ATK Kids

Kitchen Classroom: Week 36

Week 36 of resources to help kids learn in the kitchen—and make something delicious along the way.

Published Nov. 13, 2020.

Welcome to week 36 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 practice recipes that they can contribute to the Thanksgiving table (or any family meal): Easy Biscuits, which are perfect for young chefs ages 5 to 8 to bake, Pumpkin Pie made with kid-friendly homemade Pie Dough, and creamy Smashed Potatoes (no cutting or peeling required!). Along the way, kids can practice using a thermometer and recording data, learn how temperature affects butter and gelatin, participate in a rhyming words challenge, and test the whole family’s pie trivia knowledge with our new favorite game: Two Truths and a Pie! 

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 November 16th through 22nd.

From left: Easy Biscuits, Pie Dough

Easy Biscuits

Light, fluffy biscuits make a delicious side with a family meal (did somebody say Thanksgiving?). This recipe is simple enough for young chefs ages 5 to 8 to bake (with a little adult help getting the biscuits in and out of the oven). To make these biscuits a little fancier, kids can serve them with some fun Flavored Butters.

What You’ll Need
3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1¼ teaspoons salt
2 cups (16 ounces) heavy cream
Vegetable oil spray

Learning Moment
Math (Measurement & Data):
In step 3 of this recipe, kids will heat the milk until it registers between 95 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer. This is sometimes referred to in recipes as heating to body temperature. Remind kids that temperature is how hot or cold something is. Ask kids what they think normal body temperature is. (Answer: The normal temperature range found in humans is usually between 97 and 99 degrees.) When using body temperature as a measurement in recipes, it means something might feel slightly warm to the touch, but not hot. 

Ask kids what tool they would use to measure exactly how hot or cold something is? (Answer: a thermometer) Most thermometers have a probe on one end (usually a skinny part with metal on the tip), and a way to read numbers on the other end (sometimes on a number line or dial, and sometimes on a digital display). Higher numbers mean something is hotter, and lower numbers mean something is colder. In the United States, the Fahrenheit scale is most often used to measure temperature, and in other parts of the world, the Celsius scale is used. 

To practice using a thermometer, challenge kids to take the temperature of other cold, warm, and hot things in the kitchen. Here are some ideas:

  • Cold, lukewarm, and hot running water from the faucet
  • Milk or juice straight from the refrigerator
  • Water with ice cubes in it
  • Ice cream or frozen yogurt in the freezer
  • Hot chocolate
  • Soup (if it’s soup from a can, check out the temperature before it’s heated, right when you serve it, and after it’s cooled for a few minutes)

Just make sure to clean your thermometer probe in between each use—no one wants ice cream in their orange juice!

Pie Dough

All great pies—including our Pumpkin Pie, below—begin with a great pie crust. Our all-butter version comes together in the food processor, is a cinch to roll out and shape, and bakes up crisp and flaky. You can make this dough up to 2 days ahead, making it perfect for Thanksgiving prep. When kids are ready to shape and blind bake their pies, they can follow the steps and tips in our How to Use Pie Dough guide. As kids shape their pie shell, be sure to have them save their pie dough scraps to use in the learning moment, below.

What You’ll Need
1½ cups (7½ ounces) all-­purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and chilled
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) ice water

Learning Moment
Physical Science (Structure and Properties of Matter):
Many pie dough recipes, including this one, call for using chilled butter and ice water. Ask kids: Why do you think we need to use these cold ingredients when we’re making pie dough? What happens to butter as it warms up? 

After shaping their pie shell, have kids squish the pie dough scraps (which are warmer because they’ve been at room temperature for a while) into a ball. Then, they should press the ball into a disk, and use a rolling pin to try and roll out the room-temperature dough. Ask kids to observe what the pie dough looks like and then take a peek at the rolled-out pie dough that’s chilling in the fridge. What do they notice? Do the two doughs look different? How did this dough feel to roll out versus the first time with the colder dough? Is the warmer dough greasy at all?

