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 paired with suggestions for how to bring learning to life in the kitchen. Visit americastestkitchen.com for additional recipes.
This week, kids can learn all about berries while baking up a summery Blueberry Cobbler, transform almonds and rice into creamy Horchata, make Rice Noodle Bowls with Peanut Sauce courtesy of a recipe designed for young chefs ages 5 to 8.
This cobbler is an easy fruit dessert for young chefs to bake, featuring a stir-together blueberry filling topped with buttery biscuits. It’s the perfect way to celebrate the peak-season berries of late summer!
What You’ll Need
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1½ teaspoons grated lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon juice, zested and squeezed from 1 lemon, measured separately
¾ cup (5¼ ounces) sugar
6 cups (30 ounces) blueberries
1½ cups (7½ ounces) all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
¾ cup (6 ounces) buttermilk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil spray
For the filling: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
In large bowl, use rubber spatula to stir together cornstarch, lemon zest, pinch salt, and ¾ cup sugar. Add blueberries and lemon juice and gently toss to coat.
Use rubber spatula to scrape mixture into 8-inch square baking dish. Place baking dish on parchment-lined baking sheet. Place baking sheet in oven. Bake until filling is hot and starting to bubble around edges, about 25 minutes.
For the biscuit topping: While filling bakes, in second large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, ½ teaspoon salt, and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. In liquid measuring cup, use fork to stir buttermilk and melted butter until butter forms small clumps.
When filling is ready, use oven mitts to remove baking sheet from oven (ask an adult for help). Place baking sheet on cooling rack. Increase oven temperature to 475 degrees and let filling cool for 10 minutes.
Add buttermilk mixture to bowl with flour mixture. Use clean rubber spatula to stir until just combined.
Spray inside of ¼-cup dry measuring cup with vegetable oil spray. Use greased measuring cup to scoop batter and use rubber spatula to scrape off extra batter. Drop scoops of dough evenly onto warm berry filling to make 9 biscuits.
Use oven mitts to return baking dish (still on baking sheet) to oven. Bake until biscuits are golden brown and toothpick inserted in center of 1 biscuit comes out clean, 12 to 14 minutes.
Use oven mitts to remove baking sheet from oven (ask an adult for help). Place baking sheet on cooling rack. Let cobbler cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.
If your family participated in Week 11 of Kitchen Classroom and baked Blueberry Muffins, ask kids if they remember observing blueberries, and what they found inside of them. If you didn’t do that activity together, then have kids set a few extra blueberries aside before they start cooking this recipe. While the cobbler is baking and cooling in steps 8 and 9, ask kids to observe the extra blueberries: What do they notice about their outsides? Then, have kids cut the berries in half across their equator (or do this for them if they’re not quite ready to use a knife) and observe the insides. Can they find any blueberry seeds?
Ask kids if they can remember or give their best guess for what the definition of a “berry” is. Tell or remind kids that in our everyday conversations, “berries” are small fruits that grow on a bush. But, if you ask a plant scientist “What’s a berry?” they will give you a different answer: A berry is a fruit that grows from one flower and usually contains several seeds inside.
Blueberries fit this scientific definition (whew!), so scientists call them “true berries.” But raspberries and strawberries? Not berries. A single raspberry is actually made up of lots of tiny, round fruits, each with its own seed inside. Strawberries also contain many teeny, individual fruits, each with their own yellow seed on the outside. If you have any strawberries or raspberries on hand, have kids examine those up close, too.
With this definition in mind (fruits that grow from one flower, have a skin on the outside, and more than one seed on the inside), challenge kids to do a scavenger hunt of your refrigerator, the produce section at the grocery store, or your local farmers’ market to see how many other “true berries” they can find. Some fruits that meet this definition are: blueberries, cranberries, bananas, kiwis, grapes, gooseberries, currants, persimmons, guava, citrus (like lemons, limes, and oranges) and melons (like cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon). Some fruits that we often think of as vegetables (because we use them in savory recipes) are also berries, including avocados, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, summer squash (like zucchini or yellow squash), and winter squash (like acorn squash, butternut squash, or pumpkins).
Sweet, creamy horchata is a refreshing beverage, ideal for sipping on a hot summer day. Kids will learn about the science of osmosis as they soak rice and almonds in water before blending and draining their horchata, and they’ll take a trip through time to learn more about the long history of this popular drink. A little evaporated milk to finish things off makes this horchata extra creamy. Just pour over ice and don’t forget an extra sprinkle of cinnamon!
What You’ll Need
4½ cups (36 ounces) water
1¼ cups (6¼ ounces) blanched whole almonds
½ cup (3½ ounces) sugar
1/3 cup long-grain white rice
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (9 ounces) evaporated milk
In large bowl, combine water, almonds, sugar, rice, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours.
When mixture is ready, set fine-mesh strainer over second large bowl. Line strainer with triple layer of cheesecloth that overhangs edges; set aside.
Carefully pour almond mixture into blender. Place lid on top of blender and hold lid firmly in place with folded dish towel. Turn on blender and process until smooth, 30 to 60 seconds.
