It was the 23rd day of February. The outdoor temperature was in the 40’s. The snow was melting. And most importantly, the sky was clear blue. So I decided to bake a loaf of bread in my All-American Sun Oven.
The sun oven uses no electricity, propane, cow dung, or any other fuel, except the flaming hydrogen gas of the sun.
I used a simple French bread recipe, but any bread recipe will do. And you don’t have to bake bread. Anything that can be baked in a regular oven can also be baked in a sun oven. Including Baked Alaska. At least that’s what the All-American Sun Oven literature claims.
But so far, I’ve only baked bread.
I wanted to try this oven a few weeks ago, but then we were hit by a pox of precipitation that cut off my hydrogen fuel supply. The literature claims that it will work under partly cloudy conditions, as long as the sun is peaking in and out of the clouds. But our refractory weather wasn’t even doing that much for me.
In the wintertime you have to confine your baking time to the two hours before and after solar noon. But screw that. At 9:30 am, about two-and-a-half hours prior to the 11:59 am solar noon, my oven had pre-heated to just 260°F. I felt impatient. So I stuck the bread in there anyway, even though the recipe calls for 30 minutes in a 400°F oven. But hell, it’ll warm up, I figured.
The weird thing is that the literature claims you can leave food in the solar oven for much longer than you can in a conventional oven, and it will never burn. Nor will it dry out, due to the way the oven is sealed. Well, we’ll see.
By 10:00 am, the oven temp had risen to 350°F, with the outdoor temp at 48°F. The bread had also risen a little more, but still looked pale white. However, with these higher temperatures, I expected caramelization to occur soon, with browning of the bread top.
About every 20-30 minutes you must go outside and rotate the oven a little, so that it tracks the moving sun. But checking on the oven can be advisable anyway, for warding off your dogs, in case you’re broiling steaks.
By 10:30 am, the oven temp had only risen to 360°F. The bread was still as white as my fanny.
At 11:00 am, the oven temp was back down to 355°F. Steam was streaming out of leaks in the seal, carrying the heavenly scent of baking bread. That’s because I accidentally engaged only one of the two latches that seal the glass lid.
At 11:30 am, the oven temp had dropped to 350°F, with the outdoor temp up to 50°F. The bread top had browned some.
At solar noon, 11:59 am, with not a cloud in the sky, the oven temp had dropped to 325°F, with the outdoor temp still at 50°F. There was no breeze. So I do not understand why the oven temp had dropped at the same time the sun had reached zenith. I suspect it may have to do with steam that formed on the inside glass, blocking out some of the sun’s rays. But it may also have to do with me only latching down one of the lid latches. Oops.
At 11:59 am, the bread came out hot from the oven. It had a crisp, slightly golden brown crust, but was soft and moist on the inside. It was thoroughly cooked, and not doughy. The crust was a bit too thick for my preference, but my wife thought it was just right. I think maybe an hour less of cooking would have produced a thinner crust, better to my personal liking.
But the most important thing, was that the bread tasted delicious. After two-and-a-half hours of baking you’d think it would be burnt to a crisp, and rock hard all the way through. But no, it was very edible.
If you haven’t fallen asleep yet, and you’re still interested, click this link to learn more about the incredible All-American Sun Oven.
[This post paid for by nobody. I just like this oven.]