The other day we had guests come to dinner. I decided to bake pizza for reasons I won’t try to explain, but WHAT WAS I THINKING? With weather hovering between 95° and 100° all week and the oven set at 550°, our evaporative cooler was struggling, to say the least.
Today it’s only 90°–hot enough. I’m baking again, but this time I got smart and remembered to pull my Sun Oven out of the garage.
A couple of years ago my husband and I agreed to invest in a solar baking unit, not only for days such as this, but as a back-up emergency resource. We did our research–there are a lot of options available–and decided on this one. If I remember correctly, we paid about $160 for it, including a set of black enamel pots and a water purifying tester to use with it. I don’t get it out often, but every time I do I’m reminded of what an excellent decision it was!Set up is a breeze. I picked it up out of the box, walked it out to the back lawn and opened it up facing the sun.
In order to maximize the sun’s reflection on the food, you have to minimize its shadow. Do this by centering the oven in it’s own shadow, using the stabilizing leg, if necessary, to tilt it to its optimal position.
By the time I had walked back into the house for the baking dish and unwrapped a stick of butter I should have used a pot holder. (By the way, it doesn’t have to be a hot day for the temperature to rise enough to bake–as long as the sun is shining there is enough heat–even on a freezing winter day. On the flip side, even on a warm day you won’t be able to cook if it’s cloudy and overcast.)I quickly wiped a few smudges and dust off the the glass and reflectors and went back inside to throw the recipe together.
Here it is:
- 2 cups flour
- 2 cups milk
- ½ cup butter or margarine
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 Tbsp. baking powder
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 quart bottled, fresh, or frozen fruit (cherries, peaches, etc.)
Melt butter in dripper pan in oven while you mix together all other ingredients (including juice from the fruit.) Pour batter over melted butter. Don’t stir! Bake at 350° for 1 hour. Serve warm or cold topped with whipped cream or ice cream. Refrigerate leftovers.
Stir in the fruit and you’re ready for the oven.In the amount of time it took to mix up the batter the sun had moved enough that it was time to re-focus the oven. It’s a good idea to redirect it every 15 to 30 minutes while you’re baking to maximize the heat.
With a solar oven food stays moist and it’s nearly impossible to burn–so I wasn’t worried that the thermometer was only up to 300° when the butter was melted and the batter was prepared.
This time I opened the glass oven door using a potholder and poured the batter over the butter. I covered it with a lid, then went inside and set the timer in my kitchen for one hour.
About halfway through the baking it was time to refocus the reflectors, but you can see that the temperature was still climbing–nearly 350° by now.
When the timer went off, my cobbler was still a little undercooked, so I left it for a while longer. I didn’t bother timing it, but when I got around to checking again, it looked about perfect. Immediately after I took it out, I folded the reflectors and carried the oven into the house. It was warm, but there’s no need to wait for it to cool before you can handle it. What a perfect way to enjoy cooking in the summertime without heating the whole house! Cooking outdoors has never been easier. You can take a solar oven to the beach, or for a picnic in the mountains. So, I guess you can have your cake and keep cool too!