Explain to kids that using chilled butter and ice water (around 35 degrees) in pie dough helps make sure the dough is filled with small pieces of butter. When the dough bakes in the hot oven, the water in those bits of butter turns to steam and escapes the dough, leaving behind teeny tiny air pockets. Those little air pockets are what give our pie dough its flaky texture. 

If the dough—and the butter—are too warm when you are rolling it out, the butter softens and spreads. You won’t get those little pockets of butter, which means your pie crust won’t be flaky.

Take It Further
Trivia (General Knowledge):
Here’s a fun guessing game that the whole family can play this Thanksgiving: Two Truths and a Pie! In each of the questions below, your job is to figure out which of the pies isn’t real. Maybe you’ll be inspired to try a new pie, just like the main character, Peyton, in our new picture book Peyton Picks the Perfect Pie

  1. Which of these is NOT a real pie?
  • Sweet potato pie
  • Pineapple upside-down pie
  • Chess pie
  1. Which of these is NOT a real pie?
  • Snozzberry pie
  • Banoffee pie
  • Key lime pie
  1. Which of these is NOT a real pie?
  • Whoopie pie
  • Shoofly pie
  • Mince pie
  1. Which of these is NOT a real pie?
  • Mississippi mud pie
  • Marionberry pie
  • Boston cream pie
  1. Which of these is NOT a real type of pie?
  • Hand pie
  • Ear pie
  • Pot pie

Answer Key:

  1. Pineapple upside-down pie is NOT a real pie (though you can enjoy pineapple upside-down cake). Sweet potato pie is similar to pumpkin pie, and chess pie is a name for a single-crust custard pie that was brought to the United States by English settlers in the 1600s.
  2. Snozzberry pie is NOT a real pie (imaginary snozzberries were featured in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). Banoffee pie is filled with bananas and caramel and topped with whipped cream. Key lime pie is traditionally made with small, fragrant Florida Key limes.
  3. Whoopie pie is NOT a real pie (whoopie pies are a different dessert, made of two cakey cookies and a cream filling). Shoofly pie, part of Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine, features a molasses filling and a crumble top. Mince pies, also called “mincemeat” pies, are filled with a sweet mixture of dried fruit and nuts and are popular in England, especially around the holidays. 
  4. Boston cream pie is NOT a pie—it’s a layer cake filled with cream and topped with chocolate. Marionberries are real berries! They are a variety of blackberries cultivated in Oregon and they make a delicious sweet-tart pie filling. And there’s no dirt in a Mississippi mud pie, just layers of chocolate!
  5. Ear pies might sound good, but they’re NOT a real type of pie. Hand pies are small pockets of dough or pastry surrounding a sweet or savory filling. They’re perfect for eating on-the-go. Pot pies have a savory filling (often chicken) and usually only have a crust on the top.
From left: Pumpkin Pie, Smashed Potatoes

Pumpkin Pie

This Thanksgiving staple is “easy as pie” for kids to make! Our version uses a secret ingredient to make the filling smooth and sliceable without baking it. This recipe can be made with our recipe for homemade Pie Dough (see above), or with store-bought dough. The pie shell needs to be shaped, blind-baked, and cooled before filling; see our How To Use Pie Dough guide for step-by-step instructions for that process. If you’d like to make this pie ahead for Thanksgiving, it can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or wrapped in plastic wrap and foil after chilling and frozen for up to 2 weeks. If frozen, unwrap pie and thaw at room temperature for 5 hours before serving.

