Solar Cooking in the Fall

November 13, 2012 – It’s a clear, sunny day.  No clouds at all.    Today my son is baking a dozen pumpkin muffins.

In our last experiment (November 7th).  We started too late in the day to have enough cooking time for a semi-cloudy day.  So we switched to solar baked brownies starting at noon.  Brownies cook faster because darker foods heat up faster than lighter-colored foods.   After nibbling on brownies for the past 5 days, we are looking forward to pumpkin muffins.

The solar oven WAS reaching 260 degrees F on a daily basis, until our first cold snap a few days ago.   We have never kept track of the temperature of the solar oven in the fall and winter.

Today is the beginning of keeping track of fall and winter temperatures for a solar oven that does not have reflectors.   We are gathering data on temperatures to figure out what is possible in a solar oven in less-than-ideal conditions.

Wind, clouds, humidity, and angle of the Sun are important factors to consider when solar cooking.   Outdoor temperatures are not a major factor.   I post temperatures since folks wonder about it.  I thought that was strange until I learned that my blog is being viewed in Russian, Poland, Canada, Philippians, Thailand and more.  Why?  I don’t know.

Here are today’s time and temperatures:

6:52 am  – outdoor 38.8 F

09:00 am – outdoor 63.2 F, solar oven 180 F
10:30 am  – outdoor 72.0 F, solar oven 200 F
11:00 am  – no data.
11:30 am  – outdoor 76.3 F, solar oven 220 F
12:00 pm  – outdoor 79.6 F, solar oven 225 F
12:30 pm  – outdoor 79.9 F, solar oven 220 F
01:00 pm  – outdoor 81.6 F, solar oven 220 F
01:30 pm  – outdoor 81.4 F, solar oven 210 F
02:00 pm  – outdoor 80.9 F, solar oven 200 F
02:30 pm  – outdoor 80.7 F, solar oven 199 F
03:00 pm  – outdoor 79.6 F, solar oven 170 F

Outdoor temperatures are from http://www.wunderground.com/weatherstation/WXDailyHistory.asp?ID=KCAHEMET4&month=11&day=13&year=2012.

09:00 am  – This is the earliest time we can cook in summer.   We could cook as early as the sun shines in the solar oven which is probably about 8 am.  Our house is shading the oven in the morning.   The solar oven is always on.  It is sitting in a convenient location just outside the laundry room door.

09:00 am  – This is the earliest time we can cook in fall.  The oven temperature is usually 180-200 F by this time.  Because we use a baking stone, we let the oven reach 200 F, before adding food.  Baking stone but helps maintain cooking heat during cloud coverage, but needs to be preheated to work.

10:30 am – The muffins went in the solar oven.   They were set on a cardboard tray to support the floppy silicone.  And they were placed on another pan to have the muffins within an inch of the top of the oven.    Otherwise, they would not have been in full sunshine long enough to cook.

11:00 am –  Vented the oven by 1/8″ to allow steam out.  Then decided my son should keep track of temperatures all day.

12:30 am – Sampled 1/2 a muffin.    It tasted good, but need a little more time.   Because we opened the oven, we need to add 30 minutes to whatever amount of time we think the food needs to be done.  We are guessing the muffins will be done 1:30 pm, but will wait until to be sure.

02:00 om – Waited until 2pm to take out the muffins.   If they are little dry, then a little butter will make them just right.

2:30 pm – Over half the oven is shaded by the walls of the oven itself.

Conclusion:   A loaf of sweet bread would bake just fine in the summer, but thicker foods won’t cook well in a cooler oven so the loaf recipe needed to be used for muffins instead.   The added surface area meant more food area was cooked.

The muffins came out of the tin clean, but were slightly under done on the bottom.    I could remedy this by moving the baking stone up higher or placing another baking stone in to hold the floppy muffin tin.  The next batch will have batter up to 1/2 filled muffin cups, instead of filling up to 3/4 cup.   The muffins were yummy, but the next batch will have 1/4 cup less sugar since we prefer them less sugary.

* * *

The recipe used for pumpkin muffins was adapted from http://www.letsgetcrockin.com/2012/04/crockpot-pumpkin-bread.  The original Crock pot baking instructions are to bake in a 6-cup Pyrex bowl for 2 hours at 300 degrees F.

4 eggs (beaten)
1  can (30 oz) of pumpkin
1 cup of oil
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. of salt
3 cups whole wheat flour (sifted)
2 tsp. of cinnamon
2 tsp. of nutmeg
2 tsp. of baking soda

Additional Resources

Since solar cooking conditions will continue to decline until the shortest day of the year, December 21, 2012, I am looking for recipes that would work with lower temperatures.   The following are what I found so far:

And then there is my alternative use for my solar.   It is called heat-retention cooking, but I called it, “semi-solar cooking.”  My version is to bring food up to cooking temperature on the stove for a few minutes then put it in the solar oven to finish cooking with the stored heat.

The following are related to heat-retention cooking.

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About Hemet Sunshine

I am a homeschooling mom living in Hemet, California. I am interested in building a better community for the ones I love.
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One Response to Solar Cooking in the Fall

  1. Pingback: A Salute To Solar by Aeon Mikola | The Tucson Edge

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