Solar cooking is such an intriguing concept to me. Not only can you save money on your power bill by using the sun to do your baking, you also save energy by reducing your cooling needs in the home. When you really stop and think about it, it just doesn’t make much sense to heat up your kitchen baking in the oven during the summertime when free cooking heat is just waiting for you outdoors!
Today I decided to take advantage of the sunny day by baking a loaf of gluten free banana bread for the kiddos to snack on. I cheated and used a boxed mix to save on time, but really you can bake any type of bread you’d like- it’s all about how hot you can get your solar oven.
Preheating The Solar Oven
Solar ovens need to be preheated before baking just like any other kind of oven. To do this, bring your oven outdoors and place it in a full sun area. I often prop it on a table, but it can be set on the ground as well. Open the reflective panels on the solar oven, and face them directly toward the sun. Make sure the glass door is fastened securely so none of the solar heat escapes the box as it’s preheating.
On an All American Sun Oven, there are two guides you use to help make sure you’re perfectly centered on the sun. Each of these plastic boxes has a circle cut out of it. The circle within these guides will allow sunlight to pass through, making a circle of sunlight on the inside of the guide. You want to center the circle of light passing through with the hole on the inside of the plastic guide.
There is also an adjustable stand on the back of the oven, which helps you more accurately position the oven toward the sun wherever it is in the sky at that time of the day.
Turn the oven about every 15-30 minutes, as needed, to re-position it directly toward the sun. Meanwhile, get your bread dough ready for baking.
The oven should have a thermometer inside, which will tell you the internal temperature as it is heating up.
How quickly the solar cooker gets hot depends on the outside temperature as well as how clear the skies are.
Inevitably, thirty minutes into my pre-heating the sun decided to play peek-a-boo. The oven was only at a little over 200*F, so I decided to wait it out to try to get closer to the 350*F I needed to bake the bread properly.
Baking with Sunlight
Once the oven has preheated to the desired temperature, use an oven mitt or gloves to open the oven door. It’ll be extremely hot! Place the bread dough into the oven, and lock the lid back down as quickly as possible. The longer the door is open, the more heat is lost. My Sun Oven has a rack in the bottom of it, which keeps the bread sitting level even when the oven is tilted. This is useful for keeping the dough from spilling as the oven is rotated and tilted to stay with the sun.
More often than not, you won’t get the sun oven to the exact temperature you want. You may have to bake your bread longer than the recommended time in order for it to be cooked thoroughly. My oven never quite reached 300*, so it took about 22 minutes longer to cook.
Solar cooked bread won’t get as browned on top as it normally would in a conventional oven. You can always bake it in your regular oven for a few minutes to brown it, if desired.
After you remove your hot bread, leave the door open on the solar oven so it can vent all of the steam that has built up inside. Then give it a wipe down with a wet cloth, dry it, and pack it away for another day’s use.
There’s nothing like bread baked in the sunshine to warm your belly and your soul! If you’re interested in learning how to bake meats and veggies in a solar cooker, check out my article: A Day of Solar Cooking.
Have you ever made bread in a sun oven? Got any tips to share?