Valentine's Day is full of surprises, from unexpected boxes of chocolate to handmade valentines sent by secret admirers. But the sweetest surprises of them all are often cooked up in the kitchen. This February 14th, teach your kids how to bake a Valentine's breakfast treat: a basket of pink strawberry muffins with a chocolate Kiss or other sweet hidden in the center.
Our two testers, Isabelle Smith-Bove, age 5, and her brother, Alexander, age 3, discovered that these were a satisfying way to say "I love you." They filled each muffin with a different surprise: a Kiss for Mom, a Hug for Dad and a spoonful of jam for their friend Tom. And before popping them in the oven, they managed to make one for each other. After all, the way to a sibling's heart is through his stomach.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. The chef can do this with a wooden spoon, a potato masher or a handheld electric mixer. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, and add the milk. Tip: Instead of cracking the eggs into the batter, have the chef crack them into a small bowl first. Remind him to whack them hard and pick out any shells.
Rinse the strawberries and cut off the greens with a plastic knife (a fun job for 3- to 5-year-olds who are accustomed to cutting play dough). Mash the berries with a potato masher or puree in a blender. Then stir the berries into the butter and milk mixture. Tip: For muffins with a more pronounced pink color, add a few drops of red liquid food coloring or dabs of paste coloring.
In a separate bowl, ask the chef to sift the flour, salt and baking powder. Stir well. Tip: If you are cooking with more than one child, let the kids take turns cranking the sifter. Also, be sure your baking powder is fresh and that all of it makes it into the bowl. Explain that this key ingredient makes the muffins rise.
Add the flour mixture to the berry mixture. Use a wooden spoon to stir until all the white disappears. Tip: For an excellent crumbly consistency, mix the batter just until everything is moist.
Line the muffin tin with paper liners. Drop the batter from a tablespoon to fill the cups halfway. Add a surprise: an unwrapped Kiss, Hug or 1/2 teaspoon of jam. Then spoon more batter to fill almost to the top. Bake until the muffins begin to brown and a toothpick inserted near the center (but not in the Kiss) comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Tip: While the muffins bake, consider making Valentine cards to go with them. Isabelle's said, 'Roses are red, violets are blue, here's a surprise, just for you!'
Remove the muffins from the tin and cool. Serve them warm in a basket lined with a red napkin or on plates with doilies. Makes 12 muffins. Happy Valentine's Day!