Muffin Magic

You’ve probably heard the saying, “The best gifts come from the heart, not the store.” We couldn’t agree more. Our December Kitchen Academy kit, “The Gift of Food,” is full of ideas for delicious, edible gifts kids can make all by themselves, from granola and chocolate-dipped pretzels to flavored sugars and salts.

But first, your Little Sous will start by learning how to make muffins using an all-purpose recipe that can be customized with his or her favorite mix-ins, from blueberries to chocolate chips.

Here are a few teachable tips from this lesson:

Rise and shine!
Muffins are a type of “quick bread,” which is any bread made with a “leavener,” such as baking powder or baking soda, that can be mixed and baked right away. This means you can make a pan of muffins first thing in the morning and eat them for breakfast, or bake them the day before and have them waiting for you when you wake up!

Microwave melting
It’s easy to melt butter in the microwave, but it can also be messy if you heat it for too long. Because microwaves heat the butter from the inside out, large chunks of butter can splatter when the water inside (yes, butter contains lots of water!) gets hot. It’s better to cut the butter into smaller pieces, which helps them melt more quickly and evenly. If you stop microwaving the butter just before all of the pieces have melted, you can stir it with a spoon until everything has melted.

Included in the “Gift of Food” box is a set of colorful muffin liners. They’re made from silicone, which is a flexible, oven-safe material used in many cooking tools. Although they seem nonstick, you should always spray silicone muffin liners with nonstick cooking spray before using them.

Why do muffins rise?
As muffins bake, you can watch the batter rise up above the rim of the pan, forming a dome shape on top. Why does this happen? It’s because of a chemical reaction that occurs by mixing a “leavener” (like baking soda or baking powder) with the milk and eggs in the batter. During baking, this reaction creates tiny carbon dioxide bubbles, which get trapped in the proteins and starches found in the eggs and flour, and makes the batter expand, creating a tender, fluffy muffin.

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