dish that comes with a sprinkle of salty science.
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Here’s what’s cooking for the week of October 26th through November 1st.
Pão de Queijo
These gluten-free, cheesy rolls originally come from Brazil. They’re crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy inside thanks to a key ingredient: tapioca starch. Kids will learn more about this special ingredient in a hands-on exploration. Tapioca starch is sometimes also labeled “tapioca flour” and can usually be found in the gluten-free baking section of the grocery store.
[GET THE RECIPE]
What You’ll Need
Vegetable oil spray
1 cup (8 ounces) whole milk
1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese (2 ounces)
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups (8 ounces) tapioca starch
Physical Science (Properties of Matter):
As kids are preparing their ingredients, have them set aside some extra tapioca starch in a bowl. Ask kids: Have you heard of tapioca before? Can you guess where it comes from?
While the rolls are baking in step 4, have kids observe the tapioca starch. What does it look like, feel like, and smell like? Tell kids that tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour) is made from cassava root (a plant native to South America) that has been ground up into a powder. When combined with liquid, tapioca starch makes a gooey paste. To see this in action, have kids add water, a little bit at a time, to the tapioca starch in the bowl, stirring with a spoon until it’s well combined and turns into a pudding-like gel. Explain to kids that when the tapioca starch in this recipe combines with the water in the milk and eggs, it turns into a similar gel. As the mixture heats up in the oven, that gel traps steam inside the rolls, causing them to puff and rise.
Explain to kids that ground tapioca powder can also be formed into little balls called “tapioca pearls.” (If you have any on hand, have kids observe them as well.) When cooked, tapioca pearls become soft and chewy, but keep their round shape. Kids may have seen these pearls before in dishes like tapioca pudding or bubble tea. Bubble tea, or boba, originated in Taiwan, but has become popular throughout Asia, North America, and Europe. To see how one bubble tea shop makes their tapioca pearls from scratch, share this video with kids.
DIY Caramel Apples
Caramel apples are a classic autumn treat. Now, kids can make their own caramel apples with this kid-tested, foolproof recipe from our just-published The Complete DIY Cookbook for Young Chefs. For an extracrunchy treat, add ½ cup of chopped nuts or shredded coconut on a plate in an even layer. Roll the caramel-coated apples in the topping before placing them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
[GET THE RECIPE]
What You’ll Need
1 (11‑ounce) bag soft caramel candies (about 40 candies)
Vegetable oil spray
4 medium or 6 small Granny Smith apples, stems removed
¼ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
4-6 popsicle sticks
Language Arts (Vocabulary Acquisition and Use):
After placing the caramel apples in the refrigerator, kids can play an anagram word game using the letters in the recipe title. Explain to kids that an anagram is the rearrangement of the letters of a word, name, phrase, or sentence into a new word or phrase. Ask kids: How many unique words can they make using the letters in Caramel Apples? If your young chef gets stuck, here are some hints:
Spiced Hot Chocolate
Warm up with a cup of sweet and (just a little) spicy hot chocolate. Our version adds a little bit of cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Kids start by making a batch of dry hot chocolate mix first, and then stir up individual mugs of cocoa.
What You’ll Need
1½ cups (4½ ounces) nonfat dry milk powder
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
¾ cup (2¼ ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
¾ cup (4½ ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces) milk (per serving)
Before starting this recipe, have your young chef measure all of the ingredients into individual bowls. (Remind them that chefs always prepare their ingredients before them start cooking!) Then, ask kids to order the ingredients from least to greatest, using the volume measurements, not the weight. (Hint: There may be some ties!) If they get stuck, suggest that they take a look at the sizes of the measuring spoons and cups they used to measure each ingredient.
Ordered from least to greatest:
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper and ⅛ teaspoon salt (It’s a tie!)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (It’s a tie!)
- ¾ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder and ¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips (It’s a tie!)
- 1 cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar and 1 cup milk (It’s a tie!)