Carefully pour blended almond mixture into cheesecloth-lined fine-mesh strainer set over bowl. Let mixture drain completely, about 5 minutes.
Pull edges of cheesecloth together to form pouch and twist top of cheesecloth to close tightly. Gently squeeze pouch over strainer to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids and cheesecloth.
Pour strained almond liquid into pitcher. Add evaporated milk to pitcher and use rubber spatula to stir until well combined.
To serve, place ice in glasses. Pour horchata over ice. Serve. (Horchata can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
Science (Properties of Matter)
The first step in making horchata is to soak almonds and rice in water for 12 to 24 hours. (Set aside a few grains of rice and a few almonds before beginning this recipe.) Challenge kids to think of why we would soak these ingredients for such a long time. Ask them what happens when other objects are submerged in water for a long period of time—how do they change? Have them make a prediction about how they think the rice and almonds might change after their overnight soak.
Once the rice and almonds are finished soaking set aside a few grains of soaked rice and a few soaked almonds before proceeding with the recipe. While kids are sipping their horchata, have them examine the dry rice and almonds and the soaked rice and almonds. (If you have a magnifying glass, this is a great place to use it!) Ask kids what they notice about the unsoaked versus soaked ingredients:
How did soaking overnight change these ingredients?
Do they look different? Do they feel different/have a different texture?
Explain that almonds and rice are porous, which means they are covered in tiny holes—so tiny we can’t see them without a microscope, but they are big enough for liquids, such as water, to pass through. When the almonds and rice are submerged in water, water moves from outside the almonds and rice (where there’s lots of it) to inside the almonds and rice (where there’s less of it). This process is called osmosis. The water is absorbed by starch inside the rice and almonds (kind of like how a sponge absorbs water), making them softer and easier to blend.
Take It Further
Social Studies (Food History)
Horchata is one kind of agua fresca, which means “fresh water” in Spanish. Aguas frescas are a variety of drinks made by combining fruits, grains, seeds, or flowers with sugar and water. They are enjoyed all over Mexico and Latin America, where you might see big, beehive-shaped glass jars (called vitroleros) filled with different colorful aguas frescas. They’re a refreshing way to beat the heat and there are lots of ways to make them that use many different ingredients and flavors.
Horchata was first made with a different grain—barley—over 2,000 years ago, in Ancient Rome. This ancient recipe made its way east through Europe and North Africa, and was adapted to use many different types of grains and nuts. It wasn’t until the 1500s that it was made in Mexico, where it became extremely popular!
Rice Noodle Bowls with Peanut Sauce
Let your young chef help prepare dinner using this recipe from My First Cookbook, designed especially for kids ages 5 to 8. They can top their rice noodle bowls with crushed peanuts, torn basil, and/or shredded carrots to add even more texture and flavor to this vegetarian dish.
What You’ll Need
12 ounces (¼-inch-wide) rice noodles
1½ cups frozen edamame
½ cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons lime juice, squeezed from 2 limes
1 tablespoon honey
¼ cup hot water, plus extra for cooking noodles
2 carrots, peeled and shredded (about 1 cup)
1/3 cup dry-roasted peanuts, chopped
8 fresh Thai basil or sweet Italian basil leaves, torn into pieces
Fill large saucepan halfway with water. Bring to boil over high heat. Carefully add noodles and edamame and stir with wooden spoon to combine. Return to boil and cook for 3 minutes. This step requires adult help!
Turn off heat. Stir to separate noodles and let sit until tender, about 10 minutes.
While noodles and edamame sit, in large bowl, whisk peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, and honey until smooth, about 1 minute. Whisk in ¼ cup hot water until fully combined.
When noodles and edamame are ready, drain noodles and edamame in colander in sink. Rinse with hot water and drain well. This step requires adult help!
Add noodles and edamame to bowl with peanut sauce. Use tongs to toss noodles and edamame until evenly coated with sauce.
Divide noodles and edamame among serving bowls. Top each bowl with carrots, peanuts, and basil.
Social Studies (World Cultures)
Before cooking the recipe, tell your young chef that this recipe contains edamame. Ask them if they have heard of edamame and what they know about it. Tell kids that edamame are young soybeans, and that they contain lots of protein. Mature soybeans, which are used to make soy milk and tofu, are hard and dry, while edamame are green and soft. Edamame were first grown in China over 3,000 ago, and became popular throughout Asia, especially in Japan. In fact, the word edamame is Japanese for “beans on a branch.”
Ask kids to look at the edamame up close. What do they notice? The frozen edamame we call for in this recipe are beans which have already been shelled. Tell your young chef that edamame grow inside of a pod that we do not eat. Next time you are at the grocery store, see if you can find edamame that are still in the pod (you’ll often see these in the freezer section) and compare it to the edamame beans. Challenge your young chef to look in the pantry and refrigerator to see if they can find any other foods made from soybeans. (Examples include tofu, soy milk, soy sauce, tamari, miso, tempeh, and bean paste.)