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ATK Kids

Kitchen Classroom: Week 41

Week 41 of resources to help kids learn in the kitchen—and make something delicious along the way.
By Published Dec. 18, 2020

Welcome to week 41 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. 


This holiday season, America's Test Kitchen Kids is asking kids to bake cookies to send to whoever they think needs a little joy in their life. Adults can take a picture and tag @testkitchenkids on Instagram with the hashtag #CookiesFromKids to participate in this sweet campaign, and we'll donate $1 for every photo posted in the month of December.   
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This week, kids will learn all about popcorn shapes as they make a batch of Caramel Popcorn from our latest book, The Complete DIY Cookbook for Young Chefs; explore primary and secondary colors while decorating Glazed Sugar Cookies; and participate in two activities from our Winter Break Challenge: a Pack It Up Design Challenge, where kids will construct packaging to protect a delicate potato chip from a fall, and Edible Spheres, where kids will turn flavorful liquid ingredients into solid spheres using the power of gelatin. Be sure to check out the rest of the Winter Break Challenge for more daily activities to engage kids while they are off from school.

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 December 21st through 27th.

From left: Caramel Popcorn, Glazed Sugar Cookies

Caramel Popcorn

Kids can make this homemade version of Cracker Jack from our new cookbook, The Complete DIY Cookbook for Young Chefs, by making a simple (and safe!) caramel sauce on the stovetop, pouring it over plain popcorn, and baking it in the oven. The sweet-salty popcorn is great for snacking or to package up to give away as holiday gifts. As they prepare their ingredients, kids will learn about the many shapes of popcorn, and categorize and sort their popped kernels based on what they observe. Make sure to use plain popcorn in this recipe, not popcorn with butter flavoring.

What You’ll Need
Vegetable oil spray
7 cups popped plain popcorn
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup dark corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup salted peanuts (optional)

Learning Moment
Math (Identifying and Classifying Shapes):
Before your young chef gets started making their caramel popcorn, tell them that there are two main types of popcorn: butterfly (also called snowflake) and mushroom. Most of the popcorn you get at the grocery store or movie theater is butterfly popcorn. Butterfly popcorn looks like it has little “wings” popping out of it, while mushroom popcorn looks like a rounded mushroom cap. Ask your young chef to look at their popcorn. Is it mushroom popcorn or butterfly popcorn? 

If you have butterfly popcorn, tell your young chef that the popcorn industry categorizes popped kernels of this kind of popcorn into three basic shapes based on the directions the wings pop in: Unilateral pieces of popcorn expand in only one direction (“uni” means “one”); bilateral pieces of popcorn expand in two directions (“bi” means “two”); and multilateral pieces of popcorn expand in three or more directions (“multi” means “many”).

Unilateral pieces are the most prized by popcorn makers, as they have the crunchiest texture. Ask your young chef to sort their popcorn pieces into separate piles of unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral pieces. Then, estimate how many pieces there are of each. Is there about an equal amount of each shape? Are there more unilateral pieces than bilateral and multilateral pieces, or fewer? Your young chef can try a piece or two of each shape and determine if they think the unilateral pieces are crunchier.

Glazed Sugar Cookies

The dough for these classic cookies is extra easy for kids to roll out and cut into shapes thanks to how it’s mixed in the food processor (see “Food For Thought” at the bottom of the recipe page for more on that). After their cookies are baked, kids can explore the wide world of color mixing to decorate their cookies with different hues of glaze. Sprinkling the glazed cookies with sprinkles or sanding sugar while the glaze is still wet makes them extra festive and perfect for gifting! Make sure your butter is very cold before adding it to the food processor in step 3.