- 1½ cups nonfat dry milk powder
Take It Further
Social Studies (World Cultures):
As kids enjoy their hot chocolate, they can learn about the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos, which translates from Spanish to Day of the Dead. Día de los Muertos is not the same as Halloween, although it takes place around the same time: November 1 to November 2. It originated thousands of years ago with the Aztec, Toltec, and Nahua people. Mourning the dead was considered disrespectful, and death was seen as a new phase in life and during Día de los Muertos, the souls of the dead briefly returned to Earth. Today, it’s a celebration meant to honor and show love and respect for deceased family members.
People in Mexico celebrate Día de los Muertos with special foods, such as pan de muerto (bread of the dead in English), sugar skulls, atole (a sweetened corn-based beverage), and hot chocolate. Depending on the region of Mexico where they take place, celebrations include parades, all-night vigils, and special visits to local cemeteries to visit and decorate the graves of loved ones.
To learn more about Día de los Muertos, kids can watch this video from PBS Learning Media, or read this story from National Geographic Kids. Use these conversation starters to spark discussion with your young chefs as they enjoy their hot chocolate.
- Did you know what Día de los Muertos was before talking about it today? What did you think it was about? What part of this holiday are you curious to learn more about?
- Día de los Muertos is all about honoring the dead. What are some ways you would honor people important to you who have passed away?
Green Beans with Lemon Dressing
With this simple recipe, kids can turn dinner into a small science experiment and learn about some of the culinary powers of salt! Kids will cook two batches of green beans: one in super-salty water and one in plain water. They’ll observe how quickly each batch cooks and then do a green bean taste test. Do the beans cooked in salty water look and taste different than the beans cooked in plain water? Combine both batches of beans, toss them with a simple lemon dressing, and your side dish is served!
What You’ll Need
2 quarts plus 2 quarts water, measured separately
8 ounces green beans plus 8 ounces green beans, measured separately, trimmed
¼ cup plus ⅛ teaspoon table salt, measured separately
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice, squeezed from ½ lemon
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
Science (Chemical Reactions; Planning and Carrying Out Investigations):
To turn this recipe into a science experiment, make the following modifications:
- Before beginning, have kids use masking tape and a marker to label opposite ends of the serving platter “Salted” and “Unsalted.”
- Cook the green beans in two separate batches. For the first batch: Bring 2 quarts water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add 8 ounces of green beans and cook for 10 minutes.
- Drain the green beans and place them in the ice bath until they’re no longer warm to the touch, about 1 minute. Transfer beans to the “Unsalted” side of the serving platter.
- Bring the remaining 2 quarts of water to a boil in the now-empty saucepan. Add the remaining 8 ounces of green beans and ¼ cup table salt. Cook these green beans for 6 minutes.
- Drain the green beans, place them in the ice batch until they’re no longer warm to the touch, about 1 minute. Transfer them to the “Salted” side of the serving platter.
- Invite the whole family for a taste test: First, have everyone observe the two types of green beans. Then, have everyone taste a few of each type of bean.
- Do the two batches of green beans look different? How so?
- Do they taste different? How so?
- Make the lemon dressing as described in the recipe. Drizzle the dressing over the beans on the serving platter. Use tongs to toss until well combined (mixing the unsalted and salted green beans together).
Kids will likely observe that the green beans cooked in saltwater stayed bright green and cooked in nearly half the time compared to the beans cooked in plain water. Plus, the saltwater beans tasted more seasoned and “green-beany” while the beans cooked in plain water tasted, well, plain in comparison.
Here’s how it works: As vegetables cook, they become more tender and easier to chew, partly because the glue that holds plant cells together (called pectin) gets weaker. Something else happens as green vegetables heat up—they start to lose their bright green color. And the longer they cook, the duller their color becomes (sad!).
Salt to the rescue! Adding all that salt to the cooking water is like pressing fast-forward on cooking the green beans. Salt helps weaken the pectin in green beans. This causes the green beans to become tender—and finish cooking—much more quickly. And less time in hot water means that these beans lose only a tiny bit of their bright green color. Plus, thanks to a process called diffusion, some of the salt makes its way inside each bean. This extra bit of salty seasoning helps bring out the flavor of the green beans.