Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Revenge against August (aka, solar cooking)

I've been interested in solar cooking for a couple of years now. Originally I had planned to make a solar cooker - or rather, I had intended for Farm Boy to make me a solar cooker! - but since that never made it to the top of the project list, I broke down and bought one this summer.

The one I purchased is the SOS Sport, which essentially functions as a slow cooker, except no electricity is required and it doesn't heat up the kitchen. When reading about the various models, I had assumed that this one could reach the higher baking temperatures that the Global Sun Oven achieves if the reflectors were used. But the instructions recommended that you don't use the reflectors during the summer because the higher temperatures could melt the lexan lid. Because I am a baking addict, baking bread without suffering heat exhaustion indoors was one of my goals with the solar cooker. Unfortunately, my attempts at bread so far in the Sport have yielded nicely risen, tender bread with a soft, pasty crust. Seriously pasty, like my legs in January (okay fine, they are the same shade in August!). I prefer dense, crusty, artisan breads, so I will primarily use the Sport for what it excels at, slow cooking. I am saving my pennies to buy a Sun Oven, though, to fulfill my baking desires during the heat of the Texas summers. Plus, it feels a little like I'm sticking it to the electric company when I use the sun to cook my meals.

To date I have made two loaves of bread, two batches of purple hull peas, green chile stew, a whole chicken (lemon scented) over rice, chicken legs over rice, a crustless quiche, creamed corn, eggplant dip, roasted eggplant and roasted spaghetti squash. Everything has turned out very well, except for the less-than-stellar bread, which required a few minutes in the toaster oven to improve the crust. I might try the bread again, but put it in the oven earlier in the day to see if that will let it brown.

The quiche, cooking in the sun, at 250F. The clamps are my own special addition. The clips that come with the Sport are really tight and hard to use.