It’s Scorching Out… Let’s Solar Bake!

It’s a toasty 101 degrees here in Baltimore today. Pretty uncomfortable… but at least I get to finally try solar baking!

I was reminded about solar baking a few weeks ago when listening to a Kojo Nnamdi show. Here’s a link to the show if you want to listen yourself.

The show discussed American diplomat Patricia McArdle’s experience in Afghanistan, and how useful solar ovens can be for that country and many other third world countries.

Firewood is still a major source of cooking fuel in many countries, resulting in massive deforestation and requiring a lot of labor to gather enough fuel. Solar ovens are a great source of renewable energy, and can free up the time of many woman and children who no longer have to collect firewood and stand over a hot fire to reheat food.

Solar Cookers International is the best place to go for recipes, designs, and other fun facts.

Of course, solar oven baking doesn’t just have to be about using the best source of renewable energy we’ve got (the sun!) It’s also a fun science experiment, and a great way to cook food while not having to turn on your oven in this hot hot summer heat.

My favorite part in Patricia McArdle’s interview was when she was demonstrating her first solar cooker at a village in Afghanistan, and someone asked where they could get a reflective surface like the aluminum foil Patricia had borrowed from the army commissary.One of the Afghani men whipped out his cigarettes and pulled of the foil wrapper inside. Talk about DIY!

There are many different models of solar oven, from large parabolic cookers to simple cardboard box models. The model I used is the simple windshield shade model.

I’m attempting to cook a loaf of french bread as we speak!

Sadly, I’ve kind of got a feeling it won’t get hot enough. I forgot to cover the roasting pan with clear plastic to hold in the heat, and the angle of my foil reflector isn’t quite right. Sigh.

This bootleg method might work for simple dehydration or making crackers or something, but I think I’ve got to do a lot more troubleshooting. We’ll see!

The bread recipe I got from Solar Cookers International recommended that I cook the bread for 2-3 hours. I let the pan pre-heat in the bed of my truck from 9 to 11:30, then put in the dough. It’s partly cloudy today so I’m leaving in the bread for the maximum amount of time.

I’ll check it around 3 p.m. and let you all know how it turns out!

Here’s the dough when I put it in:

4 p.m. update: total FAIL!

I had a feeling after I reviewed the Solar Cooker website that my oven wouldn’t get hot enough. It didn’t. The outer layer of the dough was dried out, and the whole thing was still completely gooey. Booo.

At least the chickens and ducks can eat the dough mess so it won’t be a total waste. Oh well!