Tag Archives: solar cooking

Cause and Result – Solar Cake!

13 May

 Well what do you know! The cake I was waiting on when I was writing the previous post did bake and was devoured before I could say Jack Robinson!

 OK, I said Jack Robinson many times before the cake was ready, but once it was it didn’t last long.

 On Friday night I went to bed knowing that first thing Saturday morning I would be putting the solar oven together and making my first sun cooked dish ever. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to make…. I love slow cooked stews and pot roasts, but as a novice I am still a little weary of cooking meat in the oven, although it is done all over the world, and the internet is full of recipes to prove it.

Anyway, I woke up on Saturday, not very bright and not very early, at 0900, which is quite late for me, especially if I need to get an unknown dish ready to go….

Due to my dwindling pantry contents , I had no choice but to make a cake.

 I had one technical problem I hadn’t solved yet, and that was the question of the pot lid.

In a solar oven, while the foil reflects the heat and light of the sun, the pot  in needs to be black so that it can trap the heat, and not reflect it back to the foil like a white or steel colored pot would do. I do have an old black pot, but it doesn’t have a lid, so I usually use a lid from a white pot I have which is of a similar size.

This wouldn’t do today, so I had to improvise a lid out of the bottom of an adjustable baking pan.

 I think that this had some effect on the time it took for my cake to bake, but more on that later.

 

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Anyway, I made my batter, and chose a spot in the garden where shade falls latest in the day, and positioned my ‘cookit’ on the cart I had previously used for my seedlings, (Life has a way of working out like that. If I had made the oven earlier, I wouldn’t have been able to use this cart, which conveniently has wheels on it.) making sure the longest shadow it created was directly behind it. I wasn’t quite sure what angle to position the lower front flap. So I just let it do what came natural, and I think that also had an effect on the length of time it took for the cake to bake.

In the pdf from solar cooking.org, it says  it should take about double the time to cook any thing in the solar cooker, so I estimated, since this cake takes about 45-50 minutes in the oven, it would take at least 2 hours in the cookit, if not more.

I started it at 1050, and at about 1300 took a look to see how it was doing. There was condensation on the inside of the plastic bag in which the pot sits, effectively acting as a heat trap, and the pot was very hot to the touch, both good signs, but the cake was not done. I could see that something was happening, because it had bubbles on the top, so it was obviously rising. An hour later it peeped again (and when I say peep – I mean peep…just lift the lid slightly, peep quickly and close it all up again) it looked like nothing had changed. I am sorry that I didn’t touch the surface with my finger to see how it felt – if it was more viscous than it was when I first started baking it.

To pass the time, I decided a siesta was in order, and at about 1500, I woke up and went to see if I could have some cake with my coffee, and it turns out that I could!!

It had turned to a lovely golden brown, and was obviously ready (this time I did check with my finger.)

When I bake a cake in the oven, a thin crust forms on the top when it is ready, and the middle is higher than the edges. In this case, there was no crust at all, and it seemed to have risen evenly, except for the fact that the pot it was in had been sitting on a slant, so the cake came out slanted as well.

Did I get to eat it with my coffee? No, not quite. It got devoured by R and the Kids before the kettle had time to boil! (Yes, they did have lunch! It was just that good J)

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How To Make A Solar Oven

12 May

I have been thinking about solar cooking for a long time, ever since I found out about it.

Last week I finally found a piece of cardboard large enough to make a solar cooker according to these plans from solarcooking.org

So yesterday, after I had finally finished planting my garden, and had run out of plastic bags for a carpet I’m making (more on that to come) I decided it was time to make my Cookit. Solar cooking .org has a pretty detailed layout, both in metric and inches, though the inches are easier to go by in this case and your result will be more accurate (the grid under the layout plan is by inches).

Anyway, I don’t have inch rulers, so I had to calculate the measurements when not clearly stated in centimeters, which was a bit of a pain.

While measuring cutting and measuring again, I also had to contend with our local lion, which deemed the cardboard, the ruler, the exacto knife and everything else worthy of battle.

 

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I will not go into the whole process of making it – the instructions on solar cooking org are quite clear but I will offer a few tips.

1. make sure your cardboard is flat. Mine got warped from being outside in the dew and the sun for a few days, so I had to take time to flatten it first (if it’s warped, the sun won’t bounce of it in the right direction)

2. Unlike me, take time to glue the aluminum foil on properly. As I was making it, I realized that I was being a bit lax with it. If the foil isn’t glued on properly it will have a marked effect on how long the solar oven lasts.

3. Have wipes handy and close.

4. I don’t know why, but my foil, crinkled after I had glued it. I was fine when I left it yesterday afternoon, but when I came to check on it and put it into action this morning, the foil was a bit crinkly. I am sure this is not a good thing, and will have an effect on how well it reflects the sun and what direction it sends the rays, but the extent of the effect remains to be seen.

Another problem I had was finding a cooky bag big enough to hold my pot, (which is not a very big pot). I am sure that if I search the internet hard and long I will be able to find some for purchase, but since I  am impatient to start solar cooking, I just took a couple of the oven bags I had on hand, opened them up and sewed time into a double sized bag. Once again, the needle pricks might make this less efficient than a factory made bag, but it seems to me that the effect will be minimal.

As I write this post, my cake, is busy baking in the sun…..Stay tuned to see if it baked well!

Also, while you are biting your nails in suspense, waiting to see if this worked or not, check out Julies solar box cooker.   I might  give that one a try too.

Anyone got a good source for slow cooking recipes?