What You’ll Need
1 recipe Pie Dough, rolled, shaped, blind-baked, and cooled
1 cup (8 ounces) heavy cream
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1 (15-ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin puree, opened
¾ cup (5¼ ounces) sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
Vegetable oil spray

Learning Moment
Physical Science (Structure and Properties of Matter):
As you prepare the ingredients for this recipe, ask kids: Have you used gelatin in other recipes before? (Hint: Have they ever made Jell-o? That’s made with gelatin!) What do kids think the gelatin will do in this pumpkin pie filling? Before mixing it with the cream in step 1, have kids observe the gelatin powder. What does it look like and feel like? Ask kids to make a prediction: How do they think the gelatin might change after being mixed with the cream in step 1 and microwaved in step 2?

As the filling cools in step 5, discuss what kids observed. How did the gelatin change when it was added to the cream and heated? Explain to kids that many pumpkin pie recipes bake the filling to get it to thicken and set, but not this one! It thickens thanks to the power of gelatin. Gelatin is a kind of protein. It’s made up of long, thin molecules. When gelatin is mixed with a hot liquid, its molecules are loose and flexible and they move around a lot—the liquid stays liquid. But when the temperature gets colder, the gelatin molecules slow down and start to get tangled, kind of like headphones or earbuds when they’re in your pocket. Eventually, they get so tangled that they trap the liquid inside. The liquid can’t move around or flow: It becomes a solid. That’s why the pie is chilled in the fridge in step 6; as the temperature of the pie filling drops, the filling becomes more and more solid, until it’s easy to slice into neat wedges for serving.

To see how temperature affects gelatin, kids can do a simple science experiment while the pie chills:

  • Add 1 teaspoon gelatin to each of two small bowls. 
  • To the first bowl, add ¼ cup ice water. To the second bowl, add ¼ cup hot tap water. 
  • Stir each mixture together with a spoon and observe what each mixture looks like. 
  • Place bowls in refrigerator and chill for 20 minutes. 
  • Observe the mixtures again: How have they changed? Do they look the same or different?

When we conducted this experiment in the Recipe Lab, we saw that the mixture made with hot water turned clear and became solid after chilling, and the mixture made with ice water was opaque and remained soft and liquidy after chilling. When the gelatin was mixed with hot water, it dissolved completely and then slowly turned from a liquid to a solid in the refrigerator.  The gelatin couldn’t dissolve in the ice water, so it did not turn clear, and it couldn’t form that tangle of proteins that trapped the liquid inside when its temperature dropped below 50 degrees. So, to get gelatin to gel, heat it up before chilling it down.

Smashed Potatoes

These ultracreamy potatoes are all the best parts of mashed potatoes, but without any cutting or peeling! The addition of cream cheese and chives take this simple side dish to the next level of flavor. While the potatoes are cooking, kids can try to beat the clock in a rhyming words challenge.  

What You’ll Need
¼ cup cream cheese
2 pounds small red potatoes
1 teaspoon plus ½ teaspoon salt, measured separately
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
⅛ teaspoon pepper

Learning Moment
English Language Arts (Rhyming)
Kids can use keywords from this recipe to practice their rhyming skills. While the potatoes are boiling in step 3, challenge kids to come up with rhymes for the following words:

  • SMASH (Examples: mash, crash, bash)
  • CREAM (Examples: scream, dream, beam)
  • CHEESE (Examples: breeze, fleas, wheeze)
  • SALT (Examples: malt, halt, fault)

Ask kids what other words from this recipe they can think of rhymes for (Examples: bay, leaf, spoon, boil). For an extra challenge, set a timer for 1 minute for each word and see who can come up with the most rhymes the fastest!

The December edition of the Young Chefs’ Club celebrates one of America’s most popular foods: PIZZA! With recipes from Thin-Crust Pizza to Tear-and-Share Pepperoni Pizza Rolls to French Bread Pizza and even Pizza Art (yes, Pizza Art!) there’s something for every pizza lover out there. Learn more about the science of pizza dough in a “restful” experiment and play the pizza-party classic Pin the Topping on the Pizza! If you’d like to order the Young Chefs’ Club for the budding cook this holiday season, place your order by November 30th in order to receive your first box in December.  
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