Easy Homemade Solar Oven
I’m often asked if it’s possible to fry an egg on the sidewalk here in Texas during the summer, to which I reply, “Not only can you fry eggs. You can bake your own bread with the sun!”
As you can see in my post, Easy in Texas: Frying an Egg on the Sidewalk, there is not much to frying an egg on the sidewalk when it is 100 degrees out. If you live someplace sunny, give it a try!
How to Bake Bread with the Sun
Frying an egg on the sidewalk was so easy that we decided to see what else we could cook with the sun. We decided to try baking bread, since we avoid summertime baking here in Texas. It heats the house up too much.
Turns out that baking bread with the sun is easy, too. So easy, in fact, that lately I’ve been baking a fresh batch of Sun Bread (as we’ve taken to calling it) twice a week. Each time, it feels like I’m outwitting the heatwave in my own sneaky way, like in a super hero movie where the victim turns the villain’s own powers against them. Bwa-ha-ha!
I’ll admit, it feels kinda silly putting on a pair of oven mitts to walk out into the back yard, especially in triple digit heat, but that’s exactly what I do. It’s so satisfying to step outside and catch a whiff of that unmistakable, ever-so-delicious smell of baking bread. You really ought to try it for yourself!!
How To Make a Simple Homemade Solar Oven
On Independence Day of this year, my husband and a couple friends spent the afternoon concocting a simple solar oven using stuff we had around the house. As you can see from the photos, it’s not much more than a cardboard box.
In fact, the finished product is basically one cardboard box nested inside another cardboard box with fiberglass insulation in between the two layers. Larry then painted the inside of the box black.
Inside the box, he stacked a few slate tiles that we had sitting around. (We have a lot of odd things sitting around our house, actually, but that’s what you get when you marry a mad scientist!)
The oven “window” is merely a plastic cooking bag, like the kind of bag you can cook a turkey in. That “window” is held on by thumbtacks, and there are thin metal rods around the edge to help hold it down.
The original contraption included a solar reflector, too. It looked like one of those awkward cones vets put on dogs to keep them from scratching themselves, except that it was made of cardboard and lined with aluminum.
The reflector was flimsy, however, and kept falling over and shading the oven’s cooking area. I got so annoyed that I ditched it one day… and the Sun Bread still came out just fine. It’s not like we’re baking souffles in our backyard – yet!
Solar Oven Recipe for Sun Bread
The recipe that has become our go-to Sun Bread this summer is a spin on a recipe from the Son of Grok primal eating website. I was looking for something low-carb, since my energy level stays consistent throughout the day when I avoid sugar, processed foods and white flour. Now, of course, I can’t find the link to that recipe. If/when I do, I will link to it directly.
As you can see from the photos, our fabulous Sun Bread is nothing like Wonder Bread! Sun Bread is dense, chewy and really good toasted with butter.
The first time I baked Sun Bread in our solar oven, I followed Son of Grok’s recipe to the letter. It didn’t take long for my inner Iron Chef to to take over. I lost the written recipe and started goofing around with it. These days, I riff like Coltrane on that simple recipe.
Anyway, here is the basic, stripped down recipe for solar oven Sun Bread:
1 Tablespoon baking soda
1/2 Cup oil
Add dry ingredients:
2 Cups Flax meal
I’ll tell you more about the actual solar oven baking process in a minute. First, I’ve gotta tell you that the bread is much better if you add some or all of the following:
1 cup powdered coconut, 1/2 banana, nuts, craisins, or other dried fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and/or turmeric. Also, instead of oil, I use canned pumpkin and/or coconut milk. As you can imagine, every batch comes out a bit different.
Somehow, though, it’s always tasty. The main thing is that the dough should have the same consistency as brownie batter. If you make it too runny, your bread will be mushy in the middle – ugh!
Solar Oven Bread Baking Tips
Once you’ve whipped up your own version of Sun Bread dough, spoon the mixture into a greased 13 x 9 baking pan, and pop it into your solar oven. I like to preheat the oven for at least 30 minutes by setting it in a sunny place and positioning it so there are no shadows inside of it.
On a hot Texas day, the temperature soon hits 200 degrees inside our little cardboard box. Sometimes it just hovers around 150-ish. I don’t worry about it too much!
Pop your Sun Bread into the solar oven and make sure the edges are tucked down around the side. This is Texas, after all, and some big bug might wander in and get stuck in your bread like a dinosaur in the La Brea Tar Pits.
The next step here in Texas is to find someplace cool (and by “cool” I mean 90 degrees or less) and go about your day’s business. The bread doesn’t need much babysitting. Check in on it every 30 minutes or so. Reposition the solar oven when necessary so that your dough stays in the sun.
After 2 hours, use a spatula to cut the bread into 4 pieces. Flip those pieces so that both sides get baked well. After another hour or so, check your bread again. If it looks done, consider it done. If not, let it sit in the sun a little longer.
I generally bake mine from about 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., give or take an hour here or there. It’s a very forgiving recipe, as you can see!
Your Turn: Do You Cook with the Sun?
If this post inspires you to try solar cooking, let me know how your experiments go. If you try the Sun Bread, let me know what you think.
Perhaps you are an old hand at sun cuisine and have tips and suggestions for newbies like me and Larry. We would love to hear from you, either way.
I will continue to blog about our experiments. (For instance, with fall coming, we have been talking about building a more efficient solar oven to use in cooler weather.)
In the meantime, have fun with the sun wherever you may be!