What You’ll Need
For the Cookies:
1½ cups (7½ ounces) all-purpose flour
⅛ teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup (3½ ounces) sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and chilled

For the Glaze:
1⅓ cups (5⅓ ounces) confectioners' (powdered) sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon cream cheese, softened
1-2 drops food coloring (optional)
Sprinkles or sanding sugar (optional)

Learning Moment
Visual Art (Color):
Kids can use food coloring to turn the white glaze in this recipe into different colors. Divide the glaze into different small bowls, and experiment with adding drops of food coloring to each one and mixing it in to create different colors. Ask kids if they can name the three primary colors: yellow, red, and blue. These colors cannot be made from other colors. Secondary colors are made by mixing two primary colors together. Ask kids if they know (or can figure out by experimenting with food coloring) what secondary colors they can make from different combinations of the primary colors:

  • Yellow + Red = Orange
  • Red + Blue = Purple
  • Blue + Yellow = Green

For a fun explanation of primary and secondary colors, check out this video!

From left: Design Challenge: Pack It Up, Edible Spheres

Design Challenge: Pack It Up

In this hands-on activity, part of our Winter Break Challenge, kids will create a package design that will protect the tasty yet fragile snacks we love to eat, such as chips and crackers. We like using Pringles potato crisps in this activity because they are always the same shape and size. That way, you can revise and test your package design multiple times and the object inside will always be the same. You can substitute another small, fragile chip or cracker here: Potato chips, water crackers, or saltines are all good options.

What You’ll Need
Pringles potato crisps, saltines, water crackers, or other thin, fragile chips or crackers
Ruler or tape measure
Masking or painter’s tape
Pencil or pen
Packaging materials (see the activity for ideas; leftover holiday wrapping/gift packaging materials work especially well!)

Learning Moment 
Physical Science (Force); Engineering & Design:
This activity challenges kids to design a package that will protect a single potato chip or cracker from breaking during a fall. The catch? Kids need to keep the package under a certain size and design a way to put the chip or cracker into the design and take it out. Once kids master protective packaging, encourage them to try out a different design like waterproof packaging or a cooler (see “Food For Thought” at the bottom of the activity page for more). 

Take it Further
Physical Science (Force):
Kids’ designs for this challenge will protect a delicate chip or cracker from the impact it experiences after falling. As kids: Why do things fall when we throw or drop them? Share with kids that gravity is the invisible force that pulls objects towards the earth. To learn more about gravity, share this video with kids.

Edible Spheres

In this activity, part of our Winter Break Challenge, kids will turn a liquid into a solid through a process called spherification. Edible spheres are a fun way to add color and texture to anything from rice to nachos! Any water-based flavorful liquid, such as fruit juice, lemonade, or hot sauce will work for this activity (see our Make It Your Way Challenge: Edible Spheres for more ideas). If your flavorful liquid is thick, like chocolate syrup or coconut milk, or salty, like soy sauce or hot sauce, first mix ¼ cup of the flavorful liquid with ¼ cup of water. Then, measure from that mixture.

What You’ll Need
2 cups vegetable oil
2 tablespoons plus ¼ cup flavorful liquid, measured separately
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
6 cups ice

Learning Moment
Science (States of Matter):
Share with kids that spherification is a technique that chefs use to turn a liquid ingredient into a solid, edible sphere. Ask kids if they can identify the three states of matter. (Answer: solid, liquid, and gas.) Can they think of any other cooking techniques where an ingredient changes its state? (Examples: In steaming and boiling, water changes from a liquid to a gas; In freezing, a liquid changes into a solid; In melting, a solid changes into a liquid).

Spherification is one form of molecular gastronomy, a type of cooking that applies principles of science to food to transform it and present it in new ways. To see kids tasting some examples of foods made with molecular gastronomy techniques, kids can watch this video.

On sale throughout the month of December, the January edition of the Young Chefs’ Club is an introduction to the wide world of dumplings. Kids will travel to China while making Guotie (Pot Stickers), visit Argentina and Mexico while making sweet and savory empanadas, and visit Poland (by way of Pittsburgh) while making potato and cheddar pierogi. Kids can discover dumplings from around the world in our fold-out poster and use them to inspire their own miniature, decoratable dumpling sculptures.  
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Catching up on Kitchen Classroom? Find previous weeks using the links below: